Oct 20, 2022

APA In-Text Citations for Research Writing

Wordvice HJ

Why Use In-Text Citations?

When writing a journal article, literature review, convention paper, or any other academic document, authors must include in-text citations whenever they refer to, summarize, paraphrase, or quote from another source. In addition, every time a work is cited within a paper (in APA style, a parenthetical citation), a corresponding entry must be included in the reference list.

How to Cite a Research Paper Using In-Text Citations

The rationale behind citing other people’s publications in your own manuscript is that you want to avoid intellectual dishonesty by giving credit to whoever reported a finding first or invented a specific technique. This is not only an ethical question, as being “sloppy” with your sources can easily be considered plagiarism (and even self-plagiarism, if you fail to refer to your own work), which can have legal consequences and damage your reputation.

General rules for what information should be provided when citing sources in a research paper vary across fields and depend on the type of source (e.g., books, journal articles, patents, conference proceedings, websites, etc.). We are not going into such differences here but will focus on the correct way of referencing other people’s research in your own paper according to one of the most common styles used to cite sources within the social sciences and in several other academic disciplines, that is, APA (American Psychological Association) style.

In research papers, in-text citations are most commonly used in the Introduction and Discussion Results sections. The following guidelines and examples are taken from the APA Publication Manual, 6th edition, 2nd printing, which details rules and application of APA style in research papers, including in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and references. For more information, consult the APA Style Manual website.

This resource provides detailed guidelines for citing sources in your paper and includes examples of in-text citations for reference by research authors. Before submitting your manuscript to a journal or publisher, be sure to use our free APA citation generator for your references and in-text citations.

APA Citation Rules: The Basics

Order and structure of in-text citation content

When using APA format, follow the “author-date” method of in-text citation. Write the author’s last name and publication year for the source in parentheses and separate these pieces of information with a comma.

When referring to external work or referencing an entire work but not directly quoting the material, you only need to make a reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your citation.

The results of the first enzyme study (Chen et al., 2014) revealed several relationships.

If you mention the name of the author of the work in the sentence or earlier in the paragraph, you only need to include the year of publication in the citation.

Chen (2014) discusses several relationships revealed in this study.

Verb tense used in referring to other works

APA style requires authors to use past tense or present perfect tense (NOT present tense) when using signal phrases to refer to or discuss previous research (have a look at this article for more details on the correct tenses for different parts of a research paper).

Radnitz (1995) found… / Radnitz (1995) has found…

Placement of in-text citations in the sentence (no quotation)

When referring to a specific work or works, place the citation (publication date only) directly after the author of the study referenced.

Klinge and Rogers (2010) found that mirroring is instrumental in developments of performative gender roles.

When giving information that reflects the results or implications of previous work, place the citation (author and publication date) at the end of the sentence.

Mirroring has been found to be instrumental in the development of performative gender roles (Klinge and Rogers, 2010).


Always capitalize author names and initials in in-text citations.

(r. kazinsky, 2014)   (R. Kazinsky, 2014)

In-Text Citation Rules for Short Quotations

When quoting directly from a work, include the author, publication year, and page number of the reference (preceded by “p.”).

Method 1: Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author’s last name; the publication year will follow in parentheses. Include the page number in parentheses at the end of the quoted text. Note that the quotation marks surround the text only, and not the parenthetical citation.

According to Khan (1976), “Graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research” (p. 45).

Khan (1976) noted that “graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research” (p. 45), a fact that has profound implications for research departments.

Method 2: If the author is absent in the signal phrase, include the author’s last name, the publication year, and the page number together in parentheses after the quoted text.

Researchers noted that “graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research” (Khan, 1976, p. 45), but they did not offer a suggestion as to the cause.

In-text Citation Rules for Long Quotations

Long direct quotations are those with at least 40 words of quoted text in a row. Long quotes should be placed in a separate block of lines without quotation marks, similar to creating a new paragraph. Begin the quotation on a new line and indent 0.5in/1.27cm from the left margin. Type the entire quotation within these new margins using double-spacing. Include the parenthetical citation after the final punctuation mark.

Khan’s (1976) study found the following:

Graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research, especially when conducting research in teams of three or fewer with no senior researchers  present. This tendency could be attributed to either a misunderstanding of correct methodology or to a feeling of freedom to explore different approaches that the researchers have yet to employ. (p. 45)

Summarizing and Paraphrasing Other Works

When paraphrasing another work, you only need to cite the author and year of publication in your in-text citation. It may be a good idea to include the page number as well if the paraphrased information is located on a specific page of the original text. APA guidelines encourage this inclusion but do not require it.

