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Citing and referencing: In-text citations

A guide to the styles recommended by Monash schools and departments for students and researchers

In-text citations: General notes

Overview

The MLA system uses in-text citations rather than footnotes or endnotes. The citations in-text are very brief, usually just the author's last name and a relevant page number, in parenthesis at a natural pause in your text.

The in-text citation should unambiguously direct the reader to the entry in your works-cited list at the end of your document.

 

When do I omit the author's surname?

There is no need to repeat the author's name if it is already used in your sentence. This is called an 'author prominent' citation, and it will look something like this:

  • "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Charles Dickens of the eighteenth century (5).

If you wish to emphasise the information you have paraphrased or quoted from an author, then your citation becomes 'information prominent', and you should include both the author's last name, and the relevant page number in parentheses.  The citation will look something like this:

  • ... as demonstrated in the opening line, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times"  (Dickens 5).

Examples for in-text citations

Single author, less than three lines long

Example

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Charles Dickens of the eighteenth century (5).

Explanation  If a prose quotation is no more than three lines and does not require special emphasis, put it in quotation marks and incorporate it into the text. Include the page number(s) in brackets.

More than three lines long (a "block quotation")

Example

  Winston's reassessment of Grierson finds the play-off between creativity and realness unconvincing:

                    Grierson's taxonomic triumph was to make his particular species
                    of non-fiction film, the non-fiction genre while at the same time
                    allowing the films to use the significant fictionalising technique
                    of dramatisation. (Winston 103)

This is a usefully provocative point, though agreement with it will largely rest on certain, contestable ideas about 'fictionalisation' and 'dramatisation'. The issue is dealt with directly in Chapter Two, as part of considering the debate around drama-documentary forms, and it occurs in relation to specific works throughout this book.

Explanation If a quotation is longer than four lines, set if off from your text by beginning a new line, indenting one inch from the left margin, and typing it double-spaced, without adding quotation marks. Introduce the quotation with a colon. Place the parenthetical reference after the last line. For example, above discusses John Corner in his book, The Art of Record: A Critical Introduction to Documentary, which refers to Brian Winston's revaluation of the documentary tradition in the writings of John Grierson.

Poetry

Example More's distress that she had not written about the problems of the slave trade earlier are expressed in the poem: "Whene'er to Afric's shores I turn my eyes, / Horrors of deepest, deadliest guilt arise" (line 5).
Explanation

 Quotations from poetry from part of a line up to three lines in length, which do not need particular emphasis, may be added, placed in quotation marks, within your text as part of a sentence. Use a slash with a space either side ( / ) to indicate a new line of poetry.

If the poem you are referencing has line numbers, then omit page numbers all-together and cite by line number instead.  Do not use the abbreviation l. or ll., but instead in your first citation, use the word line, or lines as shown in the example above. After the first citation it can be assumed that the numbers refer to lines, so you can include the numbers alone.

Poetry, more than three lines long (a "block quotation")

Example

Judith Wright 's poetry explores the Australian environment:

And have we eaten in the heart of the yellow wheat
the sullen unforgetting seed of fire?
And now, set free by the climate of man's hate,
that seed sets time ablaze (14)

 
Explanation

​When quoting a block of poetry, introduce it in the same manner as a prose block quotation, i.e. begin the quote on a new line and indent each line as above. There is no need to add quotation marks. A reference to the page or line number should be included in parenthesis at the end of the last line. If the original text is creatively spaced or indented, then try to replicate the original as best you can. 

Plays

Example

TARTUFFE.

Yes, my brother, I am a sinner, a guilty man,
An unhappy sinner full of iniquity. (III. vi.)
Explanation

If you quote the lines of more than one actor or if the piece you are quoting is long, the quotation should not be integrated into your text. The rules in MLA for presenting this text are:

  • leave a line between your text and the quotation
  • Begin each part of the dialogue with the character's name, indented half an inch from the margin, in upper case and with a full-stop, e.g. BODYGUARDS.
  • Indent the dialogue an additional amount, as shown above
  • end each piece of dialogue with a full-stop
  • end the last line of the quotation with a full-stop and then add the section and line numbers in parentheses.

For more information, see section 1.3.4 of the MLA Handbook.

