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APA Micro-course

Questions to consider:

  • When and where in my text do I need to include citations?
  • What information is needed to construct an in-text citation?
  • How is an in-text citation usually formatted?
  • What do I do if my source has multiple authors? What if there is no author?
  • What are signal phrases and why should I use them?

An in-text citation is a brief reference within the text of your paper that gives your reader some basic details about the source and directs them to the full entry on your References page. It normally consists of the author(s) last name, year of publication, and a page number, if applicable, for locating the quote or paraphrase within the original source.

Every source of information (or ideas or images, etc) you include in your academic writing, with the exception of commonly-known facts (e.g., the name of the current President of the U.S.), needs to have an accompanying in-text citation. This means that if multiple sentences in a row contain information from sources, even if the same source, you need to include an in-text citation in each of those sentences. 

An in-text citation consists of the quote or paraphrase of the source, and the brief citation info (author last name, date of publication, and, if applicable, page number). You can construct and in-text citation in two ways:

  1. Put all the citation info at the end of the sentence, in parentheses.
    • "This is an example of a direct quote" (Johnson, 2005, p. 19).
    • "There is danger of not discovering the unconscious, of overlooking the great significance of the libido, of judging all conditions as they appear to the ego of the nervous person" (Freud, 1920, Twenty-Fourth Lecture).
  2. Preface and contextualize the quote or paraphrase by putting the author and date information at the beginning of the sentence (this is called a 'signal phrase' because you are signaling to your reader that an outside source of information is coming). In this method, only the page number is at the end of the sentence (if there is no paper number, omit the parentheses at the end). This is often a more effective way of creating an in-text citation.
    • Johnson (2005) states that "This is an example of a direct quote" (p. 19).
    • Freud (1920) discusses this idea, saying that there "is danger of not discovering the unconscious, of overlooking the great significance of the libido, of judging all conditions as they appear to the ego of the nervous person" (Twenty-Fourth Lecture)

Generally, best practice is to preface each quote or paraphrase with the author last name and date of publication (date in parentheses immediately after author last name - see examples above and below), followed by a verb, such as stated or according to, and include the page number or other location info in a second set of parentheses at the end of the sentence. There are different rules for sources with no author, multiple authors, multiple works by the same author, etc. Consult the links below for those details.

More example in-text citations using a signal phrase (sometimes also called a narrative citation):

  • According to Wilson and Stone (1975), "free will is an illusion" (p. 45).
  • Faisson (2018) states that statistical models in this field are incorrect almost 25% of the time (pp. 134-135) [note in this example double quotes are not used, because it is a paraphrase, rather than a direct quote]

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Optional reading: