So I tutor sprogs on occasion, and one of the sprogs has an elementary type of research paper assigned to him and wants me to look over it. “All right,” I say, and it looks spiffy, except for one thing. Teacher specifies MLA format, and Sprog wants to cite two different books with the same author.
But how do parenthetical citations work in this case? Sprog knows not, and I haven’t used MLA in years. I do have some books about using MLA, but they don’t seem to have what I’m looking for. How is one supposed to distinguish between different books with the same author in parenthetical citations? Does it go like this:
Now is the time (Smith Thus-and-Such 49) for all good men to come to the aid of the party (Smith Blah-Di-Blah 85).
or what? That’s the only remotely logical thing I can think of, but I have no idea how it ought to go. Sprogs are depending on me! Help!
I don’t have a copy of the MLA handy, but i think you’re pretty close here. Only i don’t think you even need to put the whole title. You only need to put enough of the title to distinguish one work from another. So, if your two books are:
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845)
Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom (1855)
you would cite thus:
Not a very elegant or interesting sentence, but you get the drift.
Now, the only thing i’m not sure about is whether the title fragment should be in quotation marks or not. I know that book titles are generally either underlined or italicized, but i seem to recall that, in cases like this where the title is shortened for a citation, it should go in quotation marks.
Maybe someone who actually has the MLA handy will be along soon to help out.
Looking at my copy of the MLA Handbook 6ed (I don’t have a copy of the MLA Style Manual lying around), Section 6.4.6, Citing Two or More Works by the Same Author or Authors, agrees with how you’ve laid it out above, except that a comma follows the author’s name. (Smith**,** Thus-and-Such 49). It goes on to say that if you’ve stated the author’s name in the text, the cite would be
Now is the time (Thus-and-Such 49) for all good men to come to the aid of the party (Blah-Di-Blah 85).
and if you’ve mentioned both the author’s name and the title, then just parens with the page numbers.
A way around the awkward double-citing in a sentence would be to break it down into two sentences. Then you have:
It’s more elegant that way, I think, because the parenthetical cites don’t inhibit the flow as much. The only thing I have a quibble with that you’re not supposed to use commas in parenthetical citation in MLA. My writer’s handbook, however, gives this comforting advice that gets around that.
So, that means that mhendo’s example would read:
Although, for information as general as the second sentence, I probably wouldn’t cite it at all, since you’re not drawing a specific fact or quote about his grandparents out of the text. The information provided just isn’t specific enough. (Hopefully, in a situation like that, you’d go on in the paragraph to provide more information about his grandparents that did warrant a cite.) If you gave his grandparents’ names or a specific quote, then I would cite it.
On preview, I’ve been beaten soundly to it, but I’m posting anyway because this took a while to type.
Oh, I’m not criticizing your example, mhendo. So sorry if it appeared that way! I’ve just been editing a lot of my peers’ papers lately and have been quietly horrified by abuses of the English language. Your example by no means triggered that horror.