MLA tells us that, in-text citations are brief references within the body of your paper that direct readers to the works-cited-list entries for the sources you consulted and, where relevant, to the location in the source being cited.
The citation can appear within your prose (your written text) or in parentheses.
You need to cite all direct quotations, paraphrased information, and summarized ideas.
For more on in-text citations, see In-Text Citations: An Overview from the MLA Style Center.
Cite all outside sources you use in your research paper. Citing is required for sources you quote word-for-word, for sources you paraphrase (rewrite using your own words), and for sources from which you summarize the main ideas within your work.
The quote below appears exactly as it does in Joanna Santa Barbara's article on child-rearing in the Encyclopedia of Violence Peace and Conflict.
"Adjusted data from seven U.S. surveys between 1968 and 1994 show a decline in approval of discliplinary spanking from 94% to 68%, or 26 percentage points in 26 years" (Santa Barbara 243).
This sentence takes the information above and puts it into the author’s own words.
Studies show that Americans are becoming more critical of the concept of spanking children. Between 1968 and 1994 the so-called “approval rating” of spanking children dropped from 94% to 68% (Santa Barbara 243).
The sentence below distills the main idea of the original information.
Studies have shown that Americans just don't approve of spanking like they used to (Santa Barbara 243).
Even though it is essential to acknowledge the use of another’s words and/or ideas in your work, it is also important to keep your paper as “readable” as possible. The MLA Handbook suggests writers keep the number of parenthetical references “as brief – and as few— as clarity and accuracy permit.” They urge writers to provide only the information a reader needs to identify the sources, namely the author (or title if there is no listed author) and the page number. MLA also encourages writers to use an author’s name in the text in order to shorten the parenthetical notation.