Parenthetical Citation | APA, MLA & Chicago Examples

A parenthetical citation gives credit in parentheses to a source that you’re quoting or paraphrasing. It contains information such as the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number(s) if relevant.

Parenthetical citations are used in many citation styles, including MLA, APA, and Chicago.

Parenthetical citations should be placed at the end of the sentence or clause that contains the cited material, and they must always correspond to a full entry in your reference list.

Example: MLA parenthetical citation
Oscar Wilde believed that “the only question about a work of art was whether it was well or badly written” (Kiberd 120).

Parenthetical citations in MLA

MLA in-text citations are described as author-page citations. This means that the parentheses contain the author’s last name and a page number or page range.

Example: MLA parenthetical citation
Art has been deeply impacted by technological advances, which have come to play a significant role in the reproduction of artworks (Benjamin 19).

When a source has two authors, include both names and put “and” between them. For sources with more than two authors, include only the first author’s name, followed by “et al.

Cite page numbers using a page range if you are citing multiple consecutive pages. If the pages are not consecutive, include all relevant page numbers, separated by commas.

MLA parenthetical citations
Author type Example
1 author (Bowen 36)
2 authors (Bowen and Wallace 88–90)
3+ authors (Bowen et al. 22, 44)

Parenthetical citations in APA

APA in-text citations  are described as author-date citations. This means that parenthetical citations should contain the author’s last name, the publication date, and, if applicable, a page number or page range. These elements should be separated by commas.

Example: APA parenthetical citation
Each individual is influenced by aspects of a universal “collective unconscious” known as “archetypes” (Jung, 2010, p. 4).

When a source has two authors, include both names and separate them using an ampersand (&). When a source has more than two authors, include only the first author’s name, followed by “et al.”

When citing specific pages, write “p.” before a single page number and “pp.” before a page range or series of nonconsecutive pages.

APA parenthetical citations
Author type Example
1 author (Smart, 2016, p. 12)
2 authors (Smart & Mills, 2002, pp. 41–42)
3+ or more authors (Smart et al., 2010, pp. 16, 22)

Narrative vs. parenthetical

APA also makes a distinction between parenthetical and narrative citations. You can use a mixture of the two in your text.

In a narrative citation, the author’s name appears as part of your sentence, introducing the cited information with a signal phrase. Only the publication date (and page numbers if included) appears in parentheses.

Example: APA narrative citation
Jung (2010) argues that each individual is influenced by aspects of a universal “collective unconscious” known as “archetypes” (p. 4).

Both parenthetical and narrative citations are automatically generated when you cite a source using Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator.

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Parenthetical citations in Chicago

Chicago author-date style (not to be confused with Chicago notes and bibliography) uses author-date citations.

These are parenthetical citations containing the author’s last name, the publication date, and, if applicable, a page number or page range. Include a comma after the year, but not after the author’s name.

Example: Chicago parenthetical citation
Systems made of “meaningless” elements acquire meaning through self-reference and the obeyance of formal rules (Hofstadter 1999, 3).

When a source has two or three authors, include each of their names in your in-text citation. For more than four authors, include the name of the first author only, followed by “et al.”

Cite page numbers using a page range if you are citing multiple consecutive pages. If the pages are not consecutive, include all relevant page numbers, separated by commas.

Chicago parenthetical citations
Author type Example
1 author (Watson 2001, 201)
2–3 authors (Watson, Berry, and Davies 2017, 30–32)
4+ authors (Watson et al. 2014, 55, 78)

Frequently asked questions about parenthetical citations

What is a parenthetical citation?

A parenthetical citation gives credit in parentheses to a source that you’re quoting or paraphrasing. It provides relevant information such as the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number(s) cited.

How you use parenthetical citations will depend on your chosen citation style. It will also depend on the type of source you are citing and the number of authors.

How do I use parenthetical citations in MLA?

In a parenthetical citation in MLA style, include the author’s last name and the relevant page number or range in parentheses.

For example: (Eliot 21)

What’s the difference between narrative and parenthetical citations in APA?

APA Style distinguishes between parenthetical and narrative citations.

In parenthetical citations, you include all relevant source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence or clause: “Parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity (Levin, 2002).”

In narrative citations, you include the author’s name in the text itself, followed by the publication date in parentheses: “Levin (2002) argues that parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity.”

How do I use parenthetical citations in Chicago style?

A parenthetical citation in Chicago author-date style includes the author’s last name, the publication date, and, if applicable, the relevant page number or page range in parentheses. Include a comma after the year, but not after the author’s name.

For example: (Swan 2003, 6)

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.

1 comment

Eoghan Ryan
Eoghan Ryan (Scribbr Team)
May 9, 2022 at 1:31 PM

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