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How to do a research paper in the MLA format: Citations

The parenthetical citations style is a method used in MLA writing whereby all references are cited in the text where they are quoted or referred to. That means that if you have used information in your main text, and that information has been sourced somewhere, then you are required to reference that source immediately with an in-text citation beside the sentence. The reader can then refer to the source at the end of your paper by referring to the citation word you’ve used.

Your list of sources

To understand how to use citations correctly, you first need to understand how to construct your cited works section.

Elements to include in your cited works

  • Surname, followed by the name of the author of the publication
  • The title of the publication
  • The URL where the source can be found
  • The publication company
  • The date of the printed publication
  • The date of the web publication

Remember that not all of these elements will always be applicable, but when they are, they should be put in the order as shown above.

What should be used as the citation?

What many students fail to understand is what part of the information (from the list of cited works) should be used as the actual citation. Try to remember that the first piece of information is always used. If the author’s surname is first, then that is the citation word you should use. If there is no author; only a website URL, then the URL is the citation you will use.

What’s the correct method of placing an in-text citation?

Your in-text citation should typically be placed at the end of the sentence that contains the information you have mentioned. The citation must be in brackets if done this way.

However, this placement is not a strict rule within MLA writing guides. One can also place the citation within the sentence, but only if the citation actually forms a part of the sentence.

Examples of these two options are included below. is the citation to note:

  • Citation at the end of a sentence: Apple has just released additional information about the new iPhone5. (
  • Citation as part of the sentence: According to, additional information has been released about the new iPhone5.

As you can see, there is no reason to include the citation a second time in the second example shown. Note that in the first example, the citation is placed after the end of the sentence—after the period.