How to Cite Sources within the Text in Mla Format

MLA, or Modern Language Association, formatting is not too hard.  Once you’ve finished formatting page one and your Works Cited page, you’re almost done.  You just have to cite your sources in the body of the paper; this is called in-text citation.

It’s very important to quote reliable experts to back up the points you’re making.  But it’s just as important to make sure the reader knows which writing in the paper is yours and which is from your sources.  Otherwise you risk taking credit for someone else’s writing, which is plagiarism.  Here’s the correct way to set up in-text citation, using a four-step process.

Step one is to introduce your source to the reader.  You do this with an introductory phrase, such as:

In his book Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, Sam Smith writes 

This is necessary because without an introductory phrase, it’s hard to tell whether you’re quoting someone or stating your own opinion.  Here are two examples to show what I mean:

Dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years.

In his book Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, Sam Smith writes that dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years.

Since you got this information from Sam Smith, you have to give him credit. 

Step two is the actual quote.  In this case, it’s:

Dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years.

You can format the actual quote two ways.  One is that you can quote the author exactly.  This is how it’s done:

In his book Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, Sam Smith writes, “Dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years.”

The other way is that you can paraphrase the quote, not putting it in quotation marks but keeping the meaning of it.  For example:

In his book Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, Sam Smith states that dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years.

If you paraphrase Sam Smith’s quote, it’s still his and you have to give him credit for it.

Step three comes at the end of the quote, and lets the reader know that the quote is finished.  Put the page number in parentheses at the end of the quote, like this:

In his book Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, Sam Smith writes, “Dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years” (54).

If there’s no page number, repeat the author’s name at the end of the quote, like this:

On his website, Sam Smith writes, “Dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years” (Smith).

If there’s no author or page number, put a word from the title at the end of the quote, like this:

The online article History of Dogs states that dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years (Dogs).

Steps one, two and three separate the quote from your writing.  They ensure that the reader knows you have good sources and that you’ve given credit to your sources.  This gives you credibility as a writer and gives your reader confidence in your expertise.

In step four, you’ll make a comment as to why the quote is important.  You’ll explain why you used it and why it helps make your point.  This doesn’t have to be long and complicated; it can be one sentence.  For example: 

In his book Dogs are Man’s Best Friend, Sam Smith writes, “Dogs have been domesticated for ten thousand years” (54).  So we can see that people have found dogs useful for a long time. 

Step four is important because it shows that you know what you want to say.  It also shows that you’ve picked good sources that will help you make your point.  This is another way you increase your credibility.

So in step one introduce the quote, in step two give the quote, in step three end the quote, and in step four tell the reader why the quote is important.  If you follow these four steps, your in-text citation should be fine, and will be a big asset to your paper.