How to Use Parenthetical Notation


All of the information contained on this page is adjusted by me, albeit with help from Diana Hacker's The Bedford Handbook. So, this information will stand for my class, and should be tolerable in general, but it is NOT THE OFFICIAL FORM.

A parenthetical noation is a reference mark that allows your reader to find the source of the information noted. Parenthetical notations are placed at the end of the sentence, before the period, in which the noteworthy information appears. The parenthetical notations include the basic information your reader needs to track down where you found your quote or detailed information. Usually, you will just list the author's last name and the page number where you found your information. Each parenthetical notation refers to a source with appears in its full citation form on the Works Cited page. So, if your parenthetical notation is done properly, your reader can find the exact source where you found your information.

How to actually use parenthetical notation:


Step 1 - Know when to cite works.

If you use a direct quote, you will have to create a note. If you take specific information (numbers, detailed information, viewpoints, opinions, etc.) from a source, you will have to create a note. Even if you rewrote the information in your own language, you have to use a parenthetical note if the information you are including in your work is specific to your research source.

The only exception is for obviously common knowledge. There is no need to create a parenthetical note if an author says that 1789 was the date of the French Revolution, since that is a fact that you will find in nearly every book on the subject. Similarly, you would not need to note the fact that an author considered Stalin to be an evil dicatator.

However, if your author says that Fannie Lou Hamer left for a trip to Africa on September 11, 1964 and saw her sense of herself profoundly change there, you had better note that (Carson 134).


Step 2 - Identify the author and page number where you found your information.

Usually, you will simply be writing the name of the author and the page number where you found the information. Obviously, you will run into web sources, books with more than one author, and the like. Here are some handy hints:


If you are citing a book by Clayborne Carson and you found the information on page 134, you would note that as (Carson 134).

If you are citing a book with an editor, or more than one author, just list the name of the editor or the first of the authors, in alphabetical order. So, if the information you want to cite is found on page 132 of a book edited by John Walters and Carla Herrera, you would cite it as (Walters 132).

Web Sites:

If you are using a web site use whatever information you can find. Try going to the page's home in order to find the site title or author's name.

If you can find the site's author, use (Author). Since the notation of page on the web is really long, I'll settle for just the author.

If you can find the site's title only, use (Title). Since the notation of page on the web is really long, I'll settle for just the title.

If you can't find the site's title or author, just list the headline of the page where you found your information. If the title of the page is "What the Aztecs Believed," your note will be (What the Aztecs Believed).

Two Authors with the Same Last Name:

If you use two authors with the same last name, you must also show the initial of their first name. For example, (B. Smalls 161).

An Author with two Works:

If you use more than one work by the same author, the author name must be accompanied by a word from the title of the source to which you are referring. For example, (Smalls, "Athenian Disasters" 169).


Since your Works Cited page has the full citations, you donít need all the detail in the footnotes. This keeps your footnotes from eating up a lot of space.


Step 3 - Relax in the knowledge that you are a good human.

You have now given the people upon whose work you have leaned ample credit for their work. You have also given your reader a clear picture of where to go to find information. If you are luckily, you will one day benefit from these same good habits.