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I need to write a background research paper on a science fair experiment, but it needs to be formatted in MLA. I looked up some examples of a MLA essay and research paper but there seems to be something that bothers me. At the end of some bit of information or a sentence there seems to be a small word in parenthesis.

Example

Batteries don't perform as well in low temperatures.(Best Batteries 71) <-----!!!

I saw this in most of the references I found. There seems to be a similarly worded citation at the end of the paper so I assume that it is telling the reader where the information before the parenthesis came from, but I do not know for sure. If I am correct then is it alright(or uncommon)to cite definitions and how should I note the definition at the end of the sentence? I am not sure about anything because this is my first time writing a MLA formatted paper. I hope you can help me a bit.

  • @what Thanks for the help!~ Although I wish you could've worded that nicer I appreciate your concern!~ <3 – Sugarblob Dec 19 '16 at 18:55
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    @what Your comment is rude and inflammatory. Please be nicer to users. – Neil Fein Dec 21 '16 at 7:38
  • @Sugarblob This is being flagged as too-broad and has a few close votes to that effect; it may be closed if additional users vote to close it. Please do stick around and feel free to ask more questions about academic writing. – Neil Fein Dec 21 '16 at 7:41
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    @what: OP asked a clear and answerable question. Yes, it's at beginner level - but I don't know his circumstances (it sounds like this task was imposed on OP, and they don't know where to start) and Stack Exchange works fine with beginner questions. Yes, OP should go read the documentation. And so we can answer their question, and point them to the documentation. – Standback Dec 21 '16 at 14:59
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    @what, people writing research papers as part of class assignments have presumably received instruction, but I see "science fair" in the question and think of somebody who's not an academic, who did something cool for a fair and has been told to write it up in a particular way. I see a beginner question here, not academic failure. Thank you for providing the OP with a link for MLA citation. – Monica Cellio Dec 21 '16 at 15:09
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You have understood correctly. From the Purdue Online Writing Lab:

In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done by using what is known as parenthetical citation. This method involves placing relevant source information in parentheses after a quote or a paraphrase.

They give an example:

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).

Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).

Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page, where, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:

Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads. London: Oxford UP, 1967.

MLA has an extensive system for providing citations that are clear and well-defined; you really need to dig into the details and get a better sense of what's expected of you.

  • Thank you so much! This helps me a lot! Thank you for your time, Standback! <3 – Sugarblob Dec 22 '16 at 2:35

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