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Guide to Citations

A guide for everyone explaining basics of different types of Citation: What their purposes are, how to do them, and why they are important.

For books and any basic format with an author and page numbers, the rules for parenthetical citation are very simple. The citations go at the end of a sentence or quotation after any quotation marks but before a period. For example,

"This is a quotation I suppose" (Burgess 3).

However, Casey Burgess says that if the author has signaled who has written what they are referencing in the sentence or quotation, you do not need to indicate their name in the parenthetical citation (3).

It is also important to note that corporations are people too (Burgess Incorporated 3).

There are no commas between the elements and the period must go at the end. This is so the reader knows what sentence the citation goes with. For any non-traditional sources or sources with complicated situations for authorship, see some of the other tabs for instructions and examples.

For sources where the author isn't known, the general rule is to use the title or the next "known" element of the citation. For example:

In the article, "Bob's Your Uncle: A Collection of Phrases by Someone Who Isn't Your Uncle and Isn't Named Bob," the anonymous author notes that indeed, his Uncle Bob did not write these phrases (4).

One such phrase includes the infamous, "Turn of Phrase" is itself idiomatic ("Bob's Your Uncle" 5).

"If you don't cite your sources, you will be in some serious hot water" ("Bob's Your Uncle" 7).

Note that in the first one, since the writer signaled the name of the article and that the author was anonymous, the title of the article was not needed in the parenthetical citation. Also, since the title was very long, the other examples shortened the name of the title. If these were one after another, you would not need to include the title again until you switched what source you were citing.

Works by Multiple Authors

If there are two authors, include both authors' last names in the citation. For example:

"We're married, not siblings" (Smith and Smith 25).

If there are three or more authors, only include the first author's name and replace the others with "et al." which is an abbreviation of "et alia" meaning "and others" ("Et al."). Note that authors should always be in alphabetical order by last name, so the first name should be the first one alphabetically by last name. For example:

"See we had a kid!" (Smith et al. 34).

Two or More Authors with the Same Last Name

If you have authors with the same last name, include their first initial. If their first initials are the same, include their full names. If they have the same name, include the name of the article with a comma after the author's name. For example:

"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, "Folk Songs" 5).

"His name is my name too" (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, "Poetry in Song" 12).

"I don't know those guys" (S. Schmidt 15).

One Author With Several Works

If an author has written several works that you are referencing, include the author's last name and the title of the work in addition to the page number. For example:

McElroy notes that it is impossible to know 100 things about birds (McElroy, "Bird Facts," 42). He later retracts this statement by saying it is impossible to know 101 things about birds (McElroy, More Bird Facts 69).

Note that the first resource is some sort of article while the second reference is a book, as indicated by the italics.

Classic Works of Literature with Several Editions

Classic works of literature often are published by several different publishers in different editions. Therefore, when citing classic works of literature, it's important to give a bit more information so that the reader can find what quote you are referring to. Usually, including abbreviations of sections or volumes are sufficient enough as long as you include the information about the edition in the works cited citation. Some abbreviations include:

  • vol. for volume 
  • bk. for book
  • pt. for part
  • ch.for chapter
  • sec. section
  • par. for paragraph

There may be others, but these are the most common. NOTE: For works of Shakespeare, see the section on transcripts, plays, and screenplays.

For example:

In The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway describes Jay Gatbsy as "the single most hopeful person I've ever met and I'm ever likely to meet again" (Fitzgerald 2, ch. 1).

Multi-Volume Works

If a book comes in multiple volumes, it's always good to note which volume the information comes from. Again, this will make it easier for your reader to identify where the information is coming from so they can find it themselves. NOTE: This is only necessary if you cite from several volumes. If you only cite from one volume, the normal parenthetical citation is fine. When you do indicate the volume, separate it from the page numbers by using roman numerals (I, II, III, etc) and following it with a colon.

For example:

This three-volume guide to citations claims that it can "guarantee you will never miss a citation ever again" (Burgess I: 3).

"MLA citation is not so bad, once you are used to it" (Burgess II: 12).

Anthologies, Periodicals, and Collections

Think of these types of works in concentric circles:

The outer circle represents the entire anthology, journal or newspaper, or collection. The inner circle represents the individual work. We want to reference the work on the inside, since it's more specific.

Therefore, we want to use the author and title from the individual article. The page number however, corresponds to the anthology, journal, or collection the work was found in. 

For example:

"Another One Bites the Dust" has a 2-measure ostinato in the bass line (Queen 45).

In this instance, the music could come from an anthology of rock music, but since we are only referencing Queen, that is what we will put in addition to the page number from the anthology. The citation, however, will include information about the anthology.

All of these types of works usually come in some form of dialog, sometimes with instructions. Therefore, the way they need to be formatted and cited should be the same. Each line of dialog should start with the person's name in all capital letters followed by a period. Hit enter and then type the next person's name and their dialog. Each line should be in a "block" quote, where all the lines are indented 1/2 inch or one "tab". If the quotation is a block quote, there is no need for quotation marks.

The parenthetical citation should include the author's last name and the title as well as the location (Act.Scene.Line or Chapter.Scene depending on how it is organized). Often, the author and the title are mentioned before the quote, so including that information may be unnecessary.

For example:

ANTIGONOUS. Go thou away: / I'll follow instantly.

MARINER. I am glad at heart / To be so rid o' the business (Shakespeare, "A Winter's Tale" 3.3.1501-1504).

Citing the Bible

The Bible is cited somewhat similarly to plays, which is why it is included here. In the parenthetical citation, include which version of the bible you are using, the book, the chapter and the verse. It should look something like this:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (New International Version, 1 Corinthians 13.4-7).

This quote, then, comes from the New International Version of the Bible in the book 1 Corinthians (there are two), Chapter 13, Verses 4 to 7.

Citing Websites

If an author is available, provide the author's name. Only provide the title if there are multiple sources made by the same author. No page or paragraph numbers are necessary. Don't include URLs in the text, but rather just provide the domain name (like CNN instead of All pertinent information regarding the website will be included in the full citation in the works cited.

For example:

"If an author is available, provide the author's name" (Burgess "Parenthetical Citations: Web Sources").

CNN continues to provide updates on the situation (Rocha and Wagner).

Citing Time-Code Based Media

Time-Code based media includes video/film and audio on both streaming and physical formats. It could be a movie, a podcast, an audiobook, or song on Spotify among the many other types of media that should be cited this way. Cite the author(s) as needed (see the tab on other complicated authorship for more information for citations with multiple authors). When citing this type of media, the range of time should be given in place of page numbers. It should be in the format hh:mm:ss where h is hours, m is minutes, and s is seconds.

For example:

"If you can guess what movie I've been in, I'll give you a $10 Starbucks gift card" (Burgess 00:20:40).

Sometimes a quote is only found in another source if the original quote cannot be located, or if you choose to quote from that source. This is called an indirect source. MLA recommends using "qtd. in" before the source author's name to indicate an indirect quote. For example:

"As Kim Kardashian once said in her book Selfish, 'How cool is this outdoor shower?'" (qtd. in Burgess 25).

NOTE: When you put a quote within a quote, use the single quotation marks (') rather than the double (").

When you have multiple citations in for one reference, use the same basic format but separate with a semicolon.

For example:

Several authors note Sister Rosetta Tharpe as the founder of rock 'n' roll (Presley 29; Lewis 38).


"MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics." Purdue Online Writing

Lab. Accessed

November 21, 2019.

"Et al." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Accessed November 21, 2019.

"Paragraph Text on Concentric Circles..." PrintSouth Printing. Accessed November 21, 2019.