MLA Citation Style (7th edition, 2009)
In MLA style, citing sources is a two-step process. First you make a parenthetical citation
in your text to indicate the source. That brief citation matches up with
a complete citation in a list of references at the end of your paper.
We're going to talk about how to do both parenthetical citations and a reference list in MLA style.
Parenthetical citations in MLA style
Consider this excerpt from a research paper:
Homeland security has been described as a 21st century version of the Cold War concept of national security (Relyea 397).
"(Relyea 397)" is an example of a parenthetical citation. We call it a "parenthetical
citation" because, unlike a footnote or an endnote, the writer places
it within the text itself, and encloses it in parentheses.
Clearly, the parenthetical citation by itself does not give us enough information
to locate the original source however. So, if we want to know more about
Relyea's ideas, we have to turn to the reference list and look for this
citation under "Relyea".
Relyea, Harold. Homeland Security. New York:
Harper, 2002. Print.
This citation gives us all the information we needs to locate Relyea's book,
entitled Homeland Security, which was published in New York by
Harper in 2002.
What if the author used more than one book by Relyea in her paper? Then a citation
like "(Relyea 397)" won't be specific enough, right? In that
case she would add a word or two from the title, underlined: (Relyea,
There are many possible variations and exceptions like this that you may run into
when writing parenthetical citations. Refer to the MLA Handbook for
Writers of Research Papers for guidance in special cases. We keep
a copy at the Reference Desk and several are also on Reserve in the library.