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Citation Help for MLA, 8th Edition: Parenthetical Documentation

An introduction to MLA Style.


It sounds painful, but it doesn’t have to be!  Basically parenthetical documentation or in-text citations means that you are telling the reader where you got any and all information that did not come from inside your own head.  This is more obvious when you are directly quoting from a source, but it is also needed when you have summarized or paraphrased from a source and even if you got an idea from somewhere else. 

So how do you do it?  As the names imply, you are going to put the information about the source in parentheses in the text of your paper as opposed to a footnote where the source information is at the bottom of the page or an endnote where it goes at the end of your paper.  There are slight differences depending on which style you are using – APA or MLA. 

Basically you only need to list the author’s last name either in the text of the paper or in parentheses at the end of the sentence and the page number(s) where you got your information. Please see the examples below for options on how this could work in your writing. Also refer to your professor and how the discipline for which you are writing uses parenthetical notation as it can differ.

Special note for literary studies students: 

If it is clear from your paragraph or sentence to which of your works cited you are referring, then you only need the page number in parentheses.  This is common for scholarship in literary studies. 
If readers will not be able to tell to which of your works cited you are referring, then you need the author's last name and page number in parentheses.  This is rare in literary studies.


If your quote is longer than forty words, set it off in a block text by beginning a new line, indenting one inch, and do not add quotation marks.  At the end of the quote put the period after the last word of the sentence followed by the parentheses.

**Note that the punctuation for the sentence goes AFTER the parenthesis.

Take home message: 
In order to avoid plagiarism, it is extremely important that you cite all words and ideas that you got from somewhere else.

Please see the following handbook on reserve in the Library for more information: MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association, 2016.


  1. Author’s name in text                                             Smith states that, “…..” (112).
  2. Paraphrasing several spots in a source                Smith stated these facts, too (112-3, 146).
  3. Author’s name in reference                                   This fact has been stated (Smith 112-3).
  4. Cite an entire work – no page number                  Smith’s This Long Story has many stories.

  5. No author – give title of work abbreviated             These stories are true (Long 112).
    to first major word  - in Italics for books,                These stories are true ("Long" 112). 
    in quotes for encyclopedia articles    
  6. Website – no author and no page numbers        This Long Story has given evidence.

  7. More than one book by the same author             Is Smith’s, This Long Story, a memoir (112)? 
  8. More than one author in text                                Smith and Lee agree that (146-150)
  9. More than one author in reference                       This is agreed upon (Smith and Long 146).
  10. More than one work                                             We all agree (Smith 112; Lee 146).
  11. Music album  - give album title                             We all agree (Blue Man Group, How).
    abbreviated to first major word

  12. Song  - give song title                                            We all agree (Presley, "Jailhouse" ). 
    abbreviated to first major word