Skip to main content

MSVU logo

Find Resources
Library Services
About the Library

MLA Citation Style

Basic Citation Styles

The MLA Handbook recommends the use of parenthetical references instead of endnotes or footnotes. This style is used for both direct and indirect quotation. When using parenthetical citation, provide just enough information to identify each print or electronic source. The reader will have access to full publication information in the Works Cited or Works Consulted list. (Works Consulted indicates that the list is not limited to the sources cited in your paper. It includes material you read, but to which you did not directly refer or quote.)

More information on in-text citation is available in sections 6.1 through 6.5.2 of the MLA Handbook (237-260).

Work by single author:

Author's name in text Tennen has argued this point (178-85).
Author's name in reference This point has already been argued (Tannen 178-85).


Entries in encyclopaedias, anthologies and other multi-volume works:

Multi-volume anthology with lettered volumes The anthology and his co-editors contain both Stowe’s “Sojourner Truth, the Libyan Sibyl” (B: 2601-09) and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” (C: 578-90).
Multi-volume work with numbered volumes Between 1945 and 1972, the political-party system in the United States underwent profound changes (Schlesinger, vol.4).


Corporate (group) authors:

Corporate author, author's name in text According to a study sponsored by the National Research Council, the population of China around 1990 was increasing by more than fifteen million annually (15).
Corporate author, author's name in citation

According to one study, the population of China around 1990 was increasing by more than fifteen million annually (Natl. Research Council 15).

Note: Try to work a long corporate author’s name into the body of the text so that the reading is not interrupted. If you are giving the name of a corporate author in parentheses, you may shorten terms that are commonly abbreviated.


Multiple authors:

Two authors   (Jakobson and Waugh 210-15)
Three authors (Rabkin, Greenberg, and Olander vii)
More than three authors (Lauter et al. 2425-33)


No author:

No author, citing by title

Even Sixty Minutes launched an attack on modern art , in a segment entitled “Yes... but Is It Art?”

Note: In the Works Cited list, this segment would be referenced as follows:

“Yes... but Is It Art?” Narr. Morley Safer. Sixty Minutes. CBS. WCBS, New York. 19 Sept. 1993. Television.


Online articles:

Author and paragraph numbers included

(Moulthrop, pars. 19-20)

Note: If your source includes page or paragraph numbers, cite the relevant numbers by giving the appropriate abbreviation before the numbers.

Author and page numbers included

“I had long been impatient with the barren land snowscape cliche that Hollywood uses so often to characterize my home country” (New 566).

Note: The page count of a printed web page or online document should not be cited; it will vary from printer to printer. If page numbers are included as part of the article (such as in a PDF document), you should use the page numbers in your citation.

No pagination or paragraph numbers

Fukuyama’s Our Posthuman Future includes many examples of this trend.

Note: When an electronic document does not have fixed page numbers or paragraph numbering, you must omit numbers from your parenthetical references and cite the entire work. The MLA Handbook, sec. 6.4.1, suggests that you work into the body of your text the name of the person (author, editor, performer).


Other non-print sources:

Online review (film, book, etc.) One online film critic stated that Fitzcarraldo is "...a beautiful and terrifying critique of obsession and colonialism" (Garcia, “Herzog: a Life”).
Lecture or presentation

During the presentation, Jane Yates stated that invention and pre-writing are areas of rhetoric that need more attention.

Note: Some non-print sources do not require parenthetical citations. However, your paper must include enough information that readers can locate the appropriate reference in your Works Cited list.


Indirect sources:

One author citing another

Samuel Johnson admitted that Edmund Burke was an “extraordinary man” (qtd. in Boswell 2: 450).

Note: Whenever possible, take material from the original source, not second-hand. When this is not possible, put the abbreviation qtd. in (“quoted in”) before the indirect source. List original and secondary sources in your Works Cited list.



Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009. Print.

Direct Quotations

Short direct quotations (<4 lines):

Author's name in reference Medieval Europe was a place both of “raids, pillages, slavery, and extortion” and of “travelling merchants, monetary exchange, towns if not cities, and active markets in grain” (Townsend 10).
Author's name in text It may be true, as Robertson maintains, that "in the appreciation of medieval art the attitude of the observer is of primary importance..." (136).


Long direct quotations (>4 lines):

Note: In an MLA-formatted paper, double-space and indent long quotations, indent one inch or 10 spaces from the left margin, and do not use quotation marks.


John K. Mahon adds a further insight to our understanding of the War of 1812:

Financing the war was very difficult at the time. Baring Brothers, a banking firm of the enemy country, handled routine accounts for the United States overseas, but the firm would take on no loans. The loans were in the end absorbed by wealthy Americans at great hazard – also, as it turned out, at great profit to them. (385)

Poetry (3+ lines with line numbers)

Elizabeth Bishop's "In the Waiting Room" is rich in evocative detail:

It was winter. It got dark

early. The waiting room

was full of grown-up people,

arctics and overcoats,

lamps and magazines. (6-10)

Poetry (1-2 lines with line numbers)

As Bishop indicates, "It was winter. It got dark / early" (lines 6-7).

When citing a poem in your essay, indicate line numbers. When citing a poem in your Works Cited list, indicate page numbers.

Need More Help?

For additional assistance with citation styles, consult your professor or reference staff at the Mount Library. 

You can reach the Library by email: or by phoning 457-6250.  Please note: library staff will help you as much as possible but they may also refer you back to your professor.

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License.
Creative Commons License

You may copy the guide for noncommercial purposes as long as credit is included. Please be aware that the guide may contain links to subscription based services for which access is restricted. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials.