How to Cite a Paper in MLA


If you are a high school or college student, then there will be a time when you find yourself wondering how to cite in MLA while working on a research paper, dissertation, annotated bibliography, etc. There are various formatting styles, but the most commonly used ones are the APA, Chicago/Turabian style, and MLA. Using these formatting styles helps ensure that the writers do not engage in plagiarism and simplifies the process of locating sources used within the essay. EssayHub will teach you how to cite a research paper using MLA citation format correctly.

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What Is MLA Formatting?

MLA is the formatting style of the Modern Language Association. It is used in English studies, comparative literature, foreign language, and literature or cultural studies. It is an academic style guide extensively used in the United States, Canada, and other countries. MLA handbook mostly provides "how to cite MLA" guidelines for writing a scholarly journal or documentation of research in humanities and English literature.

Check out related guides: how to write a thesis statement or how to write an annotated bibliography at EssayHub blog.

Formatting The Front Page

Four key components come with setting up your research paper within proper MLA rules:

Page Margins should be EXACTLY 1 inch on both sides of the text.

Set the line spacing from single to double-spaced. This makes reading the text less crammed on the eye and allows the professor to make necessary comments in a neat and organized manner.

Create a header with your last name and the automatic page number. This is done to keep track of the page order and look pleasant to the eye!

Lastly, enter the required course information on the top-left corner of the front page. It should look like this:

  • Full Name
  • Name of Teacher/Professor
  • Name of Course
  • Due Date for Assignment

The In-text Citation

When citing a research paper, include references within two sections:

1. The quotes used within the essay

2. The Works Cited page at the end

The citation information in the body of the paper itself is called the "in-text citation." The most obvious time to use an in-text citation is when you use a quote from a source directly or refer to it by title or author.

You need to list the writer's last name and page number enclosed within parentheses straight after the quote. If the author's name is included as a feature of your sentence, you only have to include the page number in the bracket.


"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference" (Frost 1).

Human beings have been described by Kenneth Burke as "symbol-using animals" (3).

As you can see, Burke's name was included in the sentence, so there is no need for repetition in the citation.

In-Text Citation For Two Or More Authors

If your source includes multiple authors, the MLA format citation implies that you mention their last names separated by the word "and." This inclusion may be directly in the text of a sentence; for example, Wilson and Anderson provide the next information (47) or in parentheses after the provided MLA in-text citation (Wilson and Anderson 47). 

If your source was written by multiple contributors, you need to include all their names. If the citation becomes too lengthy, write the first author's name and add "and others." For example, Johnson and others claim that… (55). 

In the case of parenthetical citation and Works Cited page entry of a source with more than three authors, you need to provide the first author's name followed by et al. For example, (Johnson et al. 55).

In-Text Citation For Unknown Author

When you do a citation MLA with an unknown author, you should provide the first couple of words of a source in the text. Don't count the initial articles like "The," "A," or "An." There should not be too many words, but a reader needs to understand what source you are referring to. 

If the name of a source is in italics, then put italics in the in-text citations. For example, (Animal Biology 35). If the name of a source is in quotation marks, put them in the in-text citation as well. For example, (Modern Medicine 131).

In-Text Citation For More Than One Source 

If you need MLA citing for more than one source for a single citation, write the sources as usual and use a semicolon to separate them. The sources in the in-text citation may not follow in alphabetic order as on the Works Cited page. For example, (It Takes Two; Smith 150). 

In-Text Citations With Repeated Use Of Sources 

One of the most frequent questions is how to do in-text citations with a source used more than once in a text. To do so, you may provide a simplified in-text citation. It means that the first citation uses the full citation, and the further ones simply show the page referenced. 

For example, "This text block serves as an example (Smith 74). If you want to cite the next sentence with the same source, you may simply state the page (94)."

If a simplified citation causes ambiguity in the text, you should provide a full citation of a source.


When paraphrasing information from the source in your own words, use MLA in-text citations at the end of your passage. If you paraphrase information from a single page, include the full citation with the author's name and the page number. For example, "This block of text is an example of paraphrasing from a single page (Hunt 69)."

When you borrow ideas from multiple pages, your in-text citations MLA should include them. For example, "This text block demonstrates an example of citation from multiple pages (Hunt 58, 66, 73-75)."

Direct Quoting

One of the most frequent citation questions about the format is "MLA how to cite quotes directly?". If you use a direct quote from a source, enclose it in quotation marks and add the author's name and page number at the end. For example, "This text demonstrates the format of a direct quote" (Smith 66). 

If you make a direct MLA quote citation from a web source without page numbers, then provide just the name of an author. For example, "This text is quoted directly from a source without pages" (Anderson). 

Long Quotations

There are cases when you need to cite a significant block of text. The natural question is how to cite an article MLA. If your quotation exceeds the four lines of your essay, it is considered a long quotation and must follow different rules for in-text citation. First, you need to end the line before the quotation with a colon. Second, a long quotation must be indented half an inch from the rest of the text to look like a block of text that differs from the rest of the MLA format quotes. Third, do not use quotation marks around the long quote. The period comes before your citation and not after it, as it happens with a regular quotation. A long MLA in-text citation example: 

This block of the text demonstrates the format of a long citation. It must exceed four lines of text to be a long quotation. Moreover, it has no quotation marks around it. When you end a long quotation, you need to place a period before the citation. (Anderson 250) 

The Detailed Information

  • References: When providing references within your research paper, the readers must be informed about the origin of the sources from where you are citing your information. The reference page is known as the "Works Cited." The works cited entry appears at the end of your paper, where the author gives credit to the source. Things that are placed within a citation include alphabetical order of the author's last name, the title of the article, and the date issued. It's worth noting that if an author has multiple citations, sort them chronologically by the date of publication.
  • Follow this format exactly: Author(s)-> "Title of Article."->Title of Journal Volume.->Issue (Year): pages
  • Electronic Sources: For electronic sources, utilize the inventor's name, page number, or area number for in-substance references. This is only if the information does not have page or section numbers by any method. You would then include the author's name in the section after you have referred to the recorded information.

Selecting An Appropriate Method Of The In-text Citation

In-text citations are often parenthetical, meaning that information is always added to the end of the sentence in parentheses. But if you include that necessary information in the language of the sentence itself, you should not include the parenthetical citation. So, for example, if the author's name is found within the in-text citation, then there is no need to add it at the end; simply add the page number, and your referencing is finished!

Arrangement Of The In-text Citation

Having two sources from the same author or an in-text citation may confuse the reader. When they check the source of the citation, they will find two different articles. To avoid this confusion, you must include a short title of the research citation, so the readers know which citations to look for.

You should include all authors' last names when a source has two or three authors. Whereas when you have four or more authors, you have to write them all out following the first author's last name.

Does It Still Feel Like A Herculean Task?

MLA formatting is a very time-consuming task. So, next time, if you need to write an essay, you can count on us with a unique MLA citation example. Online essay writing service EssayHub has spent a lot of time dealing with various formatting styles, and we know each one from front to back. Our research paper writers will do an impeccable job for you, so you won't have to wonder how to cite in MLA format anymore.

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