In-Text (Parenthetical) Citations

To start us out here, I want to provide you with another resource from the OWL at Purdue.

Now, and there is information in it that applies to this section as well, the Citation Style Sheet referenced in the Works Cited Citation page has valuable information on MLA Works Cited entries and in-text citation format.

“Like most source documentation systems, MLA uses in-text citations to give readers information and directs readers to the more specific Works Cited page should a reader want to pursue a source further. Generally, MLA in-text citations require an author and a page number where the information being cited can be found” (Citation Style Sheet).

Dealing with In-Text Citations on this page, be aware of the strong inter-connection that In-Text Citations have with their Works Cited Citations. In fact, they are interdependent on one-another and clear communication between them is essential.

To that end, much of the information found on this page links to or overlaps quite heavily with the Works Cited Citations page. This is not an accident because in-text citations act as hyperlinks in a way to the Works Cited entry found at the end of a document.


To illustrate my point, here is an example (taken from the MLA Format PowerPoint), and TWO ways you could incorporate it:

1. You can name the author/source as part of the introduction to the quotations. This is sometimes referred to as where the author is referred to in the signal phrase:

Humans have been described by Kenneth Burke as “symbol using animals” (3).

2. You can choose not to name the author/source as part of the introduction. This is also called when the author is not referred to in the signal phrase:

Humans have been described as “symbol using animals” (Burke 3).

Looking at this, let’s take a moment to dissect them a bit.

First off, either way we approach it, we clearly provide the reader/audience with the author’s LAST NAME. This is a key element because this, the LAST NAME (or if there is a title or so forth, whatever will come first in the Works Cited Citation, is important for helping us locate the full citation on the Works Cited page).


The in-text citation above coming from Kenneth Burke should, if we go to the Works Cited page be found thus:

Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. Berkeley: U of California P, 1966, Print.

The placing of the author’s LAST NAME first and the inclusion of their LAST NAME only if we put it in the in-text citation is our link to making sure we can quickly locate the needed information.

So, if I had read that quotation above about “symbol using animals” and wanted to go and find it, I would have followed the in-text citation to the end of the paper, locating the work by the AUTHOR’s LAST NAME. This would then allow me to go and find the book (it is a book) and then looking on PAGE 3, I should then find that quotation where it originally came from.

So, the basic approach to in-text citations in MLA is to put the AUTHOR’S LAST NAME (unless you have named them in introducing the quotation) and (if there is one) a PAGE NUMBER.

  1. ALWAYS look to put the Author’s Last Name in the in-text citation first
  2. If there is NO Author, you should then put the Title of the work in the in-text citation, keeping the quotation marks.
  3. If there is NO Author or Title, then and only then should you put the Web Site name in the in-text citation, still in italics.

So, what if that it is not the case, what do you do when this STANDARD approach will not work? Well, here are some basic questions and answers to those questions:


1. What if there is no author or author is unknown?

When the author is unknown, say for example with an article you find online, you provide an abbreviated version of the article title and give a page number (if there is one).


We see so many global warming hotspots in North America likely because this region has “more readily accessible climatic data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change…” (“Impact of Global Warming” 6).

Corresponding Works Cited entry:

“The Impact of Global Warming in North America.” Global   Warming: Early Signs. 1999. Web. 23 Mar. 2009.

2. What if there is no page number or it is unknown?

When there is no page number, you will simply provide the author’s last name or if there is no author, then you would simply list the article title, or if there is neither (in the case of some online sources), just the website’s name.

3. What if you are citing more than one work by the same author?

When you are dealing with one author but multiple works by them, to reduce confusion we move down to either the name of the article or book and use that in the in-text citation.


Say I am using Kenneth Burke, in fact, let’s say I’m using THREE sources by him:

Burke, Kenneth. “Doing and Saying Thoughts on Myth, Cult, and Archetypes.” Salmagundi 15 (Winter 1971): 100-19. Print.

—. Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. Print.

 —. A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley: U of California P, 1969. Print.

