Tips On How To Format Parenthetical Citations In An MLA Research Paper


MLA is the most common formatting style for liberal arts and humanities. Parenthetical citation is used in-text when referring to the works of other people. It involves placing the relevant information source in parenthesis after paraphrasing or using a quote from the work. There are standard rules that guide all research papers. Here are some of the basic and common rules when using this style.


  • General Rules

  • The information that will be contained in the parenthesis will depend on the source medium and the source entry in the work that has been cited. The information inserted in the parenthesis must also correspond with what is contained in the work cited page. The words must be exact as they appear in the work cited list. This creates constancy and enables a reader to easily trace back the cited sections.


  • Author Page Style for In-Text Citations

  • MLA style uses the Author-Page approach when making in-text citations. It means that the name of the author will be followed by the page where the works have been cited. The complete reference is demanded at the Bibliography or Work Cited page. The name of the author may appear on the sentence without parenthesis, but the page number must be in parenthesis. If the name of the author forms part of the sentence, it does not have to be repeated in the parenthesis.


  • Print Sources with Known Author

  • News papers, books, print magazines and scholarly journals are treated in a similar way when making in-text citations. A signal word, which is usually the name of the author, is used alongside the page number. In a similar manner, if the name of the author forms part of the paraphrased or referenced sentence, there will be no need to repeat the name in the parenthesis.


  • Print Source With an Unknown Author

  • In case the author of the work cited is unknown to you, a shortened title of the work is used. The title is denoted by placing it in quotation marks before adding the page. The two are separated by a comma. In case the source is a website, indicate the date of publication and inform the reader that the information has been sourced from the web.


A research paper in MLA also requires you to identify authors with similar names by including their initials. The last names of less than three co-authors should be included in the parenthesis. If the authors are more than three, use “et al”.