Skip to Main Content

Learning Center Library Guide

What is a Citation?

A citation is reliable way to lead your reader back to the materials you used in your research.

A citation gives credit to an author for their research, writings and ideas.

Most citations include information such as

  • author's name,
  • title of the book, article or website, 
  • name of the magazine or journal, 
  • date published or updated
  • if the information was found in print or online

When you use citations you are

  • giving credit to the authors of material you used,
  • avoiding plagiarism,
  • showing that you know how to use information well,
  • creating credibility for your paper by providing good quality sources and good quality citations for them.

What is an MLA citation?

MLA is a style guide for citations from the Modern Language Association (MLA). 

Citation style guides show you what information to include in each citation and how to organize your list of citations.

MLA citation style is primarily used for research papers in English classes although some instructors in other subject areas also use MLA.

Citations in my paper and on the Works Cited page

There are two parts to an In Text citation. 

  1. the brief information in the text of the paper
  2. the full citation on the Works Cited page

The brief information must lead your reader to the full citation on the Works Cited page.

For MLA In Text citations, you need two pieces of information when your writing includes someone else’s words, ideas, or facts.

  • 1. For print sources (books and articles)
    •  the author's last name
    •  the page number (if available)
  • 2. For web based or media sources include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (for example: author name, article name, website name, film name).

For Example:

Torvald betrays his mistrust of Nora when he asks if her “sweet tooth didn’t get the better” of
her while she was shopping earlier (Ibsen 151).

Common citation problem - A Source with no author

When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name.

"When you hear the word introvert, you might think of someone who's shy or quiet and prefers to be alone ("Introvert Personality").


Find more examples of In Text citations using these links.

When to use In Text Citations

What should be documented?
Your essay or paper needs to have evidence, or support, or proof of the points you are making. The main evidence you use in a literature essay comes in the form of ideas or words from the text you are analyzing. Below is a list of the situations where you should acknowledge the sources of information you use.

A) WHEN QUOTING: if you quote an author's exact words

Walker states that "womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender," but does not stop at defining herself as a feminist (173).

B) WHEN PARAPHRASING: if you use your own words, but you use another author's ideas.

The aristocratic heroic and kinship values of Germanic society continued to inspire both clergy and laity during Christian times (Smith 323)


C) WHEN SUMMARIZING: if you summarize one or more points in another author's writing.

The Renaissance was seen as a time of upheaval of traditional art forms and societal values, paving the way for a more enlightened and broad view of the foreign world (Rahemtulla 988).

D) STATISTICS OR FACTS: if you use a fact or a statistic that is not common knowledge.

The Dutch Crown’s overseas territories were vastly increased in 1667 (Charland 301).


Klassen, C., J. Robinson and  M. Stainsby. "In Text Citation Using MLA Style." Douglas College. Douglas College. 2012. Web.  22 July 2015.