In-Text Citing in APA Format

Crystal Sands, PhD.

Crystal Sands, PhD., is the former Director of the Excelsior College OWL. Dr. Sands has worked in higher education for nearly twenty years – as an award-winning writing teacher, and as writing program director and instructor at several institutions.

If you are new to APA, or even if you are not so new, you may be wondering about how to create those in-text citations and parenthetical references in ways that adhere to APA guidelines. You may know the basics, but APA can certainly be a little confusing when you are first getting started. My goal in this post is to help you by describing two main options in APA for in-text citations or parenthetical references. I will also explain why we use in-text documentation and, in the end, I will share resources from our Excelsior College OWL to provide you with some additional support in these areas.

First of all, let’s discuss the terms in-text citations and parenthetical references. Although some people use these terms interchangeably, some do separate the terms. Please keep in mind that not everyone separates these terms, but for the purposes of my post today, I am going to separate the two.

When you use the author’s name within your text to set up your quote or paraphrased information, you must create an in-text citation. An in-text citation in APA format looks like this:

According to Jones (2009), “APA format is a little confusing at first but is much easier once you get used to it” (p. 18).

In this example, you will notice that I have an in-text citation for the year, which must come right after the author’s name. Then, because I have shared a quote with my readers, I have another citation with the page number right after the quote. If I had a paraphrase instead of a quote, I would not necessarily need that page number citation, though APA style says that you may include page numbers for paraphrases if you like. Doing so does provide some additional helpful information for your readers.

A parenthetical reference is necessary when you have not used the author’s name to set up the quote or paraphrase, so you need a full parenthetical reference after the shared information. A parenthetical reference in APA format looks like this:

“APA format is a little confusing at first but is much easier once you get used to it” (Jones, 2009, p. 18).

Here, you will notice that I have all the same information in parenthetical reference that I had above in my in-text citation, but I have presented the information all at once because I did not mention the author’s name as I set up the quote.

You should also notice that, in both examples, the period comes after my in-text citation or parenthetical reference, which is a rule in APA when you have a short quote like this. If you have a longer quote, a block quote, the period comes before the parenthetical reference, but we’ll explore block quotes in another blog.

So those are the basics for in-text citations and/or parenthetical references, but let’s talk about why we use them and why they are so important. Essentially, in-text documentation tells your readers where you found information and which information is yours and which information comes from sources. Sometimes, students think that just having a References list at the end will “cover it” in terms of documentation, but this is not the case at all. You must have in-text documentation as well, and your in-text citations and parenthetical references must match your References list. In other words, anything that appears on your References list must also appear in your in-text documentation and vice versa.

For more information on creating effective in-text citations and parenthetical references, check out the following resources in the OWL.

For a short video showing you the process of using these citations, check out the second APA style video here. The video is only a couple of minutes long and can make a world of difference in your understanding of in-text documentation.

For a great checklist showing examples of in-text documentation in APA format, check out this helpful APA Checklist. Please note that this takes you to an interactive PDF, so you will have to download the PDF to see the interaction in all of its glory, but it’s definitely worth the extra step!

I hope this blog entry has been helpful! I will spend more time in another post discussing some common variations on APA in-text citations and parenthetical references. If you have any questions, comments, or topic suggestions, please post them in the comments section.