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MLA Citations (9th ed.): Parenthetical Documentation

This guide will help you format your paper and cite resources according to MLA citation 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. 

In most cases, you only need to list the author’s last name and the page number(s) where you got your information. In order to avoid plagiarism, it is extremely important that you cite all words and ideas that you got from somewhere else.

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.

Direct Quotes

A direct quote is a word-for-word copy of source material. The quote is enclosed in quotation marks. Include the author's name and page numbers. If your quote is more than 4 lines long, use a block quote.

Author Incorporated into Text:

Joseph Conrad writes of the company manager in Heart of Darkness, "He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect" (87).

Author After Quotation:

"The red tree vole is a crucial part of the spotted owl's diet" (Moone 15).

Block Quotes

The block quote is used for quotations that are longer than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of verse. Do not use quotation marks. Introduce the block quote on a new line. Indent the entire quote 1 inch from the left margin. Include the page number at the end of your block quote outside of the ending period. Be sure to specify the source in the introduction phrase/sentence, which ends in either a colon or a period.


At the conclusion of Lord of the Flies,Ralph and the other boys realize the horror of their actions:

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (186)


A paraphrase is a way to represent an idea from a source in your own words. It is typically as long as the original quotation. Paraphrasing is used most often to explain jargon or difficult to understand information in terms the reader can easily understand.

MLA requires you to include the author's name and page number.

Author Incorporated into Text:

Robert Lenz states that Oregon salmon populations have dramatically declined in the past decade (27).

Author After Paraphrase:

Oregon salmon populations have dramatically declined in the past decade (Lenz 27).

Research and Citation

Multiple Sources

If you are citing a single fact or paraphrased idea that is attributable to more than one source, list all sources in the in-text citation. Separate multiple sources with semicolons.

While reading may be the core of literacy, literacy can be complete only when reading is accompanied by writing (Baron 194; Jacobs 55).

Note Taking

Multiple Authors

As with all citations in MLA format, authors may be incorporated into the citation's introduction or included in parentheses after the citation.

2-3 Authors

Studies have shown that more and more teachers are changing careers after their first year of teaching. (Posamentier, Jaye, and Krulik 55).

3+ Authors

Let your works cited entry choices guide your in-text citations.

You may either list all names:

Stutts, Smith, Cass, and Round argue that language development may also impact development in related parts of the brain (339).

OR name only the first author, and add "et al."

Stutts et al. argue that language development may also impact development in related parts of the brain (339).

Disambiguation of Authors

If you have more than one author with the same last name (e.g., Naomi Baron and Sabrina Alcorn Baron), you must eliminate any ambiguity. Do so by adding the author's first initial. If the initial is also shared, add the first full name.

Reading is "just half of literacy. The other half is writing" (N. Baron 194). One might event suggest that reading is never complete without writing.

Multiple Works by the Same Author

If you cite more than one work by an author, include a shortened title for the work from which you are quoting. Put short titles of books in italics. Short titles of articles should be in quotation marks.

Citing two articles by the same author:
Stewart has argued that gaming is detrimental to small children ("Side Effects of Gaming" 12), though he has written in other sources that gaming may have some benefits, such as strengthening motor skills ("Motor Development in Children" 23).

Citing two books by the same author:
Monroe states that reading is "a journey" that "varies with visualization skills" (The Visualization of Reading 10). Furthermore, Monroe points out that the purpose of reading is to "develop creative thinking skills that allow for future innovation" (Creativity in Reading and Writing 18).

Without mentioning the author's name in the sentence: 
Film studies, because it is struggling to define itself as a discipline, may be "too easy" and "lacking value" (Elworth, "Film Studies" 4).

Page numbers vs. Paragraphs

Some sources uses paragraphs rather than page numbers. In these cases, give the relevant number or numbers, preceded by the label par. or pars. You could also use sections (sec., secs.) or chapters (ch., chs.). In these cases, if the author's name begins the citation, place a comma after the name.

There is little evidence here for the claim that "Eagleton has belittled the gains of postmodernism" (Chan, par. 41).

If a source does not have page numbers of any other kind of number, no number should be given in the in-text citation. Do not count unnumbered paragraphs or other parts.

"As we read we...construct the terrain of the book" (Hollmichel), something that is more difficult when the text reflows on a screen.

Division numbers

Some literary works, such as commonly studied novels, plays, or poems, are available in multiple editions. In these cases, it is helpful to provide division numbers in addition to, or instead of, page numbers. This assists the reader in finding your references in any edition of the work.

Austen begins the final chapter of Mansfield Park with a dismissive "Let other pens dwell," thereby announcing her decision to avoid dwelling on the professions of love made by Fanny and Edmund (533; vol.3, ch. 17).

Time-based Media

Time-based media includes audio and video recordings, such as CDs and DVDs or even YouTube videos. For these sources, cite the relevant time or range of times. Give the numbers of the hours, minutes, and seconds as displayed in your media player, separating the numbers with colons.

Buffy's promise that "there's not going to be any incidents like at my old school" is obviously not one on which she can follow through ("Buffy" 00:03:16-17).

Indirect Quotes

Whenever you can, take material from the original source. Sometimes, however, only an indirect source is available.

If what you quote or paraphrase is itself a quotation, put the abbreviation qtd. in ("quoted in") before the indirect source you cite in your parenthetical reference.

Samuel Johnson admitted that Edmund Burke was an "extraordinary man" (qtd. in Boswell 2: 450).