How to Write a Parenthetical Notation


When you write an academic paper, you use a mix of other people's research combined with your own ideas. Incorporating the ideas of other people requires noting that in the text. Parenthetical notation is a specific way to identify within your paper the ideas from other sources. A common method is the Modern Language Association (MLA) style of parenthetical notation.

A parenthetical notation provides specific information about a source within parentheses at the end of the phrase or sentence from that source. In general, parenthetical documentations take this form: (Author, page number).

To get started, compile a complete Works Cited page according to MLA style. You'll use that information when you place parenthetical notations in your paper.

Things You'll Need

  • List of sources
  • "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" (current edition)
  • Place the cited author's surname and the source's page number in parentheses after a sentence or phrase from a print source that has a listed author. An example is: (Smith, 57). If your parenthetical notation appears at the end of a sentence, put the period after the final parenthesis mark.

  • Place the first word or phrase of a source's listing as it appears on your Works Cited page in parentheses if the source does not have a listed author. Follow it with a comma and the source's page number. If you cite information from the third page of a pamphlet about water testing that has no listed author, for example, then use this parenthetical notation: (Water Testing, 3).

  • List the author's last name in a set of parentheses without a page number for a website. Because websites do not have traditional page numbers, they don't require a page number in the parenthetical notation. A parenthetical notation example is: (Smith).

Tips & Warnings

  • A website with no listed author doesn't require a formal parenthetical notation, but ideas from those websites need to be cited. The easiest way to attribute ideas to a website is to start the sentence with, "According to..." and then a shortened name of the website, such as, instead of the entire web address or uniform resource locator (URL).
  • Check which style you are required to use. Besides MLA style, a popular style often required in college courses is American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Each of the dozens of types of sources requires a specific MLA format. Check your formatting and style with an MLA manual or a trusted online guide.


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