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MLA Walkthrough

In-Text Citations

While you are writing your paper, you only need the author and sometimes the page number to give credit as you write.

We use a few specific vocabulary words for this that are important:

  • An in-text citation is a short comment you put in while you're writing to say where you got information from.
  • A parenthetical citation is a citation in parentheses (). In MLA style, in-text citations are usually parenthetical citations! Some other Styles use footnotes, but MLA only uses parenthetical citations for giving credit. Footnotes can be added to explain, but citations must be parenthetical (see section 6.5, pgs 230-232, of the MLA Handbook for more on footnotes).
  • The List of Works Cited (also known as the Bibliography, the Reference Page, or the Reference List) is a list of all of the items you took information from to write your paper, listed at the end of the paper. Each entry in the List of Works Cited should tell a reader everything they need to know to find the item discussed, in case they want to read more about it.
  • When you paraphrase you take information that you learned from something you read and put it in your own words. Remember that even though it's your own words you still have to cite what you paraphrase!!

An important thing to keep in mind while writing in-text citations is that they will lead to things in the List of Works Cited at the end. So every in-text citation has to clearly refer to the first few words in an entry in the List of Works Cited.

For in-text citations, it doesn't matter what kind of source it is. The Author is the most important thing to include. If the citation refers to a specific page (which direct quotes always do, but paraphrases may or may not), then it also needs a page number. For items without pages, if needed then paragraph numbers may be used instead with the preface "para."

Examples of parenthetical citations:

"The great affair, we always find, is to get money" (Smith 558).

As economist Adam Smith said, "The great affair, we always find, is to get money" (558).

Making money is always a big deal (Smith 558).