In-text citations are brief, unobtrusive references that direct readers to the works-cited-list entries for the sources you consulted and, where relevant, to the location in the source being cited.

An in-text citation begins with the shortest piece of information that di­rects your reader to the entry in the works-cited list. Thus, it begins with what ever comes first in the entry: the author’s name or the title (or descrip­tion) of the work. The citation can appear in your prose or in parentheses.

Citation in prose 

Naomi Baron broke new ground on the subject.

Parenthetical citation

At least one researcher has broken new ground on the subject (Baron).

Work cited

Baron, Naomi S. “Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media.” PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193–200. 

Citation in prose

According to the article “Bhakti Poets,” female bhakti poets “faced overwhelming challenges through their rejection of societal norms and values.”

Parenthetical citation

The female bhakti poets “faced overwhelming challenges through their rejection of societal norms and values” (“Bhakti Poets”).

Work cited

“Bhakti Poets: Introduction.” Women in World History, Center for History and New Media, chnm.gmu.edu/wwh/modules/lesson1/lesson1.php?s=0. Accessed 20 Sept. 2020.

When relevant, an in-text citation also has a second component: if a specific part of a work is quoted or paraphrased and the work includes a page number, line number, time stamp, or other way to point readers to the place in the work where the information can be found, that location marker must be included in parentheses.

Parenthetical citations

According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (194). One might even suggest that reading is never complete without writing.

Reading at Risk notes that despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (3).

The author or title can also appear alongside the page number or other loca­tion marker in parentheses.

Parenthetical citations

Reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (Baron 194). One might even suggest that reading is never complete without writing.

Despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (Reading 3).

Works cited

Baron, Naomi S. “Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media.” PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193–200.

Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. National Endowment for the Arts, June 2004.

All in-text references should be concise. Avoid, for instance, providing the author’s name or title of a work in both your prose and parentheses.

Citations (incorrect)

According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (Baron 194).

Reading at Risk notes that despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (Reading 3).

Citations (correct)

According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (194).

Reading at Risk notes that despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (3).

In parenthetical citations, use only the part of an author’s name—usually the surname only—necessary to find the entry in the list of works cited (on surnames, see sections 2.73–2.81 of the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook).

Citation (incorrect)

At least one researcher has broken new ground on the subject (Naomi S. Baron).

Citation (correct)

At least one researcher has broken new ground on the subject (Baron).

Use shortened titles in parenthetical citations. See sections 6.10–6.14 of the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook for guid­ance on shortening titles in parenthetical citations.

For concision, do not precede a page number in a parenthetical citation with p. or pp., as you do in the list of works cited (where such abbreviations lend clarity). If you cite a number other than a page number in a parentheti­cal citation, precede it with a label such as chapter or section (often abbre­viated in parentheses) or line or lines (do not abbreviate). Otherwise, your reader is to assume that the numeral refers to a page number.