6 In-text Citations & Works Cited Pages ~ MLA Format

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Try this quiz before you watch the video:


What Is a Citation? Why Do We Need Citations?

We give credit to other scholars by using citations in two places: in-text citations, and Works Cited pages. Watch the short video for some background information.


Note: Since I did not create this video, I need to include a citation here. In textbooks, you may find the citation for imported material directly under the material, and/or at the end of the chapter or book. In this textbook, you can find examples of both. Here is the citation for this video (not in MLA format):

A (Very) Brief Introduction. Authored by: libnscu. Provided by: NC State University. Located athttps://youtu.be/IMhMuVvXCVwLicenseCC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

Any time we use another person’s ideas, spoken or written words, research, or other material, we must provide citations. This ensures that we maintain our academic honesty, and that we bring other scholars in to our written conversation by acknowledging their ideas.

We do not need to provide citations for common knowledge such as well-known scientific facts, historical events, or proverbs.

What Do We Need to Cite?

For all academic writing, we must be careful to give attribution for other people’s work, or for any information that is not common knowledge. This means two things:

  • including information about the source directly in the text we have written (in-text citations), and
  • including a list of materials used at the end of the essay (a Works Cited page)

Your in-text citations must always have a matching entry on your Works Cited page. That way, your readers can find more information about your source, so they can investigate more about your sources’ ideas on their own.


MLA (Modern Language Association) Format

At HCC, most ENGL 121 instructors require MLA format for students’ essays. As a result, we will focus on ​​MLA format in ENGL 087 to practice arranging text on the page, in-text citations, and Works Cited pages. When you write papers for other courses, you will need to ask your instructors about their preferences. Here is a list of formats that most professors expect in other academic disciplines.

MLA In-Text Citations

In your paper, when you quote directly from a source in its words, or when you paraphrase someone else’s idea, you need to tell the reader what that source is so the author gets credit. When you do this in the text of your paper, this is called an in-text citation.

In-Text citations are placed in parentheses, and have two components

  • The first word found in the full citation on the Works Cited page (usually the last name of the author)
  • The location of the direct quote or paraphrase (usually a page number)

In-Text citations should be placed directly after the direct quote or paraphrase, or in a place that is a natural pause and does not cause the reader to become distracted while reading the body of your work.


Plastics and other polymers have many beneficial uses in medical treatments (North and Halden, 3), but there are several detrimental effects of these man-made materials as well.

When using the author’s name in the sentence, only include the page number in the parentheses.


As Carol Dweck asserts, “The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving” (13).

Your in-text citations would then need to have corresponding entries in your Works Cited page (see below).

How can we be sure if we need a citation? Use this graphic to help you decide:

Graphic showing when and how to create MLA In-text citations. If it is your own work, you do not need a citation. Otherwise, you need to look for the author's name (or title if there is no author name), and then the page number(s). Put the author's name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence, before the period, like: (Wilson 38).

When and How to Create MLA Citations graphic. Authored by: Kim Louie for Lumen Learning. LicenseCC BY: Attribution

Integrating Sources

A. Two-minute Activity – Reporting Verbs

Work in groups of three.

Partner A: leave the room for 30 seconds

Partner B: tell Partner C about your favorite vacation spot. Give details.

Partner C: listen to Partner B and take notes

Next, Partner A returns to the room

Partner A & Partner B: listen to Partner C

Partner C: tell Partner A what Partner B just said

How does Partner C start the conversation? What ‘reporting verbs’ can Partner C use here? Did they use a paraphrase or a direct quotation?

Finally, brainstorm a list together of possible reporting verbs to use.

If time allows, switch roles with your partners, and choose a new topic from this list:

  1. your favorite restaurant
  2. someone you admire
  3. your favorite superhero
  4. top three bucket list items
  5. favorite movie
  6. least favorite food you’ve eaten
  7. your perfect day
  8. person you’d swap lives with for a day
  9. your spirit animal

To avoid ‘choppy’ writing, or writing that sounds like you just ‘dropped in’ a quote or paraphrase from another source, you will want to integrate other scholars’ ideas seamlessly into your own writing. Reporting verbs help to signal your reader that you are incorporating other scholars’ ideas. Notice that we use the present tense for these reporting verbs:

As Carol Dweck asserts, “The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving” (13).

Check this list of MLA Signal Phrases from author Robin Jeffrey for more examples of reporting verbs. In your notebook, write some reporting verbs that are comfortable for you (ones you’ve used before) and some that are new for you (ones you’d like to try).

Works Cited Pages

A Works Cited page in MLA format is an alphabetical listing of all of the sources you have paraphrased, quoted, summarized, or reproduced (as in, for example, a photo or graph) in your essay; in other words, any source that you created an in-text citation for. Your Works Cited page will have an entry for each resource you used so that your readers can find the original source, in case they want to learn more from that expert. Each entry will include this information (if available): the author, title of source, title of container, other contributors, the version, number, publisher, date of publication, and location (page numbers, a DOI, or a URL, for instance). Check the links near the bottom of this page for more information and formatting guides.

As you conduct your research, it is helpful to keep a list of Works Consulted. As you write your essay, move the sources that have in-text citations to your Works Cited page. Then, when you are finished writing, attach your Works Cited page (the final, separate sheet of paper) to your essay.

Sample Works Cited entries:

North, Emily J, and Rolf U Halden. “Plastics and environmental health: the road ahead.” Reviews on environmental health vol. 28,1 (2013): 1-8. doi:10.1515/reveh-2012-0030

Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. Ballantine, 2016.

There are specific guidelines to follow for every kind of source (websites, blogs, videos, books, scholarly journals, etc.).  The “Works Cited: A Quick Guide” from the MLA Style Center has the most recent advice on formatting your Works Cited pages.

Also, there are several citation generators available on the internet. Check with your instructors to find out about their policies regarding the use of citation generators.


B. Practice Activity

Try this practice activity.



Is this chapter

…too easy, or you would like a more comprehensive guide? –> Check this page on MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics, MLA Works Cited Page Basic Format, and the MLA Sample Works Cited Page, all from Purdue OWL.

…about right, but you would like to see more samples? –> Check “Building Credibility through Source Integration” from Lumen Learning’s Writing Skills Lab, and “Creating a Works Cited Page” and “Crediting and Citing Your Sources” from The Word on College Reading and Writing.

…too difficult, or you’d like more examples? –> Watch this video on “In-Text Citations for Beginners” for help. See also Lumen’s MLA Works Cited page for formatting help.

Portions of this chapter were adapted from “MLA In-Text Citations” from Developmental English: Introduction to College Composition. Provided by: Lumen Learning. LicenseCC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. and “MLA Documentation” from Basic Reading and Writing. Provided by: Lumen Learning. License: CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.


The final practice activity is from “Practice: Using Sources” from Writing Skills Lab. Provided by: Lumen Learning. License: CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.


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ENGLISH 087: Academic Advanced Writing Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Hutchison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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