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How to Write a Term Paper

Parenthetical Documentation

The work cited page, a list of primary and secondary sources, is not sufficient documentation to acknowledge the ideas, facts, and opinions you have included within your text. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers describes an efficient parenthetical style of documentation to be used within the body of your paper.

1. Guidelines for parenthetical documentation:

a. "References to the text must clearly point to specific sources in the list of works cited" (Gibaldi 184).

b. Try to use parenthetical documentation as little as possible. For example, when you cite an entire work, it is preferable to include the author's name in the text.

Ex. Terry Otten's The Crime of Innocence in the Fiction of Toni Morrison traces the motif of the biblical fall.

c. The author's last name followed by the page number is usually enough for an accurate identification of the source in the works cited list.

2. The following examples illustrate the most common kinds of documentation.

a. Documenting a quotation:

Ex. "The separation from the personal mother is a particularly intense process for a daughter because she has to separate from the one who is the same as herself" (Murdock 17). She may feel abandoned and angry.

Note: The author of The Heroine's Journey is listed under "Works Cited" by the author's name, reversed — Murdock, Maureen. Quoted material is found on page 17 of that book. Parenthetical documentation is after the quotation mark and before the period.

b. Documenting a paraphrase:

Ex. In fairy tales a woman who holds the princess captive or who abandons her often needs to be killed (18).

Note: The second paraphrase is also from Murdock;s book The Heroine;s Journey. It is not, however, necessary to repeat the author;s name if no other documentation interrupts the two.

c. If the works cited page lists more than one work by the same author, include within the parentheses an abbreviated form of the appropriate title.

Ex. Morrison stresses her belief in the power of names when Pilate, another of her strong female characters, says, "I'd know her ribbon color anywhere,but I don't know her name. After she died Papa wouldn't let anybody say it" (Morrison, Song 42).

d. You may, of course, include the title in your sentence, making it unnecessary to add an abbreviated title in the citation.

Ex. In The Song of Solomon, Morrison stresses her belief in the power of names when Pilate, another of her strong female characters, says, "I'd know her ribbon color anywhere, but I don't know her name. After she died Papa wouldn't let anybody say it" (Morrison 42).

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