• 3-minute read
  • 6th June 2018

Tips for Quoting Sources in MLA Referencing

Quoting sources is vital in academic writing. But every referencing system is a little different, so you need to know how this works for the system you’re using. When quoting sources in MLA referencing, for example, you need to know the following rules.

The Basics of Quoting Sources in MLA

You should quote a source in a paper if you need to provide evidence of something. This is most important when your argument depends on the exact words of the author. If this is not the case, you may want to paraphrase the source (i.e. express the same idea in your own words) instead.

If you do need to quote something, though, you should do it like this:

  • Place the quoted text within double quotation marks
  • Cite the source author’s surname (or source title if there is no author)
  • Cite the page number(s) for the quoted text

Citations go at the end of the relevant clause in parentheses, after the quotation. However, if the author is named in the text, only the page numbers are given in parentheses:

The history of clowning is “long and tragic” (James 112).

According to James, the history of clowning is “long and tragic” (112).

Here, for instance, we’re citing page 112 of a text by James in both cases. In the second, though, James is named in the text, so we don’t need to repeat it in the citation.

The full source information for all cited sources would then be given in a Works Cited list.

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Quoting Sources without Page Numbers

Some sources won’t have page numbers (e.g. a website or an ebook). Generally, MLA allows you to cite these sources with just the author’s name. For instance, a website citation may look like this:

Albert Fratellini had “dark brows and a red nose” (Malach).

The author of the web page cited here is “Malach,” but we do not need to give page numbers. The important thing is that full source information, including a URL, is given in the Works Cited list.

However, MLA does allow you to cite a paragraph, chapter, or section number. But this should only be done if the numbering system is used in the source text. Do not just count the paragraphs yourself!

Block Quotes in MLA

If you need to cite a longer passage of text, you should use a block quote. In MLA, this applies to quotes that are four lines or longer. The rules for block quoting sources in MLA are:

  • Start the quote on a new line
  • Indent the quoted text by half an inch from the left margin
  • Do not use quote marks
  • Cite the source after the final punctuation

Doing this will make sure the quoted text is easy to read and clearly distinct from your own writing.

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