When you use information you found in your sources, you need to mark that information to show that the ideas are not your ideas. Source material is marked in your essay using in-text citations. The exact format of your citation will vary a little depending on the style guide you are using. All of the citations in this book use the APA style guide, but there are other style guides you may need to use in college. Your teacher will usually tell you which style guide they expect you to use.

Three basic types of information are required for an in-text citation

  1. The author's last name
  2. The year that the information was published
  3. The page number (or for some electronic sources, the paragraph number)

Example: In-Text Citation

(Kamenetz, 2016, para. 1).

The in-text citation is split if you use a phrase to introduce the source material that includes the author's name. The year goes in parentheses directly after the name of the author, and the page number goes in parentheses at the end of the source material. See example below.

Example: In-Text Citation with an Introductory Phrase

According to Kamenetz (2016), "Sleep deprivation affects memory, cognition and motivation, and the effects are compounded when it's long-term." (para. 1).


You may need to adjust the in-text citation for some of your sources, depending on the information that is available.

No author? If there is no author listed because something was written by an organization, include the organization's name. If the organization has a widely-recognized acronym, you can use it after the first in-text citation (e.g., NASA).

Example: In-Text Citation with a Group as the Author

The Food and Drug Administration (2017) asserted that "Dietary Supplements can be beneficial to your health..." (para. 1). People often take these supplements because it is hard to get all of the nutrients they need naturally through diet. However, "...taking supplements can also involve health risks" (FDA, 2017).

If there is no author or organization name, (as is the case with many encyclopedias or dictionaries), you should use the first few important words of the article's title with quotation marks.

Example: In-Text Citation without an Author

He was "...a charismatic pioneer of the personal computer era" ("Silicon Jobs," 2017, para. 1).

Two authors? In parentheses, use the ampersand (&) between the names. In an introductory phrase, write the word and.

Example: In-Text Citation with Two Authors

Understanding plate tectonics is important for those that study volcanoes because "volcanoes are closely associated with plate tectonic activity. Most volcanoes, such as those of Japan and Iceland, occur on the margins of the enormous solid rocky plates that make up the Earth's surface" (Decker & Decker, 2017, para. 4).

More than two authors? The first in-text citation should list all of the authors by last name (unless there are more than five). The subsequent citations should only list the first author and the phrase  "et al." (meaning "and others").

Example: In-Text Citation with Three Authors

Anderson, Jacobs, and Sween (2016) found that consumers were more hesitant to buy clothing online if they had never shopped from a particular retailer before. This may be attributed to the fact customers did not know if clothing from a particular retailer runs small or if it would be true to size. On the other hand, "Customers were reasonably confident about buying computers and tech products online, regardless of the retailer" (Anderson et al., 2016, para 6).

No page number? The paragraph number should be used with the abbreviation para. If there are headings in the text, use the name of the heading before the paragraph number. Put the name of the heading in quotation marks. (Some headings may be very long. In that case, you can use a shortened version.)

Example: In-Text Citation without Page Number

"The timing and severity of the Great Depression varied substantially across countries" (Romer & Pells, 2017, "Economic History," para. 1).

Example: In-Text Citation without Page Number

Lava provides a unique environment for plant growth, and finding a good observation site is essential. Hawaii is a good place for these observations because "Hawaii's ecosystems are isolated enough—and thus rich enough —that ecologists can recite the typical order of arrival on new lava" (Roach, 2017, para. 10).

No year? Use the abbreviation n.d. (no date).

Example: In-Text Citation without Year

"Volcano studies can reveal a lot about the earth" (Stephens, n.d., para. 28).

Other variations? Check a complete APA citation style guide like the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) or the OWL online.