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How To Organize In-Text Citations In An MLA Style Research Paper

The MLA format is used for many English and Social Studies papers. However, it is the ultimate decision of the instructor as to what kind of style he or she decides you use. Other styles exist, such as APA and Chicago. All styles have in-text citations.

An in-text citation occurs within the essay. For example, if you just used a quote, you will follow that quote with a parenthetical in-text citation. It may look like this, “Apples provide a great source of vitamins” (Brown, 22). Brown is the author and the page number is 22. Follow these tips on exceptions and procedures for using these tools in your paper.


  • If you do not know the author’s name, you may use the name of the article or book. An example might be: (“Learning to Eat Correctly”, 22).

  • If you do not know the author or article name and the source came from online, you may use the website. This sample would look like this: www.websitename, 22.

  • If there is not page number, do not put n.p. Instead leave the space blank. It would look like this: (Brown).

  • The citations come immediately after the thing that is being referenced. The end punctuation goes after the note. An example of this would be, Studies show that “spaghetti is high in carbohydrates” (Smith, 22).

  • No one uses footnotes, unless the professor or the instructor specifically asks for them. The internal method of naming the source is the modern and preferred method. In the old days, when using a typewriter, you would have to guess how many footnotes would be making into a specific page and then guess again on how much space you would need for the footnotes at the bottom of the page. This was not a very accurate source of working, especially since most people used typewriters and one mistake would result in starting over on the work.

  • At the end of the piece, you will have a works cited or a bibliography page. A works cited lists only the sources you used. And a bibliography lists everything you looked at, even if you did not use it. The professor will tell you which style he or she wants. It will have a very specific format, list the sources, and be alphabetical. There are many handy apps that can format this page for you. This is good because it, too, has very specific instructions.