According to Khan (1976), new researchers tend to use more diverse methodologies.

New researchers tend to use more diverse methodologies (Khan, 1976, p. 45).

Common Signal Phrases for Introducing External Works

  • According to Johnson (publication year)…
  • As Johnson (publication year) has noted…
  • Johnson and Smith (publication year) contend that…
  • As Johnson’s (2011) study revealed…

Citing Works by Multiple Authors/Editors

When making an in-text citation of works by multiple authors, there are specific rules to follow depending on the number of authors of a publication and the number of times you cite the same works.

Number of AuthorsFirst Time ReferencedSubsequent ReferencesFirst Time QuotedSubsequent Quotations
2(Beardsley & Swann, 2003)(Beardsley & Swann, 2003)(Beardsley & Swann, 2003, p. 90)(Beardsley & Swann, 2003, p. 90)
3-5(Beardsley, Daniels, Choi, & Swann, 2003)(Beardsley et al., 2003)(Beardsley, Daniels, Choi, & Swann, 2003, p. 90)(Beardsley et al., 2003, p. 90)
6 or more(Beardsley et al., 2003)(Beardsley et al., 2003)(Beardsley et al., 2003, p. 90)(Beardsley et al., 2003, p. 90)

Citing Multiple Works in One In-text Citation

When citing more than one source in the same in-text citation, list all sources in the standard way and separate them with a semi-colon. List the sources alphabetically (by author’s last name or by title if no author is given) in the order they appear in the reference list.

(Marsh, 1997; Johnson, 2002).

(Kazinsky, 2017; “Three Different Roads,”  2013).

Citing Works by the Same Author with the Same Publication Year

When citing two or more sources with the same author and year of publication, assign lowercase letters directly after the year of publication (a, b, c) according to the alphabetical order of titles. You will use the same alphabetical designations in your in-text citations that you do in your reference list.

The incidence of West Nile virus in Florida increased between 2002 and 2004 (Dickens, 2014a). According to Dickens (2014b), “these viral infections were precipitated by record levels of rainfall around the peninsula” (p. 150).

Citing a Work Quoted in another Source

Work quoted or paraphrased in another text is called a “secondary source.” While in your reference list you must cite the primary source as well, in your in-text citation you will add the words “as cited in” followed by the secondary source. For example, if a review article by Franklin you are citing includes a useful quote by Adams that supports your paper, your in-text citation would look like this:

According to a study by Adams (as cited in Franklin, 2016), 25% of all US federal prisoners have been diagnosed with some form of social disorder. Adams (as cited in Franklin) contends that this statistic “reflects the dehumanizing conditions of most federal institutions” (p. 76).

Citing Web Pages

Entire website

When citing an entire website (with no specific webpage or article given), simply provide the title and web address within the text of your paper. No citation is needed in the References.

The American Psychological Association includes detailed information on how to apply APA citation (http://www.apa.org).

Webpage with author(s)

A webpage with an individual author or authors should be cited in the same way as other texts, with the name or names written first, followed by the publication year.

There were 523 new cases reported in 2011 alone (Kristoff, 2012).

Webpage with a group author

Treat group authors as individual authors in in-text citations, but instead of the author’s last name, include the name of the group.

Claustrophobia afflicts one in five Britons (The Surrey Group, 2003).

Webpage with missing information

Even when some central information is missing from a website (e.g., no author, date, or webpage title), you may still cite it as a source if you use the correct formatting. For information on how to cite a website with missing information, visit the APA Style Blog post on Missing Pieces.

Citing social media sources

For a more comprehensive explanation of social media citation guidelines, visit the APA Style Blog post on How to Cite Social Media in APA Style.

And when submitting your finished AP document to journals or for a class assignment, be sure to get professional English editing services, including academic editing, manuscript editing, and research paper editing services. Professional editors with experience in APA, AMA, MLA, and other popular style guides will make sure that your document’s citations and references conform to the journal of your choice.

Wordvice Resources

Wordvice provides a variety of other articles on topics such as the number of references your manuscript should contain, different citation styles if your target style does not use APA, and how to paraphrase correctly when citing sources in your paper, as well as more general advice on how to write research papers on the Wordvice academic resources website.

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