In the enterprise of publishing and scholarly writing, especially in the fields of literature and the languages, MLA citations pertain to the standardized editorial style used by students, professors, writers and researchers to document their sources that they have consulted in preparation for their work. Established and developed by the Modern Language Association, MLA citations are commonly used for academic writing in the humanities. The complete guidelines for this citation style is explained fully in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, and it covers the several aspects of research writing including the mechanics and formatting of the MLA works cited page, parenthetical or in-text citations, MLA book citations, and MLA website citations.
If you are a student and have been asked by your instructor to use this style, you will be required to include in-text citations to cite your sources in the body of your text, along with the corresponding MLA works cited page where every citation is listed. As a general rule, every in-text citation that appears in the main body of your paper, there should be a corresponding citation entry in the MLA works cited page.
This page is an alphabetized list of all the sources that you have used in writing your essay. It is placed at the end of your document, and it provides publication information for every source that you have cited. In-text citations refer to the references that appear within the body of the paper, including all the resources that you have quoted, summarized, or paraphrased.
By using this technique, you are able acknowledge a source within your text by providing a reference to exactly where in that source you found the information. Your readers and your instructor can then follow up on the full list of sources on the MLA works cited page.
Normally, in-text citations are placed within or after sentences and paragraphs so to show readers what information is being quoted or paraphrased and whose idea is being cited. The first time a source is mentioned, it should be cited at once. The citation, including the page number or numbers, is enclosed within parentheses, as with the following example:
… “It is not simply that Marxists like Terry Eagleton pronounce literary theory dead and rhetoric alive; many traditional scholars, people deeply committed to politically disinterested New Critical views of art, have begun to recognize political forces and rhetorical patterns in texts long considered distant from such concerns.” (Alcorn 106). …
Accordingly, this in-text citation must have a corresponding entry in the MLA works cited page:
Alcorn, Marshall W. Narcissism and the Literary Libido: Rhetoric, Text, and Subjectivity. New York and London: New York University Press, 1994.
If, for instance, you took the quotation from an online source, such as a website or a database, you need to include an MLA website citation:
Alcorn, Marshall W. “Narcissism and the Literary Libido: Rhetoric, Text, and Subjectivity.” Project Muse. 29 Jun 2012. <http://muse.jhu.edu/books/9780814707517>