Whenever you incorporate outside sources into your own writing, you must provide both in-text citations (within the body of the paper) and full citations (in the works cited page). The in-text citations point your reader toward the full citations in the works cited page.
That's why the first bit of information in your in-text citation (generally, the author's name; if no name is provided, the title of the article/book/webpage) should directly match up with the beginning of your works cited entry for that source. For further information about in-text citations, please read "Formatting In-Text Citations."
For example, let's say I have a quote from Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities in my research paper. Within the body of the paper, following the quote, I include the following in-text citation: (Anderson 56). This information points to the book's entry in my works cited page:
Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 2006. Print.
When your reader sees the in-text citation in your essay, she may decide that the source might be valuable for her own research. When she looks at the works cited page, she can easily locate the source (because the works cited page is alphabetized and because she has the in-text citation as her referent) and then can use the full citation to retrieve a copy of the source for her own research. But aside from providing the reader with resources for her own research, the works cited page serves another function: it establishes the writer's credibility. If a writer fails to include in-text citations and/or a works cited page, that writer has plagiarized because he or she has neglected to provide the publication information of the source. In addition, when a reader locates undocumented information in an essay, she will likely think that the information was made up by the writer or that the information was stolen from a source, or plagiarized. And when a reader peruses a writer's works cited page, she can see the types of sources used by the writer, assessing those sources in terms of their credibility. For instance, if a reader reads my works cited page and sees I cite sources from university presses such as Oxford UP and Cambridge UP, she will know that I've incorporated credible sources into my research paper. Thus, including both in-text citations and a works cited page in a research paper provides the writer with ethos, or credibility.
Now let's take a look at how to properly format a works cited page according to MLA guidelines:
According to MLA style guidelines, the works cited page should appear after the body of your paper and any accompanying endnotes. It should begin on a new page, and the pagination should continue from the body of the paper. In the above example, the works cited page begins on page 38, which means that the essay concluded on page 37.
The works cited page should be double-spaced throughout. The first line of each entry should be flush with the left margin; if the entry extends more than one line, ensuing lines should be indented 1/2 inch from the left margin. The first page of the works cited list should have the title "Works Cited," not "Bibliography." The works cited title should appear in the same manner as the paper's title: capitalized and centered—not bolded, within quotation marks, italicized, underlined, or in a larger font.
The entries should be alphabetized based on the author's last name. According to MLA guidelines, author names come first in an entry, then titles, then the publication information (city of publication, publisher, and date of publication), and then the type of media—the details for different types of sources vary, but this is the general structure followed. Note that if the city is not "well-known" and there is more than one city with that name, unlike New York and London, then the state or territory should be included after the city, e.g., "Roswell, GA: 2006." If no name is provided for a given source, the title of the work/webpage will take the place of the author's last name and should still be placed in its proper alphabetical location. Also note that "university" and "press" are always abbreviated "U" and "P" in works cited entries.
Here are some guidelines for commonly used sources:
Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Type of media.
Bratlinger, Patrick. Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914. Ithaca: Cornell UP,
Last Name, First Name (of first author listed), and First Name Last Name (of second author, etc.). Title
of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Type of media.
Sabherhagen, Fred, and James V. Hart. Bram Stoker's Dracula: A Francis Ford Coppola Film. New York:
Signet, 1992. Print.
Last Name, First Name. "Article Title." Title of Book. Ed. First Name Last Name (of Editor). Place of
Publication: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Range of Article. Type of Media.
Vieregge, Quentin. "Writing as Process." Negotiating Writing Spaces. Ed. Jennifer Yirinec and Lauren
Cutlip. Plymouth, MI: Hayden-McNeil, 2011. 57–59. Print.
Last Name, First Name. "Article Title." Title of Journal. Volume #.Issue # (Date of publication): Page Range
of Article. Print.
Rogers, Pat. "Crusoe's Home." Essays in Criticism 24.4 (Oct. 1974): 375–90. Print.
Last Name, First Name. "Article Title." Journal Name Volume #.Issue # (Date of publication): Page Range
of Article. Database. Web. Date of Access.
Lamont, Rose C. "Coma versus Comma: John Donne's Holy Sonnets in Edson's WIT." The Massachusetts
Review 40.4 (Winter 1999–2000): 569–75. JSTOR. Web. 30 April 2012.
Last Name, First Name. "Article Title." Journal Name Volume #.Issue # (Date of publication): n.pag. Web.
Date of Access.
Haynsworth, Leslie. "All the Detective's Men: Binary Coding of Masculine Identity in the Sherlock Holmes
Stories." Victorians Institute Journal 38 (2010): n.pag. Web. 16 May 2012.
Last Name, First Name (if given). "Title of Webpage." Website Title. Publisher of website (often found at the bottom
of the page), date of last update. Web. Date of Access. See (URL is only necessary if you think your
reader won't easily be able to locate the webpage).
"Opening Night: Wit Starring Cynthia Nixon." Broadway.com. Broadway.com, Inc., 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.
Website Title. Publisher of website, date of last update. Date of Access. See (URL is only necessary if you
think your reader won't easily be able to locate the webpage).
Broadway.com. Broadway.com, Inc., 2012. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.
You already know why MLA formatting guidelines are an important part of an academic paper, but let’s face it—who can remember all those rules about when and where certain citation information is requisite and when and where particular punctuation is appropriate? Thankfully, memorizing all of MLA’s formatting guidelines is not necessary! MLA style guides can be found easily online or in texts like The MLA Handbook, and writers can refer to these resources when they are unclear about a particular MLA style guideline.
Nonetheless, as you create multiple drafts of your composition papers, there are some MLA conventions that you will need to call on time and time again. In particular, as you integrate source material masterfully into your work, you will be required to call on proper in-text citation guidelines repeatedly. It is therefore important that you take the time to memorize the MLA guidelines for in-text citations. Because the use of in-text citations will be so integral to your writing processes, being able to instantly craft correct citations and identify incorrect citations will save you time during writing and will help you avoid having unnecessary points taken off for citation errors.
Here is the standard correct in-text citation style according to MLA guidelines:
“Quotation” (Author's Last Name Page Number).
Take a moment to carefully consider the placement of the parts and punctuation of this in-text citation. Note that there is no punctuation indicating the end of a sentence inside of the quotation marks—closing punctuation should instead follow the parentheses. There is also no punctuation between the author’s last name and the page number inside of the parentheses. The misplacement of these simple punctuation marks is one of the most common errors students make when crafting in-text citations.
So, let's say we have the following quote, which comes from page 100 of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South: "Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it." 
The following examples show incorrect MLA formatting:
"Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it." (Gaskell 100)
Incorrect because the period falls within the quotation marks
"Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it" (Gaskell, 100).
Incorrect because of the comma separating the author's last name and the page number
"Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it" (Elizabeth Gaskell 100).
Incorrect because the author's full name is used instead of just her last name
"Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it" (North and South 100).
Incorrect because the title of the work appears, rather than the author's last name; the title should only be used if no author name is provided
The following example shows correct MLA formatting:
"Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it" (Gaskell 100).
However, there are exceptions to the above citation guideline. Consider the following format of an in-text citation, which is also formed correctly.
Elizabeth Gaskell's narrator makes it clear that "Margaret had never spoken of Helstone since she left it" (100).
Do you notice the difference between this citation format and the format of the first example? Unlike the first example, this citation does not list the author’s last name inside the parentheses. This is because the last name is included in quotation's introduction, which makes the identity of the author clear to the reader. Including the author’s last name again inside of the parenthesis would be thus redundant and is not required for MLA citation.
The same rule about inclusion of the author’s last name applies for paraphrased information, as well, as shown in the following example:
Elizabeth Gaskell's narrator makes it clear that her protagonist does not speak of her home once she is in Milton (100).
In this paraphrase, the author’s last name precedes the paraphrased material, but as in the case of quotation integration, if the author’s last name is not described in the paraphrase then it is required inside of the parentheses before the page number.
Being more compliant with MLA in-text citation guidelines will become easier if you review these examples and the citation rules on which they rely.
 Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1973. Print.
Being Fluent with Information Technology explores why people need to understand and utilize information technology. Published by The National Academies in 1997, the book is written by the Committee on Information Technology and Literacy, including Lawrence Snyder, University of Washington, Chair; Alfred V. Aho, Lucent Technologies, Inc.; Marcia Linn, University of California at Berkeley; Arnold Packer, Johns Hopkins University; Allen Tucker, Bowdoin College; Jeffrey Ullman, Stanford University; Andries Van Dam.
In Chapter 1, the Committee explores why people need to understand and utilize information technology, arguing that technological knowledge is especially crucial in the ever-changing workforce: "If the nation is to obtain the maximum benefit from its investments in information technology, a labor pool capable of using it appropriately is necessary" (Committee 7).
In Chapter 1, the Committee explores why people need to understand and utilize information technology, arguing that technological knowledge is especially crucial in the ever-changing workforce. Interestingly, the Committee notes that the U.S. won't benefit from revolutionary new technologies unless the labor force is better trained (Committee 7).
According to the Committee on Information Technology and Literacy, information technology is a fundamental tool in the work place because "in today's labor market employees can no longer enjoy a job for life" (7). On the educational front, Papert describes it best when he states that "computers can be means for educators to support the development of new ways of thinking and learning" (qtd. in Committee p.xiv). A democratic society will be better off when the majority of its citizens are informed about the system they live in.
Explanation: The Committee on Information Technology and Literacy cites page xiv from Papert's text as follows:
Papert, Seymour. Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. 2nd ed. New York: Basic Books, 1999. Print.
However, it would be dishonest for the reader of Being Fluent with Information Technology to act as if he or she readMindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas. As a result, by using the "qtd. in" convention, he or she can indicate that this is a secondary quote, not a primary source.
According to the Committee on Information Technology and Literacy, information technology is a fundamental tool in the work place because "in today's labor market employees can no longer enjoy a job for life" (7). On the educational front, Papert argues that educators can empower students by showing them new ways to think and learn (para. in Committee p.xiv). A democratic society will be better off when the majority of its citizens are informed about the system they live in.
This book outlines some of the major personal and business uses of information technology. It also makes suggestions about how to gain knowledge in the field, as well as the main points of training employees in information technology to make the use of computers most effective.
Committee on Information Technology Literacy. Being Fluent with Information Technology. Washington, D.C.: National Academies P, 1999. Print.
Look at the sentences below, each of which contains an incorrectly formatted in-text citation. Specify the error made in each sentence; then, write a new sentence in which the in-text citation is correctly formatted.
1. The parlor metaphor of writing describes writing as entering into a conversation, as in arriving late and a parlor and talking to guests who have been there long before you have (7).
2. In “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love,” Jim Corder explains that “Everyone is an argument.” (1)
3. David Sedaris'sMe Talk Pretty One Day takes place at a school in Paris (Sedaris 1).
4. The opening lines of the novel are “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins" (Nabokov, 1).
5. The opening lines of the novel are "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins" (Lolita 1).