In-text citation

A citation is…

a formal way to show the source.  Each field uses a different citation style (APA, MLA, AMA, etc.)  There are strict rules for writing the information in the paper (in-text citation) and at the end of the paper (a reference list).  There are even rules about where to put your period! 

Use in-text citation when you:

  • use data or original information from a source
  • explain an idea or opinion that isn’t yours
  • summarize one or more sources that are related to your topic
Using Sources In-text citation

Your in-text citation will use information from the reference list; it’s like a clue on how to find the full information at the end of the paper.  This is important because readers may want to learn more about the topic by reading the source.  In most cases, the author is more important than the title, newspaper, website, or other information.  That’s why the in-text citation only includes enough know to where the information came from.

The source must match the first word in the entry of your reference list.  Usually, this is the author’s last name.  If the source doesn’t have an author, check the reference list to see the entry.

Three basic styles of in-text citation

Reporting Signal +  Paraphrase/Summary

According to the NCTE (2008),  students need not only examples, but also several chances to practice good citation.

Paraphrase/Summary Only

Students need both examples and chances to practice good citation (NCTE, 2008).


The NCTE (2008) recommends that students have “multiple opportunities” for seeing and practicing citation (para.2); how can teachers build this into their lessons?

APA in-text citation Basics

  1. When it’s possible, introduce the source of the information.  Write the name of the author, article/book title, or organization that published it.   You can use a reporting signal or include the source as part of the sentence. Usually basic facts or numbers do not need an introduction.
  2. Put the year in parentheses right after the source.  If the source is not introduced in the sentence, write the source and year in parentheses at the end of the sentence. 
  3. For quotes, opinions, or specific information, write the page number after the year (p.#).  For websites or other sources without pages, indicate the paragraph (para.#). Keep the parentheses inside punctuation (period, comma, semi-colon, etc). 

See the Purdue OWL for more information about capitalization, long quotations, and multiple authors.

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