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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.

Why do we cite?

Why do we cite our sources? 

  • Give credit to creators
  • Support our argument with valid sources
  • Help other researchers find information
  • Academic Integrity

It might feel like extra work, but you also benefit from others' citations and bibliographies. Found a good article? Look at the sources used - you can use them, too.

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).

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)


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).

APA Resources

Purdue Owl - From how to style your paper to citing journal articles and even podcasts, this comprehensive guide has everything you need to do APA. The OWL also has a channel on YouTube, so you can watch and learn.

APA Style Blog - Frequently asked questions about APA.

APA Paper Example - An example of an APA-formatted paper.

Further Information

For more information on APA and citations, visit our APA page here.

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