Created by SPC Senior Instructional Specialist- Writing, Michael Crews (TS Campus)
Effective April 2016, the Modern Language Association has updated its styling format. The following information comes from the MLA Handbook Eighth Edition. For any questions about style or format, please consult the above mentioned text or the Modern Language Association’s website: http://stylemla.org. The Little Brown Handbook is also an acceptable text to use, but keep in mind, the current edition may not include the new changes to MLA style.
According to The MLA Handbook, “the goals of the in-text citation are brevity and clarity, guiding the reader as unobtrusively as possible to the corresponding entry in the works-cited list” (MLA 116).
What does this mean?
Essentially, the point of the in-text citation is to direct the reader back to the entry on the works-cited page by utilizing the least amount of information possible (MLA 116). In order to ensure the in-text citation is correct, it is first imperative to ensure the works-cited page is formatted properly, since the in-text citation reflects the beginning of the works-cited entry. If the works-cited entry is wrong, it is likely the in-text citation will be wrong as well.
Where to start?
The first element of the in-text citation is the author(s) name(s) or the title of the source when no author is clearly stated. In some cases, the author may be a corporation or government body. Only use the author’s last name in the citation. Do not use professional titles in citations. The second important element to the in-text citation is the page number from the cited source.
One author: Dr. John Smith
Ex. (Smith 5)
Two authors: Dr. John Smith and Dr. Mary Johnson
Ex. (Smith and Johnson 5)
*Note: the two authors are separated by “and” without any additional punctuation.
Three or more authors: Dr. John Smith, Dr. Mary Johnson and Dr. Gary Miller
Ex. (Smith et al. 5)
*Note: the new MLA does not require the listing of authors past the second. If the source contains three or more authors, just list the first author followed by the distinction “et al.” to signify there were other authors involved with the project.
Corporate author: Modern Language Association or United States Department of Labor
Ex. (MLA 117). Ex. (United States, Dept. of Labor 120).
No stated author: Beowolf (book)
“Hourly News Summary” (article)
Ex. (Beowulf 4) Ex. (“Hourly News”)
*Note: When creating an in-text citation for a work without a stated author, follow the same rules for addressing titles as required by the works-cited entry. Long works (books, websites [as a whole], movies, works of art etc.) are italicized. Short works (short stories, poems, articles, songs etc.) are signified by quotation marks.
Abbreviating titles: When using a title in place of an author, the title needs to be abbreviated down to its noun phrase. Give the first noun preceded by any adjectives (exclude articles such as a, an, the). If the cited work does not begin with a noun phrase, use only the first word of the title if it is enough to direct the reader back to the works-cited entry.
Ex. The Double Vision: Language and the Meaning or Religion (Double Vision)
“Traveling in the Breakdown Lane: A Principle of Resistance for Hypertext” (“Traveling”)
“You Say You Want a Revolution? Hyper Text and the Laws of Media” (“You”)
Page numbers for direct quotes and paraphrasing: As always, page numbers are required when directly quoting printed material with page numbers; however, new to the eighth edition, MLA now requires the writer to associate a page number for paraphrased material as well.
Ex. (Smith 5) would be used for a direct quote, as well as paraphrasing. It is no longer acceptable to just use (Smith) for the paraphrase if page numbers are available.
Citing sources without page numbers:
If the source does not have stated page numbers, numbered paragraphs, numbered chapters or numbered sections, do not put anything after the author name of the title of the work in the in-text citation.
Ex. (Smith) Ex. (“Hourly News”)
Citing sources with numbered paragraphs, chapters or sections in place of page numbers:
If the source uses numbered paragraphs, chapters, or sections in place of page numbers, use that information to supplement the need for the page number in the citation. These types of number systems are commonly associated with digital sources.
Ex. (Smith, par. 5) Ex. (Smith, ch. 5) Ex. (Smith, sec. 5)
*Note: If the item immediately following the author’s name or title is not a page number, separate the two elements with a comma.