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Using APA Style to Cite Sources Inside Text
by Peter Gallagher

When creating your thesis or dissertation in APA Style, you need to cite all sources that you used to write your paper. Citing sources is necessary for a handful of reasons. First, it lets teachers verify the correctness of your research. Second, it offers your readers the benefit for finding supplementary information. Most notably, citing sources attributes proper credit for the groundwork and concepts that you're "borrowing" from the writers who've written them.

Naming sources in APA Style demands two techniques. The first type of citation requires you to position it in the body text where you've cited material—APA Style refers to this as an "in-text citation." The other type of citation requires you to position it at the end of your paper, in a list of all works that you've cited—APA Style refers to this as the "Reference List."

Herein, we'll address sources you'll have to cite within the primary text of your paper.


Generally, you will know beforehand the type of in-text citation to use for printed material depending on the structure of the sentence. Look at these examples:

Citation # 1:

Provide the names of the author within the sentence, followed by the year of publication inside parentheses.

The research developed by Jones, Denver, & Kelley (2008) suggests that scientific inventions stimulate industrial expansion.

Citation # 2:

You can put the names of the authors inside the parentheses with the year of publication, according to the structure of the sentence.

Many economists have attested that scientific innovations spark industrial expansion (Jones, Denver, & Kelley, 2007).


After you have cited a printed source and its author(s), you can sometimes abbreviate successive in-text citations of the same work. The amount of authors decides if you can use an abbreviation or not, as shown in these examples:

One or two authors:

On successive references, list it the same way you did the first time, with one or both authors' names and the year of publication.

Additionally, the Johnson & Jones (2008) research suggests ...

Three or more authors:

On successive references, you only need to list the first author, followed by "et al." before the year of publication.

Additionally, the Johnson et al. (2008) research suggests ...


With published works, identifying the authors' names and the year of publication is a very simple task. With some sources, forming the correct in-text citation can seem confusing.

For instance, a webpage might not have an author's name. If you can't find one, you can use an editor's name, listing it as you listed the author's name in the examples I showed previously.

If you cannot find an author's name or an editor's name, then list the name of the company or organization that's connected with the website. Look at these examples:

A global financial organization's research has suggested that scientific innovations stimulate industrial expansion (Universal Economists Group, 2009).

You can also use the title of a webpage or publication with the in-text citation, if you cannot find an author's name. Keep in mind that when you use an in-text citation, you're doing your best to help your readers easily locate the complete source in the Reference List at the end of your paper.


When you quote original text directly within your paragraph, apply the same in-text citation format that we've previously discussed, in addition to a little extra information.

Short quotations:

For quotations under 40 words in length, apply quotation marks around the quotation, followed by the page number of the reference.

According to McKinely (2007), "Using contribution dollars on scientific developments stimulates expansion in the nearby economic system" (p. 25).

Long quotations:

Comply with the same APA style for in-text citations, containing the page number(s), for a long quotation of over 40 words. However, you'll need to make a specific block of text for the long quotation—simply indent 1/2 inch from the left margin for all lines of the quotation. Resume the normal left margin after arriving at the end of the quotation block. Do not apply quotation marks with this long quotation block. Make sure you double space all through the block.


Remember that APA Style suggests that you need to write in past tense or present perfect tense whenever you explain research that necessitates an in-text citation.

Lastly, if you have a specially difficult source to excerpt within your text that I have not explained in this article, you can locate the answer in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which is the best reference for APA Style.

© Peter Gallagher, Brian Scott, LousyWriter.com