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When to cite

Any time you use specific information from a source, whether it's a direct quote or paraphrased in your own words, you need to cite the source. The citation can be complete or spread throughout the sentence to help with flow and sentence structure. As you look at the example below, you will notice a pattern: author - year - page number.

Appropriate Level of Citation

You need to cite any works you have read whose ideas, theories or research have directly influenced your work. The works you cite provide information into how you arrived at your conclusion, or who offer critical definitions and data. Cite only works that you have read and incorporated into your writing. 

Provide in-text citations when you:

  • paraphrase (i.e., state in your own words) the ideas of others
  • directly quote the words of others
  • refer to data or data sets
  • reprint or adapt a table or figure, even images from the internet that are free or licensed in the Creative Commons
  • reprint a long text passage or commercially copyrighted test item

Avoid both undercitation and overcitation.

Undercitation can lead to plagiarism, which has direct consequences on you. 

Overcitation can be distracting and is unnecessary.For example, it is considered overcitation to repeat the same citation in every sentence when the source and topic have not changed. Instead, cite the source in the first sentence in which it is relevant and do not repeat the citation in subsequent sentences as long as the source remains clear and unchanged. See pg 254, figure 8.1 for an appropriate level of citation example. 


Types of citations

There are two basic ways to cite someone's work in text.

In narrative citations, the authors are part of the sentence - you are referring to them by name. For example:

Becker (2013) defined gamification as giving the mechanics of principles of a game to other activities.

In parenthetical citations, the authors are not mentioned in the sentence, just the content of their work. Place the citation at the end of the sentence or clause where you have used their information. The author's names are placed in the brackets (parentheses) with the rest of the citation details:

Gamification involves giving the mechanics or principles of a game to another activity (Becker, 2013).

Chart of parenthetical in-text examples

Type of Citation

First Citation in Text

Subsequent Citations in Text

Parenthetical Format, First Citation in Text

Parenthetical Format, Subsequent Citations in Text

1 work by 1 author

Harris (2003)

Harris (2003)

(Harris, 2003)

(Harris, 2003)

1 work by 2 authors

Harris and Ramirez (2019)

Harris and Ramirez (2019)

(Harris & Ramirez, 2019)

(Harris & Ramirez, 2019)

1 work by 3 or more authors

Peet et al. (2018)

Peet et al. (2018)

(Peet et al., 2018)

(Peet et al., 2018)

Groups (readily identified through abbreviations) as authors

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA, 2017)

NOAA (2017)

(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], 2017)

(NOAA, 2017)

Groups (no abbreviation) as authors

Stanford University (2010)

Stanford University (2010)

(Stanford University, 2010)

(Stanford University, 2010)

American Psychological Association. (2020). Works credited in the text. Publication manual of the American psychological association (7th ed., p. 266).

Citing periodicals/journal articles in text

Citing Periodicals/Journal Articles in the Text

Mason (2015) described ... (p. 45).

In 2015, Mason described a similar situation ...


(Smith, 2018) 

(Smith, 2018, p. 32)

Multiple Authors

Two authors:

Narrative Smith and Kavan (2016) studied the effects of caffeine ...
Parenthetical  (Smith & Kavan, 2016)

Three or more authors: list the first author's surname followed by et al. 

Narrative Jones et al. (2018) studied the effects ...
Parenthetical (Jones et al., 2018)


Tricky in-text citations

Multiple authors with the same surname who published in the same year:

If authors have the same last name, but different initials, include the initials As J. Smith (2016) noted.... which was confirmed by R. K. Smith (2016)
If your authors have the same initials, include the name

As Jane Smith (2019) noted.... which was confirmed by Jaqueline Smith (2019)

(Jane Smith, 2016; Jaqueline Smith, 2016).

Note: If your authors have the same initials, you would include their full name in the Reference 

Smith, A. [Adam]. (2016)...

Smith, A. [Amy]. (2016)...

Multiple works by the same author in the same year:

In your reference list, you will have arranged the works alphabetically by title. This decides which reference is "a", "b", "c", and so on. You cite them in text accordingly Asthma is the most common disease affecting the Queensland population (Queensland Health, 2017b). However, many people do not know how to manage their asthma symptoms (Queensland Health, 2017a).

If there are no page numbers

If paragraphs are visible, you can count paragraphs from the beginning of the document  "On Australia Day 1938 William Cooper ... joined forces with Jack Patten and William Ferguson ... to hold a Day of Mourning to draw attention to the losses suffered by Aboriginal people at the hands of the whiteman" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., para. 4).
If the document contains headings, but no page or paragraph numbers, use the heading plus the paragraph number within that section  "in 1957 news of a report by the Western Australian government provided the catalyst for a reform movement" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., The catalyst for change section, para. 1)
If the heading is too long, you can shorten it and place it within "quotation marks"

Full heading: "Alick Jackomos recalls petition-gathering for the referendum with Doug Nicholls"

In text: "By the end of this year of intense activity over 100,000 signatures had been collected" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., "petition gathering", para. 1).

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