 Indirect quotation from a source within a source

Example Together, noted Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, the two men shared "a dark, tragic sense of life, a brooding view of human relationships and a compulsion to explore aesthetically the private world of the romantic fantasy" (381).
Explanation

Where a quotation is less than four lines, use quotation marks and incorporate it into the text. In the following example, the author of A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Hermann quotes one Hitchcock biographer, Donald Spoto (Smith 192).

The parenthetical reference refers to the page in the book where the quotation is found. The book is listed in the bibliography as follows:

Spoto, Donald. The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock. Boston: Little, 1983. Print.

Smith, Steven C. A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Hermann. California: U of California P, 1991. Print.

 

Wherever possible, use material from the original source rather than from a secondhand one. In some instances however, an indirect source may be the only available source, for example, a published account of another person's spoken remarks. If what you quote or paraphrase is itself a quotation, put the abbreviation qtd. in ("quoted in") before the indirect source you cite in your parenthetical reference.

e.g. Samuel Johnson admitted that Edmund Burke was an "extraordinary man" (qtd. in Boswell 2: 450).

In your "Works Cited" list, include the source you quoted from.

Boswell, James. The Life of Johnson. Ed. George Birbeck Hill and L. F. Powell. 6 vols. Oxford, Clarendon, 1934-50. Print.

For more information, see section 3.4 of the MLA Handbook.

Two authors (coauthored)

Example

(Brown and Czerniewicz 2010)

Explanation  

If a source has more than one author use 'and' rather than '&'.

Three or more authors

Example

(Jones et al. 53)

Explanation  If a source has three or more authors, the in-text citation begins with the first author's surname, followed by et al. 

Corporate author

Example

(Australian Research Council 205)

(Monash University 176)

Explanation

If the source has a corporate author, use the name of the corporation followed by a page number.

Abbreviate terms that are commonly abbreviated (e.g. Department becomes Dept.), so as to not disrupt the flow of your text with overly long in-text citations.

If the corporate author is identified in the works-cited list by the names of administrative units separated by commas, give all the names in the parenthetical citation.

Descriptive phrase instead of title (e.g. introduction, preface)

Example

Zipes argues that "the historical evolution of storytelling reflects struggles of human beings worldwide" (Preface xi).

Explanation  If a work is identified in the works-cited list by a descriptive term (e.g. introduction, preface), then use it it in the in-text citation, capitalised and placed after the author's surname, but before the relevant page numbers.

Authors with the same last name

Example

(N. Palmer 45)

(N. Palmer 45; M. Palmer 102)

Explanation

 If you use works from more than one author with the same last name, eliminate any ambiguity by including the author's first initial as well (or if the initial is also the same, the full first name).

More than one work by the same author

Example

..."the Orient was a scholar's word, signifying what modern Europe had recently made of the still peculiar East" (Said, Orientalism 92).

..."there is something basically unworkable ro at least drastically changed about the traditional frameworks in which we study literature" (Said, "Globalizing Literary Study" 64).

Explanation

 If you cite multiple works by the same author, include a shortened title in each in-text citation to establish which work you are referring to. To avoid overly lengthy in-text citations, shorten the title to a simple noun phrase, or a few words.

Note that in the first example above references Said's book, so the title is italicised. The second example references Said's journal article, so it is in quotation marks.

For more tips on how to abbreviate titles of sources, see page 117-8 of the MLA Handbook.

Anonymous or no author

Example

It has been argued that the hat symbolised freedom (Wandering Merchant 157).

Explanation  For works that are anonymously authored, or have no author, include a shortened version of the title in the in-text citation (do not list the author as "anonymous", nor as "anon.").

Paragraph numbers instead of page numbers

Example

There is little evidence here for the claim that "Eagleton has belittled the gains of postmodernism" (Chan, par. 41).

Explanation  If the source explicitly uses paragraph numbers (as some web publications do), then replace the page number with the relevant paragraph number, preceded by par. or pars. The same rules applies for sections (sec., secs.) and chapters (ch., chs.). 

Citing more than one source at the same time

Example

(Jackson 41; Smith 150)

Explanation If you are citing more than one source at the same point in your assignment, place them in the same parentheses, separated by a semi-colon.