In-Text Parenthetical Citation - With Examples

Parenthetical citations or in-text citations are used to quote or paraphrase the original source in a paper. Referring to the work of others correctly in scholarly writing is important for many reasons. It helps the reader see where the information came from, facilitates fact-checking, and prevents plagiarism.

If you’re wondering how to write in-text parenthetical citations the right way, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to create one in the APA and MLA formats and provide practical examples of both.

APA citation APA reference style uses parentheses for citations

What Is a Parenthetical Citation?

Students and researchers need to master the skill of handling in-text parenthetical citations. This citation format is used for quoting or paraphrasing the original source in an article, essay, or other pieces of scholarly work.

Think of parenthetical citations as a way of giving credit to the sources in your work. Whenever you quote someone directly, it’s important to acknowledge them.

The parenthetical citation can speak volumes when it comes to crediting others. It lets the reader know who the work belongs to, the year of creation, and where it was sourced.

The parenthetical citations are placed directly into the text, right before or after the quoted or paraphrased text. This way, the reader doesn’t have to check the footnotes every time they encounter a citation. The second time you give information about your sources is on the “References” or the “Works Cited” page at the end of the paper.

The two citation formats we’ll discuss in this article are APA and MLA.

The APA format is created by the American Psychological Association (APA), and it’s primarily used in social and behavioral sciences. These include psychology, sociology, communications, etc. It’s also used in some natural sciences and business courses.

The MLA format is created by the Modern Language Association. It’s often used in the humanities fields, including art, language, literature, and theatre. The reference style is determined by a journal, and it’s not the author’s choice.

There are some notable differences between the MLA and the APA format. The main difference is the type of information included in the citation. The MLA requires the author’s last name and the page number, while the APA requires the author’s name and the publication year. You only insert page numbers in the APA format when citing a direct quote.

The differences between these styles lie in the fact that the MLA is created for book, literary work, and anthology citations. At the same time, the APA is mainly used for scientific writing where recent works are important.

Finally, the reference list in MLA is called “Works Cited,” while in APA, it’s “References.”

Parenthetical Citation Examples

The best way to learn how to use the APA and the MLA citation formats is from examples.

Below, you’ll find a list of the basic citing situations followed by examples.

Citing Print Sources with Known Author


For books or scholarly journal articles, you can provide a signal phrase or word consisting of the author’s last name and a page number. In that case, you don’t have to include the mentioned elements in the parenthetical reference:

Burke described human beings as “symbol-using animals” (3).

Human beings are described as “symbol-using animals” (Burke 3).


Let’s say we want to quote an author called James Mitchel directly. We’ll use the following form:

Mitchel (2018) states that… or end the quotation with (Mitchel, 2017).

If you use a direct quote, you must follow it with a page number after the publication date. For example (Mitchel, 2017, p. 100).

Citing Print Sources with Unknown Author


If your source doesn’t have an author listed, use the shortened title of the work in the parenthetical citation.

Short titles can be placed in quotation marks, while longer titles should be italicized and followed by a page number (if available).

For example, if you cite an article called “The Impact of Global Warming in Europe,” you can shorten it like this: (“Impact of Global Warming”) and include the article’s full title on the Works Cited page.


For unknown authors, use the first few words of the reference. It’s best to use the title of the work. Make sure to italicize the reference if it’s a book, report, or periodical.

(Course in General Linguistics, 1974).

If you cite the article title, chapter, or web page, include them in quotation marks.

(“Parenthetical Citations”, 2019).

Citing Printed Sources with Two or More Authors


If a source has two authors, list their last names inside the parenthetical citation or text.

Best and Marcus say it’s best not to look for the text’s hidden meaning (9).

The authors argue that surface reading looks at the “perceptible, apprehensible in texts” (Best and Marcus 9).

For more than two authors, only mention the first author followed by “et al.” Make sure this matches the Works Cited page citation.

“Individual preventative stress management helps deal with organizational stress” (Quick et al. 159).

Quick et al. argue that “individual preventative stress management helps deal with organizational stress” (159).


For two authors, follow the form below:

Smith and Mitchel (2017) say that… or end the sentence with (Smith & Mitchel, 2017).

For three authors, you should list all names:

Smith, Mitchell, and Richardson (2018) say that… or end the sentence with (Smith, Mitchell, and Richardson, 2018).

If there are more than three authors, you can shorten the citation by including the first name followed by “et al.”

Smith et al. (2018) say that… or end the sentence with (Smith et al., 2017).

Citing Work Without Page Numbers


If you cite electronic or internet sources or work with no visible page numbers, include the first portion of the article title, author name, or website name from the Works Cited page. Don’t include page numbers coming from the database or the web browser.

In the following example, “Josh” is the website author.

“Richardson noted that the world is on the brink of collapse” (Josh).


Reference a paragraph, chapter number, table number, or another logical identifying element.

Jones (1998) analyzed a variety of student dissatisfaction causes (Table 5).

Paraphrasing an Idea


If a paraphrased idea comes from a single page, add the in-text citation including the author’s name and page number (if available).

After John Bowlby treated mother-infant attachment, the topic became dominant in developmental research (Hunt 65).

If the idea spreads across multiple pages, insert all relevant page numbers.

After John Bowlby treated mother-infant attachment, the topic became dominant in the developmental research (Hunt 60, 63, 67-71).


If you paraphrase an idea from another author, only include the author and publication year in the reference. You can, however, add a page number if you paraphrase information from a longer work.

Jones (1998) states that the APA format is complex for first-time learners.

APA format is complex for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).

What Are the Most Common Citation Mistakes?

Here’s a list of the most frequent mistakes when quoting, referencing, or paraphrasing other sources.

Including an Honorific or Initial of the Authors’ Name

In-text citations never include the author’s honorifics or initials. They only include the person’s last name. It’s easy to get confused since it’s common to include initials in the reference list, but that’s not the case here.

Not Citing Paraphrased Material

Every time you paraphrase someone else’s idea, you need to include citations about the original source. Otherwise, your work may be considered plagiarism, which is the last thing you want.

Forgetting Page Numbers

Page numbers are an important part of citations. They point the reader to the original source. Imagine citing from a thousand-page book without providing the page number. Even though most readers don’t bother finding the exact page, it’s still important to include it, unless the original source doesn’t contain page numbers.

Misusing et al.

As previously mentioned, “et al.” is used to cite more than three authors for a single source. Don’t forget the period after “al,” in both parenthetical and direct in-text citations, whether you directly quote or paraphrase a text. Also, in parenthetical citations, use a comma after the period and before the date: (Johnson et al., 2019).

Choose AKJournals for Your Research

Parenthetical citations are necessary whenever you quote or paraphrase another author’s work in your paper. Knowing how to use these citations will protect your work from plagiarism, help the readers find the original information source, and help distinguish facts from fake news.

If you’re interested in publishing in AKJournals, know that our language editing service partner – Charlesworth Author Services provides support to potential authors by their request. The service also covers in-text citations, so that each part of your manuscript can correspond to the guidelines.