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In-text citations in MLA

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In MLA style, in-text citations are a short form of citations used in the text about sources listed in the works-cited list. They are used to inform the reader that full details of the source are included in the works-cited list, which in turn helps the reader to track the source for further reference if required.

To add an in-text citation in MLA, the author’s name is an important component. MLA style does not recommend using the publication date for in-text citations. However, page numbers are allowed when text from a source is added. Citations in prose and parenthetical citations are two types of citations to be used for in-text citations. These citation types are explained below.

Citation in prose

“Citations in prose” is the term used in the MLA manual for citations that are read as a part of the sentence. Citations in prose use the first name and surname of the authors when a source is mentioned in the text for the first time. In the second and subsequent instances, they include only the surname. However, do not use the middle initials in citations, even if they are given in the works-cited-list entry. The first mention of a source in prose for one author is given below:

Kathleen Glenister-Roberts discusses the speech, gender, and the performance of culture in native America.

Parenthetical citation

Parenthetical citations, as the name implies, include citation information in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. The citation will not be read as a part of the sentence. An example is given below:

The speech, gender, and the performance of culture in native America are discussed (Glenister-Roberts).

Adding page or line numbers

Page numbers or line numbers are also allowed for in-text citations when you want to repeat a specific text from the source you referred to. When you add page numbers, never use “p.” or “pp.”

According to Ann Fienup-Riordan, “Fieldwork Turned on Its Head” (15).

However, if you add other parts, such as line numbers and scene numbers, you can mention them in the text. Below examples show how such parts are included in both citations in prose and parenthetical citations:

Citation in prose:

chapter 12

scene 7

line 46

Parenthetical citation:

(ch. 12)

(sc. 7)

(line 46)

Example in-text citations

The in-text citations for different numbers of authors are illustrated below:

One author

Citations in prose use the first name and surname of the authors when a source is mentioned in the text for the first time. In the second and subsequent instances, they include only the surname. Include only the surname of the author in parenthetical citations in all instances.

Citation in prose:

First mention: May Henderson claims ….

Subsequent occurrences: Henderson asserts ….

Parenthetical:

….(Henderson)

Two authors

Citations in prose use the first name and surname of both authors when a source is mentioned in the text for the first time. In the second and subsequent instances, they include only the surname of the two authors. In parenthetical citations, include the surnames of the authors in all occurrences. In both citation styles, use “and” between the two author names.

Citation in prose:

First mention: Paul John and Ann Fienup-Riordan ….

Subsequent occurrences: John and Fienup-Riordan ….

Parenthetical:

….(John and Fienup-Riordan)

Three or more authors

You need to cite only the first author’s name if the number of authors is more than two. Use “and others” or “colleagues” in prose and “et al.” in parenthetical citations. For citations in prose, cite the full name in the first instance and surname thereafter.

Citation in prose:

Mikkel Pedersen and colleagues…. or Mikkel Pedersen and others ….

Parenthetical:

….(Pedersen et al.)

Corporate author

Write the corporate author in citations. For parenthetical citations, you can shorten the name of the organization.

Citation in prose:

The Council of Europe and Language Association….

Parenthetical:

….(Council)

No author

The source title is used in citations when there are no authors. When you add the title as an in-text citation, italicize the text.

Citation in prose:

Endgame: Beginning to End shows …. (182)

Parenthetical:

….(Endgame 182)

Citing special cases

Works having the same surname(s), different first name(s)

Although citations in prose take the full name of the authors only in the first instance, there are some exceptions. If the works-cited list has multiple entries with the same surname for the first author, use the first name in all occurrences to provide clarity. To avoid confusion, parenthetical citations take the first initials of the author in all occurrences.

Templates:

Citation in prose: First author’s full name

Citation in prose: Second author’s full name

Parenthetical: (F. Author Surname)

Parenthetical: (M. Author Surname)

Examples:

Citation in prose: John Jones

Citation in prose: Christopher Jones

Parenthetical: (J. Jones)

Parenthetical: (C. Jones)

Use the first name in full, in-parenthetical citations only if the first initials are also the same.

Parenthetical: (Xing Ze)

Parenthetical: (Xian Ze)

Works by the same author(s)

If you find entries with the same author(s), add the title for in-text citations. You can shorten the title for in-text citations.

Examples:

Citation in prose: Quayson talks in Aesthetic Nervousness that ….

Parenthetical: Aesthetic Nervousness is talked about in earlier work (Quayson, Aesthetic Nervousness)

Works listed by title

If the works-cited-list entry has a source listed by the title, use the title in citations. You can shorten the title for in-text citations.

Examples:

Citation in prose: Endgame and Its Scorekeepers reveals ….

Parenthetical: (Endgame)

Punctuation in parenthetical citations

Never include punctuation marks between the author’s name and any page number.

(Smith 111)

If you introduce additional page numbers, use a comma between them.

(Joe 122, 124–28, 139)

For any reference to a specific element in a source other than the page numbers (e.g., chapter, paragraph, or line numbers), include the label of the element. Use a comma to separate the element from the author’s name.

(McCormick, par. 2)

If you wish to include a specific element of a page, separate the element from the page by a semicolon. Multiple elements appearing together take commas as separators.

(Ato 117; par. 4, lines 16–19)

Multiple citations take semicolons as separators.

(Carrie 23; Hannah 47)

If you would like to include the title of your work in citations, add it after the author name with a comma as a separator. No punctuation is required between the title and the page number. The title is italicized.

(Soyini, Co-performative Witnessing 118)

If you would like to cite the titles of two works by the same author, use “and” between the titles. If you want to include more works, separate the titles by commas, and add “and” before the last title.

(Sedgwick, “Touching” and “Artists”)

(Park‐Fuller, “Empathy,” “Narration and Narratization,” and “Performing Absence”)


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