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Paraphrasing in MLA

Paraphrasing can be a useful tool to help you avoid relying too heavily on quotes. You should avoid using too many quotes in your writing.

That being said, you still need to cite your sources properly when paraphrasing. You are borrowing other people’s ideas, so it’s important to give credit where it’s due.

If your instructor wants you to use MLA-style citations, it’s important to know how this works in regard to paraphrasing.

What is MLA style?

MLA stands for “Modern Language Association.” This association was founded in 1983, and it’s the leading professional academic organization in the United States. The MLA style is frequently used by schools, instructors, and academic organizations. While many students use the MLA style when writing, it’s especially popular in humanities courses.

What is paraphrasing?

When you paraphrase a passage, you are putting it in your own words. In most cases, the result is that this passage becomes clearer and easier to understand. Paraphrases can be shorter, longer, or the same length as the original passage. Paraphrasing is useful because it shows that you actually understand the key ideas behind the passage.

Paraphrasing & citing in MLA style

Once you understand the system for citing your sources in MLA style, paraphrasing is easy. You can use this process to cite your sources when paraphrasing, summarizing, or using direct quotes.

1. Create a works cited page

Both a works cited page and a bibliography list sources that were used in the making of your paper. The main difference is that a works cited page only includes sources that were referenced in your work (via an in-text citation). On the other hand, a bibliography includes all sources consulted, even if they were not directly referenced in your work. Both are placed at the end of your research paper or essay and follow the same MLA guidelines. It is important to create a works cited page because your in-text citations will help your reader to identify the source you are referencing from that list.

To create a works cited page based on the MLA format, you need to follow a number of guidelines.

This is the basic structure for a book reference in MLA format:

Author Last, Author First, Middle Initial. Title of Work. Publisher, Year.

Here’s an example:

Kafka, Franz. The Metamorphosis. Modern Library, 1915.

For more help creating citations, visit the Citation Machine MLA citation generator.

2. In-text citations

When writing according to the MLA style citation guide, you will use in-text citations. The goal of in-text citations is to direct your reader to the appropriate citation in your works cited list. At the end of your paraphrase, you’ll write the last name of the author and the page number you’re referencing.

This is the basic structure for an in-text citation in MLA format:

(Author Last Name Page number).

For example:

Captain Montgomery forced Pendrick off his ship, claiming that Pendrick was in league with “beasts and cannibals” (Wells 26).

The period is always placed after the parentheses.

If there’s more than one author, you simply use both of their last names, followed by the page number.

For example:

(Smith and Jones 77).

If there are three or more authors, you simply use the first author’s last name and then write “et al.”

For example:

(Smith et al. 77).

If there is no page number, just use the author’s last name. You’ll likely need to do this if you’re citing a web page or another source where page numbers are not included.

If you’re repeatedly citing the same source, you can simply refer to the page number after the first time. Note that you can only do this if you’re not citing other sources in between and this shouldn’t be used if it will cause confusion.

For example:

Captain Montgomery forced Pendrick off his ship, claiming that Pendrick was in league with “beasts and cannibals” (Wells 26). After being stranded on a small dinghy, Pendrick begs God to end his suffering (30).

You can also use only the page number if you have included the author’s name within the test itself. This is called a narrative citation.

Basic structure:

Text that mentions the author’s last name (page number).

For example:

Wells writes that  Captain Montgomery forced Pendrick off his ship, claiming that Pendrick was in league with “beasts and cannibals” (26).

Key takeaways

  • When paraphrasing, you need to put the writing in your own words.
  • Citing your sources is important when paraphrasing.
  • The MLA style is used for academic writing, especially in the humanities.
  • The first step is to create a works cited page.
  • Next, you use in-text citations after your paraphrases to direct your reader to the source listed in your works cited page.
  • You generally use the last name of the author and the page number in parentheses after your paraphrases.

Published October 29, 2020.

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