When putting these in in-text or parenthetical citations, I would, instead of giving the author’s last name, I would when citing from one source, it would look like this: (Grammar of Motives 5) rather than (Burke 5) because that would leave us possibly confused to which of the three works above we were citing from and WE DO NOT WANT TO DO THAT.

4. What if there are TWO or THREE authors for a work?

Wehen dealing with TWO or THREE authors, you approach it the same way as if you had only one author.

You can either signal phrase in introducing the quotation, such as:

Shirley K. Rose and Irwin Weiser note in Going Public the importance of redefining expectations for faculty work (3).

You can also do it with out the signal phrase in the introduction, such as:

In Going Public, the authors note the importance of redefining expectations for faculty work ( Rose and Weiser 3).

5. What if there are FOUR or MORE authors for a work?

Here is an example of an in-text citation where there is FOUR authors or MORE. In order to do this and not have to end up listing all the authors last names in the in-text / parenthetical citation. What you need to do is give us the FIRST author’s LAST NAME (so we can match it to the Works Cited entry) and then in place of all the other author’s LAST NAMES we put “et al.”


Some studies that focus specifically on undergraduate perspectives of academic writing found a variety of approaches (Anderson et al. 11).

6. What if you have authors with the same last name?

This one has a pretty simple answer. All you have to to do, when you have TWO or MORE author’s with the last name, is distinguish them by adding their FIRST INITIAL.


(A. Smith 19).

7. What if you need to cite an encyclopedia entry?

With entries from encyclopedia entries, this would be the same for Wikipedia (and its not ideal to cite [reliability] from Wikipedia or Encyclopedias in academic works), you put the name the entry under which you go the information in quotations in the in-text citation.


Romance languages have a curious history (“Romance Languages”).

8. What if you need to cite TWO or MORE works in the same parenthetical entry?

Here is an example where you may have two authors or sources providing overlapping information and need to indicate it. All you need to do is put BOTH sources in the in-text/parenthetical citation, divided by a semi-colon.


Many 19th century American authors noted the importance of religion in conceiving nature (Emerson 1123; Thoreau 1994).

9. What if you are citing a work in an anthology?

Say you are taking a reading, article or essay from inside a larger collection work, when doing the in-text citation, use the selection’s name and page number, not the editor.


The life of poverty in the south is captured by Hurston’s candid autobiography, “From Dust Tracks on a Road” (336).

10. What if you need to cite a video or film?

Cite as in-text document using the first text element in the works cited entry. For Films and Videos this should be the title. This title should be in italics.


The role of Irish folklore is depicted in contemporary films such as John Sayles’s The Secret of Roan Irish.

11. What if you need to cite an online source that does not have an author or title?

When, say with some online sources or articles, you may not have the author’s name readily available and sometimes this means you may not have a title to work with either. In this case you would do the same as with a film or video and use the first thing found in the Works Cited entry. This again will most likely be the name of the website.




You don’t need to give the full URLs, just the basics.

12. What about a situation where you would cite Shakespeare or a play?

When dealing with in-text citations with something, like say a play by Shakespeare, you will need to provide us with Act, Scene, and Line information.

Let’s say Richard III your in-text citation would be like this:

Shakespeare has Richard, Duke of Gloucester open the play declaring: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York” (Rich. III 1:1:1-2).

This here indicates that I am quoting Shakespeare’s play Richard III (abbreviated) and specifically I am quoting Act 1, Scene 1, lines 1 – 2 as indicated by the numbers separated by colons in the in-text citation.

13. What about a need to cite the Bible?

Now, when one is citing the Bible, one cannot simply give the author as God. Unfortunately, this does not work because there are multiple translations of the Bible that have variations in both books and lines and translations (they are NOT all the same). In fact, we are talking about hundreds of translations and versions.

See: List of Bible Translations


Ezekiel saw “what seemed to be four living creatures,” each with the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (New Jerusalem Bible, Ezek. 1:5-10)

This indicates that one is using the New Jerusalem Bible (this translation), quoting from the book of Ezekiel (it is abbreviated) chapter 1, verses 5-10 (as separated by the colon.