MLA Format for Quotations

The simplest way to cite sources is to use Parenthetical references or Parenthetical documentation.

The author's last name and page number(s) are placed in parentheses in the text to give credit to sources.

For example, in your paper you write:

          In their Preface, the authors point out that "Learning Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) and Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) is like learning any new language, computer or human" (Musciano and Kennedy xi).

In your Bibliography, or on your Works Cited page, you list:

Musciano, Chuck, and Bill Kennedy. HTML and XHTML: The
          Definitive Guide. 4th ed. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly, 2000.

If you cite another paragraph from the same work, or if the author or authors are clearly indicated in your text, common sense dictates that you only need to add page number(s) for the citation. For example:

          Musciano and Kennedy suggest that we should avoid breaking tags across lines in our source document whenever possible to promote readability and reduce potential errors in HTML documents (41).

If you are citing two or more articles by the same author, distinguish the articles by adding a date after the author's last name, e.g. (Roche 2004 45), (Roche 2005 62-64); or by adding the short title after the last name, e.g. (Mayberry Business Leaders 21), (Mayberry Leaders Who Changed 35-40).

If you are citing two or more authors with the same last name, add first names or initials to distinguish them, e.g. (John Smith 52), (Jane Smith 90), (M. Smith 115).

To indicate a work with more than three authors or editors, use et al. (Latin meaning "and others") e.g. (Carmichael et al. 25).

If you are quoting from a Web page, your citation for a parenthetical reference follows the same format as any regular citations for author, editor, title, etc. with one exception. Where no page reference is available on a Web page, indicate the author's last name, or the short title if no author is stated, without any page reference, e.g. (Meyer) or (Patron Saints Index). A corresponding entry must be made in your Bibliography.

To cite information obtained from the Internet, in your text you write, e.g.:

          On May 2, 2002, some 4500 students wrote the difficult University of Waterloo, Physics Department, Sir Isaac Newton (SIN) Examination.  Amazingly, there were three perfect papers!  Two team members from Don Mills Collegiate Institute broke Waterloo's SIN record not so much for finishing First Place but both students on the team had perfect exams ("SIN 2002").

In your Bibliography, your entry for this parenthetical reference would read:

"SIN 2002 Book Prize Winners." U of Waterloo. 3 Nov. 2002

If your citation refers to a Web site by four or more authors, e.g. Charlie Harris, Laurence A. Moore, Steven Blacher, Yvonne Hewett, and others entitled: "URLs for a Rainy Day" found at <>, in your essay you write:

            A really useful Web site (Harris et al.) that compiles various URLs recommended by users has been created by a group of individuals in the United Kingdom.

On your Works Cited (or Bibliography) page, you will list the following in alphabetical order by first word along with your other citations:

Harris, Charlie, et al. "URLs for a Rainy Day." 3 June 2001.
          12 Oct. 2002 <>.

Meaning of dates: Web site was last updated on June 3, 2001, the site was accessed on October 12, 2002.

For further details on Internet citations, see Item #23. Internet in Chapter 12. Bibliography - Examples in MLA Style.

Unless the paragraphs or screens are clearly numbered on the Web page by the author or Webmaster, paragraphs or screen numbers probably should not be arbitrarily assigned when citing sources.

The reason for not citing, for example, (screen 12) is that it may be quite inaccurate to indicate such a screen number for a document printed from the Internet. A screen of displayed text is not equivalent to a printed page from a book or a magazine. Unlike printed material where page numbers are clearly indicated, page and screen numbers on a Web page may vary considerably from one user to another depending on numerous variables such as the size of the monitor used, the user's choice of font size and font type, setting of pixels, printing using portrait or horizontal/landscape format, choice of paper size, user's option to suppress graphics or images, selection of number of lines per page, setting of top and bottom as well as left and right margins, the particular browser used as well as the version of the browser used, and other variables, may all have an impact on the outcome of the printout.

Even if all users choose the identical variables, it would still be unrealistic to expect a reader to count the number of paragraphs, pages or screens in order to locate your citation. It would be a very tedious task to try to locate a paragraph, page or screen number if the Web page cited is long and consists of both text and non-text items.

In order to accurately count the screens, everyone must first agree on what constitutes a screen as well as where a screen begins and ends on a Web page. Unless the Web page comes with electronic reference markers, i.e. paragraphs, pages or screens that have been clearly numbered, it may be wise not to arbitrarily assign paragraph, page or screen numbers to your citations based on your printouts or screen views.

Instead of adding a paragraph, page or screen number, it may be more practical to add a meaningful section or heading in your parenthetical reference, e.g. (Harris et al. Arts/Humanities). This may help your readers to easily locate the source of your citation regardless of what browser or font size they have chosen to use.

The Web has drastically changed many of the traditional ways we have become accustomed to in documenting sources. Once in a while, we need to remind ourselves that common sense, logic, and consistency are the main ingredients for writing a good citation. Never lose sight of the real purpose for documenting sources, which is to communicate to the reader, in a standardized manner, the sources that you have used in sufficient detail to be identified and found.