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ENGL 1101 - Abbott (Online) - Fall 2023

In-Text (Parenthetical) Citations

MLA In-Text Citation in a Nutshell

In-text citations have always been a challenging aspect of documentation for many students, but they have become more complex in recent years due to the increase in electronic source materials. The easiest way to approach in-text citations is to consider their purpose. The Works Cited list entries provide detailed publication information on sources, but only in-text citations can let a reader know which facts were taken from each source. 

Two basic options for MLA in-text (aka parenthetical) citations:

1. Author(s) and Location

"The eighth-century English historian, Bed tells of how, in AD 449, Hengist and Horsa were invited by the Celtic king Vortigern to help him against his enemies..." (Hogg 1).

2. Location only*

In his article, "The Distant Shore," Anderson states, "Only about a hundred groups of isolated indigenous people are believed to still exist, with more than half of them living in the wilderness that straddles Peru’s border with Brazil" (42).

*The author is not added to the in-text citation because he is already mentioned by name in the sentence. When such information is given, it is permissible to not repeat it inside the (  ). 

A Variety of Locations:

Page numbers are the most common location used in a parenthetical citation; however, there are many others including:

  • Poetry line numbers (line 44)
  • Books, acts and other sections commonly found in literary works. For example: Shakespearean plays are cited by act, scene and line (4.3.56-9)
  • Paragraphs (par. 56)
  • Chapters (chap. 4)

No Author? No Problem:

  • The "author" position in an in-text citation should match the first word(s) of the Works Cited list entry to allow readers easy access to full publication information whether that is another person (translator, editor, etc.) or the title of a work.
  • Long titles should be abbreviated to avoid interrupting the flow of ideas. Example: "Learning Lessons From War? Inclusions and Exclusions in Teaching First World War History in English Secondary Schools." = ("Learning" 36)
  • When using a title instead of a person's name, quotation marks or italics should be maintained, even for the abbreviated title.

Not Just for Quotations:

  • Summarized and paraphrased material must be documented with in-text citations!
  • Citations should be at the end of a sentence to avoid interrupting the flow of ideas.
  • Material synthesized from two sources should include both sources (Kirk 234; Spock 22-4).

Electronic Text Tips:

  • Page numbers, line numbers and other location information is not invented. If a source doesn't provide it, the writer cannot include it.
  • New in the 8th edition, locations in videos and audio recordings are required and should be given as hours, minutes and seconds (1:23:45-7).

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