Understanding In-Text Citations: APA Style

23 Sep

In a previous post, Style Guides & How to Use Them, we discussed the APA style, MLA style, and Chicago style guides and how to use them, noting some of the similarities and differences between the three styles. Regardless of which style a writer is using, whenever information from an outside source is included, an in-text citation is needed. The construction of the in-text citation varies according to the style guide the writer is using.

APA Style & In-Text Citations

In APA style, outside information is cited within a text using an author-date citation system, where the writer includes the author’s (or authors’) last name (without suffixes, such as Jr.) and the year of publication. As the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010) explains, “[t]his style of citation briefly identifies the source for the reader and enables them to locate the source of information in the alphabetical reference list” (p. 174) at the end of the text. Any source used within the text must be referenced with an in-text citation in the text itself, and a full citation in the reference list.

Writers have different options when including in-text citations. While the author’s last name and the year of publication must appear where the source is used, writers can integrate this material in a variety of ways. For example:

Among epidemiological samples, Kessler (2003) found that early onset social anxiety disorder results in a more potent and severe course. …The study also showed that there was a high rate of comorbidity with alcohol abuse or dependence and major depression (Kessler, 2003).

In the above example, the writer included their in-text citation in two different ways. First, they note the author’s last name in their initial sentence to introduce the source that they are incorporating. The year, in parenthesis, then appears after the author’s last name. At the end of their paragraph, they include a paraphrase from the same source, but they do not include the author’s last name as part of the sentence itself. In this case, both the author’s last name and the year must appear in the parenthetical citation.

When a writer is included a direct quotation (as opposed to a summary or paraphrase of the information from the source), they need to include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number/s where the quoted material appears in the source. The parenthetical citation containing the page number must directly follow the quote itself, while the other information may be included in different areas. For example:

Confusing this issue is the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care, whereby “medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical needs may be addressed by anyone on the team” (Calaski & Chaitin, 2006, p. 112).

In 2006, Calaski & Chaitin discussed the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care, noting that “medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical needs may be addressed by anyone on the team” (p. 112).

Calaski & Chaitin (2006) commented on the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care by explaining that “medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical needs may be addressed by anyone on the team” (p. 112).

In the first example, the writer does not mention the authors’ last names in the sentence, so they must include the authors’ last names, the year, and the page number where the quoted material appeared in their parenthetical citation – (Calaski & Chaitin, 2006, p.112). In the second example, the writer includes the authors’ last names and the year in the sentence itself, so they need only include the page number in their parenthetical citation – (p. 112). In the last example, the authors’ last names are included in the sentence, and the year follows. The parenthetical citation noting the page number should always appear directly after the quoted material.

Notes on APA style in-text citations:

  • When using a long quotation (of 40 or more words) the quoted material should be included as a free-standing block of text, and the writer should omit the quotation marks. The block quotation will begin on a new line, and it should be indented ½” from the left margin (like beginning a new paragraph). Each line of the quoted passage is indented.
  • When using a work with multiple authors, follow these rules:
    • Two authors: cite both names every time the reference occurs in the text.
      • Example: (Smith & Carter, 2005, p. 12)
  • Three, four, or five authors: cite all authors the first time the reference occurs in the text. In subsequent citations, include only the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” and the year. 
    • Example: First: (Kisangau, Lyaruu, Hosea, and Joseph, 2007, p. 10)
    • Example: Subsequent: (Kisangau et al., 2007, p. 10)
  • Six or more authors: cite only the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” and the year in the first and all subsequent citations.
    • Example: (Davis et al., 2012, p. 20)
    • Writers should not omit citations embedded within the original material that they are quoting.  It is not necessary to include the additional source within the list of references (unless the noted source is used as a primary source elsewhere in the text).
      • Example: “In the United States, the American Cancer Society (2007) estimated that about 1 million cases of NMSC and 59,940 cases of melanoma would be diagnosed in 2007, with melanoma resulting in 8,110 deaths” (Miller et al., 2009, p. 209).
      • Many electronic sources do not provide page numbers. If paragraph numbers are visible or available, use them in place of page numbers, using para instead of p. – (para. 4).
      • Chapter 6 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association includes more information and examples for different writing and citing situations. 
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5 Responses to “Understanding In-Text Citations: APA Style”

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  1. Direct Quotations & Stand-Alone Quotations | The Christ College Writing Center - February 25, 2014

    […] as a direct quotation. We know that we would need to include a parenthetical citation (in either APA Style or MLA Style, depending on our instructor’s specifications), and we know that we need to put […]

  2. Direct Quotations & Stand-Alone Quotations | Cincinnati State Writing Center - April 2, 2014

    […] as a direct quotation. We know that we would need to include a parenthetical citation (in either APA Style or MLA Style, depending on our instructor’s specifications), and we know that we need to put […]

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