5.6 What is an In-Text Citation?

Sarah Adams and Debbie Feisst

Learning Outcome

  • Create and format in-text citations in APA Style.
Image shows illuminated lightbulb with crumpled yellow paper used in the bulb's place and the rest drawn in black on a white background. You find a great idea or argument in a source that supports your topic and you want to include it. To use the source, you need to create an in-text citation and add it to your paper either as a direct quote or a paraphrase where you have discussed evidence from that source. In-text citations tell your reader which ideas belong to you and which ideas belong to someone else.

You can include in-text citations in your academic paper or business report as a parenthetical citation or as a narrative citation or in a combination of these forms. The following example shows how these two types of in-text citations have been included in a paper. Click on the symbol to learn about them.

The image below provides an overview of these two types.

Infographic with green background showing the two types of in-text citations: parenthetical and narrative, with details and examples below each. Parenthetical citations include the author's family name, year in parentheses at the end of a sentence. A narrative citation includes the author's family name as part of the sentence followed by the year in parenthese or as part of the narrative.

As you can see, an in-text citation is formatted using three key pieces:

  • parentheses,
  • author’s family name or group name, and
  • year.

In-text citation, information is pulled directly from its matching reference list citation. You may find that it is easiest to create the reference citation first and then its matching in-text citation.

Image on a grey background with a white box at the top containing a reference citation with the author names and publication date highlighted with a blue border (Berkman, L. F., & Glass, T. A. (2000).) The box has an arrow pointing down to another white box below containing an example of a sentence with a narrative in-text citation with the same author names and publication date highlighted with a blue border.

So far we have focused on paraphrasing examples. Next, we will look at examples for in-text citations of quotations.

When you use a direct quotation instead of a paraphrase, you also need to include the quotation’s location in the work. Location information is added to your in-text citation directly after the date. For example, a parenthetical citation would look like the following: (Smith, 2010, pp. 3-4).

Note: Some instructors prefer location information for all in-text citations, so check with your instructor.

For the following quotation examples, click on the Information logo in green and white. symbol to learn about how to add in-text citations for short quotations and block quotations.

Short Direct Quote In-Text Citation Examples

Narrative Citation

Parenthetical Citation

Block Direct Quote In-Text Citation Examples

Narrative Citation

Parenthetical Citation

The image below details some location information examples and their appropriate abbreviation.

Image of infographic with green background showing section title "When to cite specific location information?" for in-text citations. Text provided details to cite when quoting or paraphrasing a specific passage in a source with a table of the types and examples for each.

Now that we have covered the basics of in-text citations, continue to the next section to complete a few in-text citation practice activities.

Image attribution:

Illuminated crumpled yellow paper light bulb idea on white background Free Photo” by Freepik is licensed under Freepik Licence, attribution required.


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5.6 What is an In-Text Citation? Copyright © 2021 by Sarah Adams and Debbie Feisst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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