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MLA: Parenthetical (in-text) Citations

Parenthetical (in-text) citations

If you are making a direct quote or paraphrasing an author's ideas, you must add a parenthetical (in-text) citation. 

Parenthetical citations are brief.  Full details about the cited work are included in the works cited list at the end of the paper. It is important to keep track of sources as you write your essay.  If you need help developing a system of keeping track, talk to a librarian or someone from the Learning Center for assistance.


Parenthetical Citation when Page Numbers are Absent
(MLA Handbook, 2016, p.123-124 Section 3.3.3)

No page numbers, Sections numbered

Give the section number after a label of the type of part being cited (ie. ch. for chapter, par. for paragraph, sec. for section. For a complete list of abbreviations see p. 96, Section 1.6.2)  If the authors name begins the citation, put a comma after the name. 

Example: (Johnston, sec. 2)   

No page numbers, No paragraph numbers, No numbered sections

Cite the entire work. Do not count unnumbered paragraphs. 


Author and page number are the two basic elements of MLA parenthetical citations. In cases where there is no named author, the title (often shortened) of the work is used. Parenthetical citations are brief and are meant to allow the reader to find the full details in the works cited list.

The same format is used for paraphrases or quotes from books and articles. Cite print and online sources in the same manner.

Citations should be placed within the text as close as possible to the end of the quote or idea. Remember, all parenthetical citations must connect to entries in your works cited list at the end of the paper.

The examples below include the most common types of parenthetical citations. You may need to cite a source that is not listed here. Consult the books and Web sites listed in this guide, talk to a librarian, or visit the Writing Center for more help. 

The following examples are borrowed from the MLA Handbook Seventh Edition.


Single author

Cite author's last name and page number of quote.

It may be true that "in the appreciation of medieval art the attitude of the observer is of primary importance" (Robertson 136).

Single author; author's name used in your text

Just cite page number. 

It may be true, as Robertson maintains, that "in the appreciation of medieval art the attitude of the observer is of primary

importance" (136).

Two or three authors

List the authors' last names and page number of the quote. 

Although writings describing utopia have always seemed to take place far from the everyday world, in fact "all utopian fiction

whirls contemporary actors through a costume dance no place else but here" (Rabkin, Greenberg, and Olander vii).

Four or more authors

If the work has four or more authors, either give the first author’s last name followed by et al., or give all the last names. Whichever format you choose, be consistent and use the same format in your works cited list.

(Lauter et al. 2601–09)

Two or more works by the same author used in the paper

Put a comma after the author's last name and add the title of the work (shortened if necessary) and the page number. 

Shakespeare's King Lear has been called a "comedy of the grotesque" (Frye, Anatomy 237).

Anonymous author

Sometimes works do not list an author.  Use the title of article. Titles may be shortened. 

International espionage was as prevalent as ever in the 1990's ("Decade").

Works Cited

"Decade of the Spy." Newsweek 7 Mar. 1994, pp. 26-27.


Corporate author; government department or organization

To avoid interrupting the flow of your text with an extended parenthetical reference, try to include corporate authors' names in the text of your essay.  For more information see section 6.4.5 in the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook.

In 1963 the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa predicted that Africa would evolve into an advanced industrial economy within fifty years (1-2, 4-6).

Works Cited

United Nations. Economic Commission for Africa. Industrial Growth in Africa, United Nations, 1963. 


Indirect source (What if my author quotes another author?)

Whenever you can, take material from the original source, not a secondhand one. Sometimes, however, only an indirect source is available. In this case, identify the quoted author in your text and say “qtd. in” in your citation. For more information see section 3.4 in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook.

Researchers Botan and McCreadie point out that “workers are objects of information collection without participating in the process of exchanging the information” (qtd. in Kizza and Ssanyu 14).