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MLA Style (7th Ed.): Parenthetical References

Parenthetical References (In-Text Citations)

Parenthetical References (In-Text Citations)

These are references in the body of the paper that document quotations, paraphrases, and the direct use of information and ideas.  They are used instead of footnotes or endnotes.  References appear in parentheses within the text of the essay.

The parenthetical references correspond to the list of works cited.  In other words, the information given in the parenthetical reference should make it absolutely clear to the reader which source is being referred to in your list of Works Cited.

If your Works Cited includes only one title by a particular author or editor, you only need to place the author’s last name and the relevant page number(s) without any intervening punctuation in your parenthetical reference.

Keep the references in parentheses as brief as possible.  If you mention the author’s name or the title of the source in your text, then you do not include that information in the parenthetical reference.

e.g.      This point has been argued before (Pollack 32-34).

Pollack has argued this point (32-34).

Others, like Blocker and Plumer (52), hold an opposite point of view.

Stress and a poor diet can have a detrimental effect on proper liver functioning (American Medical Association 209).

If the work has more than three authors, follow the form in the bibliographic entry in your works cited list: either give the author’s last name followed by et al., without any intervening punctuation or give all the last names.  (See bibliography information on multiple authors on pages 214-215 of the MLA Handbook, 2009)


Give the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” then the page number(s).


e.g.      Some interesting interpretations of this concept have recently been suggested (Jones et al. 25-37).


Or         Some interesting interpretations of this concept have recently been suggested (Jones, Waugh, Robertson and Smith 149).


If there are two or more titles by the same author in your Works Cited list, give the author’s last name, the title, followed by the page number(s).  Abbreviate the title if it is longer than a few words.  When abbreviating the title, begin with the first word.


e.g.      The fashion was very popular in certain parts of Northern England (Pollack, Dickinson 32-33).


            (In the example, ‘Dickinson’ is the shortened title of Pollack’s Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender).


If there is no author, use the title, abbreviated if necessary, followed by the page number(s).


e.g.      He was cut up and boiled in a cauldron by Titans sent by Hera (Classical Mythology 78).


Web documents usually do not have fixed page numbers or any kind of section numbering.  If your online source does not have numbering, you have to omit numbers from your parenthetical references.  Do not count unnumbered paragraphs.  If your source has no pagination, it is to better include the author’s name (or the name of the person that begins the corresponding entry in the works cited list) in the text rather than in a parenthetical reference.


e.g.      Nicholas Winkfield compares the situation to the current political environment of Zimbabwe.


The works cited list would include an entry that begins with Winkfield.


If a web document does provide definite paragraph numbers, give the abbreviation par. or pars. along with the paragraph number or numbers


e.g.      Devereux states that “Finley introduced energy psychology to modern psychiatry in the late twentieth century” (par. 30).