Citing Modern Texts Properly

mla manualFirst off, a simple rule–whenever in doubt, cite. By adhering to this simple rule you are guaranteed to avoid a nefarious and shameful charge of plagiarism.

Students are often confused by the different systems for citing the modern texts they are paraphrasing or quoting. In my classes, use the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) style of parenthetical citation.

MLA guidelines require that you cite the quotations, summaries, paraphrases, and other material used from sources within parentheses typically placed at the end of the sentence in which the quoted or paraphrased material appears. These in-text parenthetical citations correspond to the full bibliographic entries found in a list of works cited at the end of your paper. Please note, however, that there are different standards for citing classical texts.


Single author named in parentheses

The tendency to come to terms with difficult experiences is referred to as a “purification process” whereby “threatening or painful dissonances are warded off to preserve intact a clear and articulated image of oneself and one’s place in the world” (Sennett 11).

Single author named in a signal phrase

Social historian Richard Sennett names the tendency to come to terms with difficult experiences a “purification process” whereby “threatening or painful dissonances are warded off to preserve intact a clear and articulated image of oneself and one’s place in the world” (11).

Two or more authors

Certain literacy theorists have gone so far as to declare that “the most significant elements of human culture are undoubtedly channeled through words, and reside in the particular range of meanings and attitudes which members of any society attach to their verbal symbols” (Goody and Watt 323).

Corporate author (organization, association, etc.)

The federal government has funded research concerning consumer protection and consumer transactions with online pharmacies (Food and Drug Administration 125).

Works with no author

Several critics of the concept of the transparent society ask if a large society would be able to handle the complete loss of privacy (“Surveillance Society” 115).

Two or more works by the same author

In his investigation of social identity, The Uses of Disorder, Sennett defines adulthood as a stage where people “learn to tolerate painful ambiguity and uncertainty” (108).

In a surprising move, Richard Sennett combines the idea of power with that of virtue: “the idea of strength is complex in ordinary life because of what might be called the element of its integrity” (Authority 19).

Work found in an anthology or edited collection (use this format when citing from a coursepack)

(Note: For an essay, short story, or other document included in an anthology or edited collection, use the name of the author of the work, not the editor of the anthology or collection, but use the page numbers from the anthology or collection.)

Lawrence Rosenfield analyzes the way in which New York’s Central Park held a socializing function for nineteenth-century residents similar to that of traditional republican civic oratory (222).

Bible passage

Unfortunately, the president could not recall the truism that “Wisdom is a fountain to one who has it, but folly is the punishment of fools” (New Oxford Annotated Bible, Prov. 20-22).

Secondary source of a quotation (someone quoted within the text of another author)

As Erickson reminds us, the early psychoanalysts focused on a single objective: “introspective honesty in the service of self enlightenment” (qtd. in Weiland 42).

Web page

Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace was designated as a National Historical Site in 1959 (National Park Service).

(Note: Internet citations follow the style of printed works. Personal or corporate author and page number should be given if they exist on the website.)

© D. R. Koukal