A Piecemeal Advice on In-Text Citations in MLA Format For Amateurs

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Citations have always been a tricky aspect of academic writing. In fact, one must be attentive and meticulous when citing sources. In-text citations, in particular, are vital in adding credibility to your paper. Whether you are writing a dissertation, research paper, or a simple essay, it is important to use appropriate MLA in-text citations to provide credit to the original author and avoid plagiarism.

In this article, we will discuss where to include in-text citations and how to cite sources in various situations, for example:

Where To Place In-Text Citations in MLA Format?

In MLA style, in-text citations are usually placed within parentheses at the end of the sentence or clause where

you have used a source to support your argument or idea. The in-text citation format includes the author’s last name and the page number(s) where the information that is cited can be found.


For one author – (Watson 25)

Page number

In case you have already mentioned the author’s name in the sentence, you can just include the page number(s) in the citation.

Example: According to Watson, “the sky is cloudy” (25).

Unknown author

If you do not know the author of the source you are citing, you can use the title of the source instead. Example: (“Article Title” 5)

Multiple authors

If you are citing a source with multiple authors, you can include all of their names in the citation or just the first author’s name followed by “et al.”

Example: (Watson, Walker, and Peterson 90) or (Watson et al. 90)

You must note that sometimes it’s not possible to know the exact placement of the citation in a sentence as it varies with the structure and context of the given sentence.

How To Cite Sources Within No Authors

When citing sources in MLA format for no authors, you should begin the citation with the title of the source.

Here are the basic rules:

  • Use the title in italics for books, articles, and other sources.
  • For articles, essays, or chapters from books or other sources, including the title in quotation marks.
  • If the title begins with an article (such as “The” or “A”), include it as part of the title.

Here are some examples of how to cite sources in MLA format for no authors:

Book: [Title of Book. Publisher, Year]

Article: [“Title of Article.” Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, page numbers]

Website: [“Title of Webpage.” Name of Website, Publisher or Sponsor of Website (if different from website name), Date of Publication (if available), URL]

In cases where the source is anonymous, use “Anonymous” as the author’s name in the in-text citation and the Works Cited entry.

Example: (“Anonymous 43”)

Works Cited entry:

Anonymous. Title of Work. Publisher, Year.

How To Cite Sources Within No Page Numbers

When citing sources without page numbers in MLA format, you can use other indications to indicate the location of the information you are citing. Here are some ways:

Use section or paragraph numbers: If the source is divided into sections or paragraphs, you can indicate the location of the information by using the section or paragraph number instead of a page number.

For example: (Watson sec. 1) or (Jones para. 8)

Use a timestamp: If the source is a video or audio recording, you can indicate the location of the information by using a time stamp.

Example: (Jones 00:28:48-00:25:18)

Use a descriptive phrase: If the source doesn’t have any markers, you can use a descriptive phrase to indicate where the information can be found. 

Example: (Peterson’s conclusion section) or (Young’s opening remarks)

In the Works Cited entry, you should include the author’s name, the title of the source, and any other relevant publication information (e.g., publisher, date of publication, URL). If you used a time stamp or descriptive phrase to indicate the location of the information, you could also include that information in the Works Cited entry.

Here’s an example of how to cite a source without page numbers in MLA format:

In-text citation: (Watson sec. 2)

Works Cited entry:

Watson, John. Title of Source. Publisher, Year of Publication. URL.

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How To Cite Different Sources With The Same Author Name?

When citing different sources with the same author name in MLA format, you must include additional information in order to differentiate between the sources. Here’s how you can do it:

Using first name or initials: When citing sources with the same last name, include the author’s first name or initials in the in-text citation.

Example: (J. Watson 44) and (M. Watson 11).

Using a shortened version of the title: When citing sources by the same author with the same publication year, you can include a shortened version of the title in the in-text citation.

Example: (Watson, “Title B” 22) and (Watson, “Title C” 33).

Suppose the two sources were published in the same year. In that case, you can differentiate them by adding a lowercase letter after the year of publication (Example: 2021a, 2021b) in both the in-text citation and the Works Cited entry.

In-text citation: (Watson 2021a, 55) and (Watson 2021b, 11)

Works Cited entries: 

  • Watson, John. Title of Source A. Publisher, 2021a.
  • Watson, John. Title of Source B. Publisher, 2021b.

How To Cite Sources Indirectly?

When citing sources indirectly in MLA format, you refer to information or ideas from a source you have not directly quoted or paraphrased. Rather, you are summarizing the information in your own words. Here are the basic guidelines for citing sources indirectly in MLA format:

In-text citation: You must include an in-text citation that indicates the source of information in the body of the paper. Also, you can include the name of the author and the page number(s) if it is available.

Example: (Watson 55)

Works Cited entry: You must include the full citation for the source you refer to by listing the source in alphabetical order by the author’s last name.

Example: Watson, John. [Title of Source. Publisher, Year of Publication]

Note: The citation should be for the source you consulted, not for the source from which the information was originally from. If you read a book that cites another book and want to refer to information from the original source, you need to cite the original source, not the book you read.

Here’s an example of how to cite a source indirectly in MLA format:

In-text citation: According to Watson, the population of sparrows has been declining for decades (55).

Works Cited entry:

Watson, John. The Decline of Sparrows. [Publisher, Year of Publication]


Overall, adding MLA in-text citations is essential to signify that your work is authentic and does not violate plagiarism or copyright laws. In fact, by adding citations, you indicate that you are acknowledging the ideas and work of others. Additionally, in-text citations improve your credibility and writing too.

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