Citing Your Sources: Parenthetical References

1) Parenthetical References
2) Works Cited List
3) MLA and APA Citation Styles
4) Quiz

What are parenthetical references?

Parenthetical references refer the reader to specific pages in a book, magazine or other source from which quotations or facts are taken. They are used to provide additional information without breaking the logical development of the thoughts in your paper. Parenthetical references are used in place of footnotes.

Why are parenthetical references needed?

Any borrowed information in your paper must be acknowledged. Parenthetical references provide the exact source of the quotation (somebody else’s words), or of the facts that were gathered by someone else. They give added authority to your paper. They also provide the reader with leads to other sources and permit the reader to check (verify) the sources that you used to come to your conclusions.

How are parenthetical references prepared?

Parenthetical references are brief references, enclosed by parentheses, within the text of your paper. They refer the reader to your bibliography. Parenthetical references usually include the author’s last name and the page number. The reader can then turn to your bibliography or list of works cited for complete publishing information.


  • References in the text must clearly point to specific sources in the list of works cited.
  • Identify the location of the borrowed material as specifically as possible.
  • Keep parenthetical references as brief and as few as clarity and accuracy permit.
  • If you mention the author’s name, you need only put the page number(s) in parentheses.
  • If you have two authors with the same last name in your bibliography, include their first names in the parenthetical references.
  • If you have two works by the same author in your bibliography, include the title of the work in your sentence or in the parenthetical reference in abbreviated form.
  • If you are citing an entire work rather than a specific passage or section, omit the parenthetical reference and give the author’s name in your sentence.


Author’s name in parenthetical reference
"The health status of African Americans is getting worse" (Curry 32).

Author’s name included in text
Bobby Lake-Thom believes he might "lose the opportunity to connect with, acquire, and apply a new source of knowledge and power" when he can’t read nature’s signs (25).

Two authors
"Teleconferencing techniques are essential components of several forms of distance education" (Barron and Orwig 228).

Work listed by title (no author)
The evening news programs are focusing more and more on serious crime (Live at 11: Death).

Multivolume work
"Foreign plant quarantines control the shipping of plants from other countries" (World Book 15:550).

Government publication
The U.S. Department of Labor expects employment in the broadcasting industry to increase by about 15 percent between 1990 and 2005 (90).

Web site
Works on the World Wide Web are cited just like printed works. Web documents generally do not have fixed page numbers or any kind of section numbering. If your source lacks numbering, you have to omit numbers from your parenthetical references. If your source includes fixed page numbers or section numbering (such as numbering of paragraphs), cite the relevant numbers.

Adapted from:
"How to write Parenthetical References." MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 5th ed. 1999.
"How to write Parenthetical References." Diablo Valley College.