What is an in-text citation?
An in-text citation is a reference made within the body of text of an academic essay. The in-text citation alerts the reader to a source that has informed your own writing.
The exact format of an in-text citation will depend on the style you need to use, for example, APA. Check with your academic institution to ensure you provide the in-text citations in the format they are expecting and use Cite This For Me’s citation generator to create them for you, automatically.
How to write an in-text citation
In most cases only the author’s last name, date of publication and page number from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken needs to be included, with the complete reference appearing in your bibliography (or works cited) page at the end of your essay.
The in-text citation should be presented in brackets directly after the text you have quoted or paraphrased so it’s easy for the reader to identify. In some cases, in-text citations are presented as a superscript number, with the corresponding number listed in your bibliography.
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In-text citation examples
APA format example:
The sky is blue (Cottrell, 2013).
ACS format example:
The sky is blue.1
IEEE format example:
The sky is blue .
How you cite a working within your document varies depending on your writing style, whether you are quoting your source directly, and the type of source you are quorting.
When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, E.g., (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.
If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference.
The examples below attempt to address most of your in-text citing needs.
If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and the page number for the reference (preceded by "p."). Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.
According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time" (p. 199). Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199); what implications does this have for teachers? If the author is not named in a signal phrase, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation. She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style," (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.
Place direct quotations longer than 40 words in a free-standing block of typewritten lines, and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented five spaces from the left margin. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation five spaces from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.
Jones's (1998) study found the following:
Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many students failed to purchase a style manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)
Summary or Paraphrase
If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference, but APA guidelines encourage you to also provide the page number (although it is not required.)
According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners.
APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).
Citing an Author or Authors
A Work by Two Authors: Name both authors in the signal phrase or in the parentheses each time you cite the work. Use the word "and" between the authors' names within the text and use the ampersand in the parentheses.
Research by Wegener and Petty (1994) supports...
(Wegener & Petty, 1994)
A Work by Three to Five Authors: List all the authors in the signal phrase or in parentheses the first time you cite the source.
(Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, & Harlow, 1993)
In subsequent citations, only use the first author's last name followed by "et al." in the signal phrase or in parentheses.
(Kernis et al., 1993)
In et al., et should not be followed by a period.
Six or More Authors: Use the first author's name followed by et al. in the signal phrase or in parentheses.
Harris et al. (2001) argued...
(Harris et al., 2001)
Unknown Author: If the work does not have an author, cite the source by its title in the signal phrase or use the first word or two in the parentheses. Titles of books and reports are italicized or underlined; titles of articles and chapters are in quotation marks.
A similar study was done of students learning to format research papers ("Using APA," 2001).
Note: In the rare case the "Anonymous" is used for the author, treat it as the author's name (Anonymous, 2001). In the reference list, use the name Anonymous as the author.
Organization as an Author: If the author is an organization or a government agency, mention the organization in the signal phrase or in the parenthetical citation the first time you cite the source.
According to the American Psychological Association (2000),...
If the organization has a well-known abbreviation, include the abbreviation in brackets the first time the source is cited and then use only the abbreviation in later citations.
First citation: (Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD], 2000)
Second citation: (MADD, 2000)
Two or More Works in the Same Parentheses: When your parenthetical citation includes two or more works, order them the same way they appear in the reference list, separated by a semi-colon.
(Berndt, 2002; Harlow, 1983)
Authors With the Same Last Name: To prevent confusion, use first initials with the last names.
(E. Johnson, 2001; L. Johnson, 1998)
Two or More Works by the Same Author in the Same Year: If you have two sources by the same author in the same year, use lower-case letters (a, b, c) with the year to order the entries in the reference list. Use the lower-case letters with the year in the in-text citation.
Research by Berndt (1981a) illustrated that...
Introductions, Prefaces, Forewords, and Afterwards: When citing an Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Afterward in-text, cite the appropriate author and year as usual.
(Funk & Kolln, 1992)
Personal Communication: For interviews, letters, e-mails, and other person-to-person communication, cite the communicators name, the fact that it was personal communication, and the date of the communication. Do not include personal communication in the reference list.
(E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).
A. P. Smith also claimed that many of her students had difficulties with APA style (personal communication, November 3, 2002).
Citing Indirect Sources
If you use a source that was cited in another source, name the original source in your signal phrase. List the secondary source in your reference list and include the secondary source in the parentheses.
Johnson argued that...(as cited in Smith, 2003, p. 102).
Note:When citing material in parentheses, set off the citation with a comma, as above.
If possible, cite an electronic document the same as any other document by using the author-date style.
Kenneth (2000) explained...
Unknown Author and Unknown Date: If no author or date is given, use the title in your signal phrase or the first word or two of the title in the parentheses and use the abbreviation "n.d." (for "no date").
Another study of students and research decisions discovered that students succeeded with tutoring ("Tutoring and APA," n.d.).
Sources Without Page Numbers
When an electronic source lacks page numbers, you should try to include information that will help readers find the passage being cited. When an electronic document has numbered paragraphs, use the ¶ symbol, or the abbreviation "para." followed by the paragraph number (Hall, 2001, ¶ 5) or (Hall, 2001, para. 5). If the paragraphs are not numbered and the document includes headings, provide the appropriate heading and specify the paragraph under that heading. Note that in some electronic sources, like Web pages, people can use the Find function in their browser to locate any passages you cite.
According to Smith (1997), ... (Mind over Matter section, para. 6).
Note: Never use the page numbers of Web pages you print out; different computers print Web pages with different pagination.