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Use of MLA parenthetical reference

by Cari Marshall | 22 May 2017
Resource Description: Once in college, students often have to write research papers for academic classes.  When writing academic papers, students need to cite sources with parenthetical reference.  Yet there are very few exercises to help students practice this important skill.  This is a lesson plan designed to help college students use correct MLA parenthetical reference for academic research papers by identifying the correct format and practice using it for quotes and paraphrases.
Audience: University
Audience Language Proficiency: Advanced
Duration: 45 minutes
Language Skill: Writing
Content Area: English for Academic Purposes
Materials and Technology:

CRSL website on parenthetical reference for MLA format screen shot game

Trail of parenthetical reference screen shot

Worksheet on parenthetical reference



Students will identify the correct use of MLA format for parenthetical reference

Students will understand the reasons we use parenthetical reference

Students will apply the use of MLA format to their own research papers

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to identify the correct use of MLA format for parenthetical  reference and understand the reasons why  we use parenthetical reference for academic papers.  In addition, students will apply the principles learned to their future research papers.


The teacher starts with the screen shot of the CRLS website on the use of MLA parenthetical reference.  Note the reasons why we use parenthetical reference and the two main ways that we use it for a single author in a sentence.  After looking at the website, bring up the screen shot of the parenthetical reference trail.  The trail starts with a quote or paraphrase that you want to see in your paper.  After writing your paraphrase or quote in the paper, be sure to add your parenthetical reference.  This reference then leads the reader to the Works Cited page at the end of the paper.  After reading the Works Cited entry, the reader should be able to find the original source where the quote or paraphrase was located.  At this point, have students go to the the website  Students can then bring out their cellphones and put in the six-digit code for  In the game, students will see a sentence with MLA parenthetical reference.  After seeing the sentence, the students will either answer correct or incorrect. The game records the students’ answers and awards points for the fastest responses.  At the end, the game with total the points for each student and award first, second and third places.  Lastly, students will then do the worksheet on MLA parenthetical reference for quotes and paraphrases in pairs or groups.    Students will look at each sentence and determine if it is a quote or a paraphrase and write in the appropriate punctuation and MLA parenthetical reference for the sentence.  After finishing the worksheet in pairs, the teacher will go through the worksheet with the correct answers.




Informal discussion game

Worksheet for parenthetical reference

Pair work


This lesson is to be used in conjunction with an academic class or intensive English class where students are required to write a research paper later during the semester or term.



Citing Sources: Parenthetical Documentation. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from

Dollahite, N. E., & Haun, J. (2012). Sourcework: academic writing from sources. Boston, MA: National Geographic Learning.

Primeau, L., & Weissmann, J. (2000). Grow a butterfly garden: a plant-a-page book. New York:     Somerville House, USA.

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TESOL Interest Section: Second Language Writing