If you are using the MLA citation style in writing your essay or research paper, you must abide by its rules, guidelines, and stylistic conventions that are fully explained in the official MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. One such rule is the inclusion of a works cited MLA page at the end of your document. This page contains all the MLA citation entries to each corresponding in-text citation that you have used and situated throughout the body of your paper.
In scholarly writing, an in-text citation is a brief referential note that is placed within the body of a paper, normally after a quoted passage, a summary, or a paraphrased text. As a general rule of the MLA citation style, when you point out a source for the first time in the main text, you should cite it right away. The in-text citation, including relevant page numbers, is enclosed within parentheses and added as a part of a quoted, summarized, or paraphrased text, such as a sentence of a paragraph. For example:
“In the early Masonry the Rosicrucian theme introduces elements of mysticism and the occult into an organization that is by now a rival to throne and altar, at the beginning of the nineteenth century it will be in defense of throne and altar that the Rosicrucian and Templar myth will be taken up again in order to combat the spirit of Enlightenment.” (Eco 288)
If you are not using a direct quote, the in-text citation can be incorporated into a sentence. Additionally, if a source has two or multiple authors, you need to include them in the in-text citation and enumerate them accordingly. Since the source of the quoted passage above is taken from an anthology of essays, namely, Umberto Eco’s On Literature, you must include a corresponding citation entry into your works cited MLA page:
Eco, Umberto. On Literature. Trans. Martin McLaughlin. London: Vintage, 2006.
An MLA citation, as shown in the above example, is a complete bibliographic entry that is listed in the works cited MLA page that fully acknowledges the original source of ideas, information, and quoted passages used in a research paper. A complete citation typically consists of elements such as the author of the work, its title, publisher, and the location and year of publication, and other relevant information that are necessary to help readers locate and retrieve the original source.