The aim of MLA format is to provide the reader with enough information about the author's critical sources without distracting the reader from the writing itself. MLA prefers in-text citations to footnotes or endnotes so that the reader does not have to look elsewhere for the citation.
In-text citations can take two forms: the signal phrase or the parenthetical reference. The two necessary pieces of information in either citation are the last name of the author and the page number of the text cited. See the examples below:
Signal phrase: As Richard Ellmann has noted, Oscar Wilde attended lectures on the Parnell Commission in London for several months (475).
The author is noted in the introductory phrase of the sentence, which leaves only the page number for the parentheses.
Parenthetical: Oscar Wilde, for example, attended lectures on the Parnell Commission in London for several months (Ellmann 475).
The parenthetical citation is given without a comma between author and page number and includes the author's last name and the page number of the text.
In addition, in-text citations can become more complicated in a variety of special cases. These cases include poems, plays, novels, and Bibles; two or more works by the same author; multiple, unknown, or corporate authors; indirect sources; electronic sources and multivolume works. See Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference, pp. 326-331, for more information on these variations.
MLA users summarize their citations in a list of Works Cited at the end of a paper. A Works Cited list is not identical to a Bibliography. It only includes, in alphabetical order, the books and articles your actually cite in your paper, not those that you may have read in preparation for writing or in additional research.
MLA citations for books will include author, title, publishing location, publisher, publishing date, and, in the case of an article in an anthology, editor and page numbers.
McGinnis, Matt. Naming the Self, Naming the Other: Colonized Spaces in Oliver Twist and Mary Barton. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2001.
McGinnis, Matt. "Filming the Empire: David Lean from Great Expectations to A Passage to India." The Oxford Anthology of Film Criticism. Ed. Janet Maslin. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 383-404.
As with in-text citations, book citations become more complicated in a variety of special cases These include multiple, unknown, or corporate authors; editors or translators; multivolume texts; 2nd or 3rd editions and Bibles. See Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference, pp. 332-337, for more information on these variations.
MLA citations for articles differ greatly depending upon the source (newspaper, magazine, scholarly journal, or internet) and method of pagination (by volume or by issue). Please see Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference, pp. 337-339, for more information on these citations.