A Guide to In-Text Citation | APA & MLA Examples

Citation updated on  March 4, 2024 4 min read

An in-text citation appears in a written text and gives credit to a source’s original author. They usually include information within a set of parentheses, like the author’s name, the publication date of the source, and the page number the quote is from.

Example: APA Style in-text citation
(Brown, 1997, p. 188)

What is an in-text citation?

An in-text citation gives the reader information about a source. This is done for three reasons:

  1. It enables the reader to do further research using the information in the in-text citation to find the original source and read more of that text.
  2. It gives credit to the original source, effectively avoiding accidental plagiarism.
  3. It shows that you have engaged with texts related to your topic, lending to your credibility as a writer and researcher.

Academic sources do not exist in a vacuum, and engaging with authors and texts creates a well-rounded, textured discussion around a topic. As a researcher, it is important to stay up to date with what is going on in your field and contribute to the larger conversation.

When to use an in-text citation

You use an in-text citation when you include a piece of another source in your text. Whether you are quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing another source, it’s important to cite it correctly.

When you quote a source in your text, you copy a part of another text directly into your project and use quotation marks to indicate the source material. In APA Style, you include the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number the quote was taken from.

Example: Quote with APA Style in-text citation
Being scared in a dream “denotes temporary and fleeting worries” (Miller, 1988, p. 250).

When you summarize a source in your text, you condense a portion of the work to its main ideas. It’s important to cite summaries you’ve created because the ideas come from someone else, despite your work to condense the text into something smaller. When summarizing, you should include the author’s name and publication year.

Example: Summary with APA Style in-text citation
Having a dream in which you are scared may mean that your problems and stressors will not last long (Miller, 1988).

When you paraphrase a source, you reword the text. You also have to cite paraphrased material since the ideas and words originally come from someone else. When paraphrasing a source, you should include the author’s name, publication date, and page number(s) where the original material was taken from.

Example: Paraphrase with APA Style in-text citation
If you feel afraid during a nightmare, it may mean that your worries are temporary and will resolve soon (Miller, 1988, p. 250).

There are certain situations in which you don’t have to cite, like repeating common knowledge. There is no need to cite a source saying the sky is blue or our planet is called “Earth” because this is information that everyone knows.

If you’re writing a paper on why the sky is blue or why our planet is named “Earth,” it would be important to include the sources explaining the background on these topics because not everyone knows this information, and it could be technical.

Types of in-text citation

Parenthetical citations include citation information within a set of parentheses. Narrative citations include the author’s name within the sentence, and additional information is included at the end of the sentence within a set of parentheses.

Author-date citations are used in APA and Chicago styles and list the author’s last name, publication date, and page number(s). Author-page citations are used in MLA and include the author’s last name and page number(s).

Each citation style has different formatting rules, so be sure to double-check the style guide for the style you are using.

Examples of types of in-text citation

Parenthetical citation

Narrative citation

Author-date (APA) The citizens reacted favorably to the new law (Hughes, 1924, p. 3). Hughes reports that the citizens supported the new law (1924, p. 3).
Author-page (MLA) The citizens reacted favorably to the new law (Hughes 3). Hughes reports that the citizens supported the new law (3).

Create in-text citations

QuillBot has a world-class citation generator that will create in-text citations for you in APA, MLA, and Chicago style formats.

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Frequently asked questions about in-text citations

How do you create an APA in-text citation for multiple authors?

If there are two authors, separate their names with an ampersand (&). If there are three or more authors, list the first author’s name, followed by “et al.” Do not include a comma between the first author’s name and “et al.”

Examples: (Smith & Robinson, 2022, pp. 67–69)

(Smith et al., 2022, p. 43)

How do you create an APA in-text citation with no author?

If the source does not have a known author, use the title of the text in place of an author’s last name. Italicize the title of books, but use quotation marks around the title for articles and chapters.

Example: (“In-Text Citations,” 2024)

What is “et al” in an in-text citation?

“Et al.” means “and others.” It is used to save space when citing a source with three or more authors; you use it after the first author’s name in place of the remaining names.

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Paige Pfeifer

Paige teaches QuillBot writers about grammar rules and writing conventions. She has a BA in English, which she received by reading and writing a lot of fiction. That is all she knows how to do.

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