The College Student's Guide to In-Text Citations

How do you give credit to the correct source? How do you know which citation style to use? Here are the answers to all of your citation questions. 

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Regardless of your college major, you’ll likely encounter assignments that require the use of in-text citations. Learning how to use in-text citations is an important part of academic writing because it helps you master the balance of correctly crediting your sources without interrupting the flow of your writing.

Various majors and courses will require a specific citation style. This guide will provide the basics of the three most commonly used styles: APA, Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA.

Why should you use in-text citations?

The term “in-text” refers to the use of a brief notation within the body of your document each time you refer to or quote outside source material. The purpose of in-text citations is to provide your reader with an idea of where your information originated and to direct them toward a full citation in your list of references at the end of the work.

In-text citations: APA style

APA (or American Psychological Association) style is commonly used for social and behavioral sciences. The main rule of APA in-text citations is that they generally include the author’s last name followed by the year of publication.

A basic in-text citation looks like this:

  • More than 10,000 people participated in the march (Smith, 2012).

If you use the author’s name within the text, only the date is placed in parentheses:

  • Smith (2012) noted that more than 10,000 people participated in the march.

If there are two authors, the in-text citation looks like this:

  • Police estimated that nearly 35 people suffered heat exhaustion (White & England, 2012).

Additional examples of how to cite various types of sources using APA style can be found here.


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