In MLA style, citing sources is a two-step process. First you make a parenthetical citation in your text to indicate the source. That brief citation matches up with a complete citation in a list of references at the end of your paper.
We're going to talk about how to do both parenthetical citations and a reference list in MLA style.
Consider this excerpt from a research paper:
Homeland security has been described as a 21st century version of the Cold War concept of national security (Relyea 397).
"(Relyea 397)" is an example of a parenthetical citation. We call it a "parenthetical citation" because, unlike a footnote or an endnote, the writer places it within the text itself, and encloses it in parentheses.
Clearly, the parenthetical citation by itself does not give us enough information to locate the original source however. So, if we want to know more about Relyea's ideas, we have to turn to the Works Cited list and look for this citation under "Relyea".
Relyea, Harold. Homeland Security. New York:
This citation gives us all the information we needs to locate Relyea's book, entitled Homeland Security, which was published in New York by Harper in 2002.
What if the author used more than one book by Relyea in her paper? Then a citation like "(Relyea 397)" won't be specific enough, right? In that case she would add a word or two from the title, underlined: (Relyea, Homeland 397).
There are many possible variations and exceptions like this that you may run into when writing parenthetical citations. Refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers for guidance in special cases. We keep a copy at the Reference Desk and several are also on Reserve in the library.