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Citing Sources: In-Text Citations

What is an In-Text Citation?

In-Text Citations

An in-text citation is a reference made within the body of text that alerts the reader to a source that has informed your own writing. These are also called parenthetical citations

In-text citations provide breadcrumbs to your readers, allowing them to trace the origins and path of your arguments through the sources and authors you read and built upon. 

To Quote or Not to Quote?

This is a question that you may have asked yourself while writing a paper. Should you quote this source (in a direct quote) or should you add in this information into your paper in a different way? To answer that, we must look at the different ways to add information from sources into your paper. 

Direct Quotes

Quoted material should be reproduced word-for-word from the source text. This quote should be housed within quotation marks, and the author's last name, year of publication, and page number should be included to direct the reader to the original source. Direct quotes should be used only when you cannot express the thought or ideas presented in a better way or when a direct passage of the original source is needed to make your argument. 

Paraphrases and Summaries 

Paraphrasing is when you, as the researcher and author, put a passage or idea from another's work into your own words. A paraphrased passage is usually shorted and more condensed than the original source. Summarizing is very similar to paraphrasing, but instead of using only a passage or idea, a summary condenses an entire source, or source section, highlighting the main points and/or ideas. Paraphrases and summaries should be the most common type of citations used within the text of your paper. 

Adding In-Text Citations

Whenever you use an outside source to build your argument, you need to add in the creator's information to give credit to the original source. Whether you use a direct quote or a paraphrase, you should keep the following tips in mind.

  1. Watch out for Hit and Runs
    • It is very easy to throw in a quote or paraphrase here or there, but without context, your reader will not be able to follow the path of your thinking and reasoning. To avoid this, tread each citation like its own mini essay. Provide an introduction (in your own thoughts and words) to the citation, providing a reason as to why this is important to both your paper and your reader. Next, place the quote or paraphrase. Finally, tie the citation back in with your larger argument. 
  2. Don't Cherry-Pick a Source
    • It is tempting to pull a direct quote from a random source to fill your quota a required citations or to fill in a hole where a source is needed. This should be avoided because it weakens your overall paper and argument. Use sources that build upon your arguments (or provide counterpoints). Don't pull only a direct quote or two from a paper and use nothing else. Your work should be a part of the lager conversation, and the sources you use should help you build your argument and help place you within the conversation. 
  3. Use Direct Quotes Sparingly 
    • A direct quote should only be used when there is no way that you could articulate a point or an argument better. Paraphrasing and summarizing is better because you are building off of the overall ideas and themes of a paper rather than resting your arguments and evidence on only a direct quote.
  4. Don't Over or Underuse a Source
    • A source should never be used only once within your paper, nor should they be used so frequently that it seems you have only one source. A good rule of thumb is to include 1 source for every page assigned (so a 5 page paper will use roughly 5 sources), and each paragraph will usually have about 2 citations within it. This means that each source you use should appear within your paper a few times (and most of the citations should be for paraphrases and summaries of arguments). 

Rules of Thumb

Below are some general rules to keep in mind when writing a paper. If you have questions about a specific assignment and its requirements, contact your professor.

  • How many sources should I include?
    • A general rule of thumb is that you will need 1 source for every page. This does not mean that you will use only one source on each page, but instead, if you have a 5-7 page paper to write, you will need 5-7 sources that will be inter-dispersed throughout your paper. 
    • Your professor will most likely inform you of how many sources you will need in your paper
  • How many in-text citations should I have?
    • A good rule to follow, is to have about two sources per paragraph. This means that each source will be cited more than once throughout your paper. 
  • Should I use a direct quote or a paraphrase?
    • Your paper should have more paraphrased and summarized citations than direct quotes. To ensure that you are using direct quotes effectively, use a direct quote only when the original source states the point better than you would be able to, or when you are directly referencing the original source. 

In-Text Citation Cheat Sheet

When you do not mention the author's name in your sentence, the author's name, date, and page number are placed in parentheses at the end of your sentence. 

When you mention the author's name in your sentence, the date and page number is placed in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

When you cite more than one work by the same author, ensure that you add in the titles of the work to differentiate between the works. 

When the work has no author, in lieu of an author's name, begin with the first few words of the citation as it will appear alphabetized in your Work Cited or Reference page at the end of the paper.

When you quote or paraphrase a quotation from a book or article that appeared somewhere else, make note of the secondhand quotation, or find the original source and cite that. 

When you are citing several sources for a single passage, include all citations with a semi-colon (;) between each source.

When you paraphrase a whole passage or several passages, begin your citation with the author's or article's name and end it with the publication date and page number. 

Common Signal Phrases

Below are some common signal phrases to introduce a quote, paraphrase, or summary as an in-text citation. 

Says: the verb introduces the quotation as information

  • Adds
  • Believes
  • Comments
  • Describes
  • Discusses
  • Emphasizes
  • Explains
  • Mentions
  • Notes
  • Observes
  • Offers
  • Points out
  • Remarks
  • Reports
  • States
  • Writes

Argues in favor: the verb indicates that the source is providing evidence or reasons for a position

  • Argues
  • Asserts
  • Contends
  • Demonstrates
  • Holds 
  • Illustrates
  • Indicates
  • Insists
  • Maintains
  • Proposes
  • Shows
  • Supports

States erroneously: the source makes a statement that you are skeptical about (be careful of your tone if you use these)

  • Alleges
  • Assumes
  • Claims 

Continues: you continue to refer to or quote the source

  • Adds
  • Continues 
  • Goes on to say
  • States further

Agrees: the verb indicates that the source agrees with another source or with the position you are advancing

  • Accepts
  • Agrees
  • Assents
  • Concurs
  • Parallels
  • Supports

Yields: the source agrees that a conflicting point is valid 

  • Acknowledges
  • Admits
  • Agrees
  • Allows
  • Concedes
  • Grants
  • Recognizes

Argues against: the verb indicates that the sources is responding critically to another source or with the position you are advancing

  • Attacks
  • Contradicts
  • Criticizes
  • Denies
  • Differs
  • Disagrees
  • Disputes
  • Objects
  • Opposes
  • Rebuts
  • Refutes

Implies: the source presents information either tentatively or indirectly 

  • Implies
  • Proposes 
  • Suggests 

Concludes: the source draws a conclusion from previous discussion 

  • Concludes 
  • Decides 
  • Determines 
  • Finds

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