How to Write a Parenthetical Notation

To create your parenthetical notations, gather all of your sources.

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.

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).

  • 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.
  • 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.

Rebecca Smith has a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Kansas. She has been a freelance writer for over four years. She enjoys writing about science, technology and health, as well as culinary and environmental topics.