How do you do an MLA in-text citation for an online source?

Expert Answers
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The problem, from a traditional point of view, with online sources is that they often do not have a page number and also sometimes lack an author's name. Therefore, it can be tricky to determine what to put in the parentheses at the end of the quotation or paraphrase you are using. If there is an author's name and page number, the answer is easy: simply put the author's name, then the page number, with no comma in between, in parentheses after the quote. The tricky part is to repress the natural tendency to include a comma between the name and page number. 

If there is no page number, simply leave it out. If there is no author's name, start moving in to the next identifying piece of information that a reader would find in a "Works Cited" page citation: the title. If you do not have that, keep moving in according to the page format: Do you have the name of the website or blog? When you do locate a way to identify the source, reduce it to its first important word or words and use those with a page number, if you have one. It may that your citation just includes some key words of a website (Italian Cooking) if that is all you can get. MLA is now also recommending that you try to incorporate the citation as far as possible into your text, in which case you would state "According to the Italian Cooking, the amount of olive oil ..." and then avoid the in-line citation.

In the ever-changing world of citations that the internet has brought on, the most important rule is to remember the purpose of a citation and use that to guide your decisions in a tricky situation. Citations were invented so that a reader can easily find and check the source of your information. Being able to trace a path backwards to sources is at the heart of scholarship. So, if in a pinch, ask yourself, "Will the citation I am using quickly and easily lead the reader to the correct source on my Works Cited page, and will that source lead the reader as easily and accurately as possible to my original source?" There is nothing more frustrating to a scholar than not being able to trace a source.

All of this is easier to see than put into words. It would be a good idea to do a search on "MLA in-line citations for online sources" for examples. 

jacquelineledoux eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are numerous resources available online that you can utilize in order to help you learn how to create in-text citations in both MLA and APA format. 
 
One such example is Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). Purdue OWL is a great website that can teach you how to create citations on your own, regardless of what kind of source you're using. Citation Machine, on the other hand, is a website that allows you to "plug-in" the required information and then generates the citation for you. 
 
When it comes to creating in-text citations in MLA format, you're going to want to open with quotation marks, add the text you've chosen (verbatim) while omitting ending punctuation, close with quotation marks, cite the author's last name and the page number (if applicable) inside parentheses, and then place the period at the end. 
 
Here's a made up example: 
 
About his childhood, William Burroughs said, "I had my ups and downs but, overall, my life was good" (Burroughs 27). 

storkofstorks | Student

Another website you can use is easybib.com.