MLA In-Text Citations – Short & Easy Tutorial with Examples

01.02.23 MLA citation & referencing Time to read: 4min

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College students must be familiar with the guidelines for MLA in-text citations to ensure their work is up to academic standards. This article summarizes the main MLA guidelines for in-text citations and offers examples for every scenario.

MLA In-Text Citations – In a Nutshell

  • In this article you will learn the general rules about MLA in-text citations and where to place them in the text.
  • You will also find information about how to cite sources in special cases, like sources without author or page number, sources with multiple authors, indirect or secondary citations, etc.

Definition: MLA in-text citations

MLA style is a standardized way of referencing the sources used in academic writing. MLA in-text citations are a set of guidelines that were developed by the Modern Language Association and is currently used in courses related to languages, literature, arts, and humanities.

An MLA in-text citation appears in the body of an academic essay and provides information about an external source. The specific formatting depends on whether the source has one, two, or more authors.

Number of Authors Example MLA In-Text Citation
1 (Jameson 215)
2 (Jameson and Briggs 215-216)
3+ (Jameson et al. 215)
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MLA in-text citations: Placement

MLA in-text citations are placed after the quote or reference and before the period that ends the sentence.

There are different methods of writing an MLA in-text citation based on how the author is quoted in the text.1


  • Paraphrasing an author without naming them: The trend is also observed in graduate students (Edwards 17).
  • The author is named the author in the text: Johnson states that 75% of adult learners face this problem (20).
  • Direct quote in the text: The learner’s social context “remains vastly understudied by academics” (Ross 55).

Combining citations

Some MLA in-text citations have more than one source (when more than one author makes the same statement). In this case, they must be formatted as follows to ensure you credit all sources


Context-based learning leads to faster vocabulary acquisition (James 15; Edwards 67).

The same source with multiple citations

If you reference the same source multiple times within the text, provide the full citation the first time you reference it, and only use the page number in the remaining references.


Context-based learning leads to faster vocabulary acquisition (James 15). Research shows the effect is more pronounced in adult learners (23).

MLA in-text citations: No author

When a source can’t be attributed to an author, the guidelines for MLA in-text citations require that you use the organization’s name or the source title instead of the author’s surname. The in-text citation must match the first element in the Works Cited entry.


In-text citation: (Office for National Statistics 21)
Works Cited entry: Office for National Statistics Employment in Inner City London 2019

If a title or organization’s name consists of 4+ words, it must be shortened in the in-text citation by omitting the articles and only using the first word or phrase.


Full Source Title or Organization Name In-text Citation Shortening
Animal Species in the Jungle (“Animal Species”)
Modern Language Association of America (Modern Language Association 81)

MLA in-text citations: No page numbers

Some sources don’t have page numbers, but instead are divided into sections, chapters, articles, or other sub-divisions. This is common when referencing video sources, law articles, theatre plays, etc. In this case, MLA in-text citations must be formatted as follows:

Source Type Format Example
Play with numbered lines Include the act, scene, and line (Wilde 1.3.15)
Source divided into sections or chapters Comma after the author’s surname and section or chapter number, abbreviated (Ross, ch.15)
Source with no page number and with no sub-divisions Only quote the author’s surname (Moore)
Videos or audiovisual material Specify the author and time stamp (Rogers 1:03:22)

MLA in-text citations: Sources with same author

MLA in-text citations for different sources written by the same author are referenced as per the following guidelines.

Same author

If you quote multiple sources written by a single author, include the author’s surname in citation, along with a shortened version of the title.2


Book: (Watts, Handbook of Advanced Linguistics 33)

Journal article: (Johnson, “Guide to Linguistics Research” 289)

Different authors with the same name

Sometimes you will have to cite different authors who share the same surname. In that case, MLA in-text citations must include the author’s initials to differentiate them. If the initials also coincide, cite the full first name.


(B. James 22)

(P. James 187)

MLA in-text citations: Indirect citations

In academic writing, it’s always recommended to quote original sources directly. If this isn’t possible because the original source is unknown or unspecified, MLA in-text citations should include both the original author and the author of the secondary source. To indicate that this is an indirect citation, use the abbreviation “qtd. in”, which means “quoted in”.3


Martin suggests that “motivational factors take precedence over cognitive ability” (qtd. in Andrews 318).

In this example, Martin is the original author, and Andrews is the author of the secondary source you accessed. This source should also be referenced in the Works Cited section.

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You only need to cite the author’s surname in parentheses. If the author isn’t known, cite the title of the webpage or article.4

No, you must follow these guidelines for every source you quote, including theatre plays, films, videos, or websites.

It means “and others”, and it’s used to cite sources written by more than 2 authors.

No. In that case, it’s okay to only cite the author’s surname.


1 Modern Language Association. “In-Text Citations: An Overview.” MLA Style Center. April 1, 2021.

2 Writing Commons. “Shorten the Title of this Source in the In-text Citation.” Accessed December 8, 2022.

3 University of Portland. “MLA Style (9th Edition) Citation Guide: Secondary Sources.” September 27, 2022.

4 MLA Style Center. “How should a website with no author or clear organization authorship be cited in an in-text citation?” May 9, 2018.