What is an In-Text Citation?

Learning Outcome

After completing this chapter, you will be able to:

  • 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 do this you need to create an in-text citation and add it to your paper where you have discussed evidence from that source, either as a direct quote or a paraphrase. In-text citations tell your reader which ideas belong to you and which ideas belong to someone else.

There are two different ways that you can include in-text citations into your assignments: as a parenthetical citation or as a narrative citation.

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:

  1. Parentheses,
  2. Author’s family name or group name, and
  3. Year.

In-text citation information is pulled directly from its matching reference list citation. So, 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. So next, we’re going to look at quotation examples for in-text citations.

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

Note that instructors often 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 quotes and block quotes.

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.
Note: Your instructor may prefer you include location information for all in-text citations. We advise asking your instructor.

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

Image attribution:

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APA Style Citation Tutorial by University of Alberta Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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