A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: A guide to MLA format

An MLA paper is a joy to read, but it can be a challenge to write one. Whichever paper you’ve been assigned to write, if the required style is set as Modern Language Association—or MLA—then play close attention to the methodology of this writing style.

What is the reason for placing parenthetical citations?

Wherever a source is referenced within your text, an in-text citation must be present to tell the reader:

  • That the sentence or paragraph is a source and not your own information.
  • The pertinent information about the source, such as surname of the writer, web URL, publication firm, etc.
  • Where he or she can find the published source that you’ve referenced by referring to your list of sources.
  • This is the whole point of writing in MLA: Your reader wants to be able to recognize referenced material, as well as know where you found it.

What forms the parenthetical citation?

When referencing a source, always look at how it is presented in your list of sources. The first visible word is what should be used as your in-text citation. This can be anything such as:

  • The last name of an author
  • A web URL or website name
  • The name of the company that publicised the source (like a magazine, or a public journal)
  • The important thing to remember is that you use the first word or name that appears in your reference, because this is the most important—available—info that is listed.

How should these in-text citations be placed?

There are two ways you can place a parenthetical citation:

  • The first method involves writing the information you got for from the source (or quoting it if you prefer), and then placing the in-text citation at the end of the sentence in brackets.
  • The second is a simple reference within the sentence. The reference is formed part of the sentence so there is no need to place it in brackets again at the end of the sentence.

How should references be listed?

Finally, your references must be contained in one place so that your reader can source this during or after reading your paper. This helps the reader to explore other information pertinent to the topic. Wherever relevant, references are listed in the following order:

  • Last name followed by the author’s initials
  • The title
  • The website URL
  • The publication firm’s name
  • The date it was published

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