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How to Do In-Text Citation and Reference Pages in APA

How to Do In-Text Citation and Reference Pages in APA

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson teaches APA formatting of in-text citations and reference pages.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

What are we going to learn today? Today, we're going to learn how to correctly produce in-text citations and reference pages in APA, or American Psychological Association format. Then we'll look at an example reference page.

As we should remember, an in-text citation is any resource that's used or cited in an essay, either through quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing. It's called this, because it appears within the text of the essay itself and not in footnotes, around a reference page. And the other half the equation, the parenthetical reference, is the specific bibliographic information that's contained in parentheses at the end of the in-text citation.

Meanwhile, a signal phrase is what writers use to introduce quotes, often by referencing the author or the title of the source. In the APA, an in-text citation requires the author's last name, the year the source was published, and the page or paragraph number where the quoted or paraphrased material could be found.

Page numbers are the default to use. But for online sources or any other sources that don't have pages, paragraph numbers can stand in. The reason the APA requires both the author's last name and the source publication year is to avoid confusion in case there are multiple sources from the same author being used.

Requiring both pieces of data helps clarify which source from the author the quote or paraphrase comes from. If you use a signal phrase that makes note of the author prior to the quote, you should follow the author's name with a parenthetical reference of the source's publication year. And then after the quote include another parenthetical reference with a page from which the quote was taken.

Here's an example. "And as historian Jeanine Laplante argues, 'there are precious few examples of a people who had the ability to oppress another people and did not.'" Notice how the bibliographic information is provided, the author and year of publication, the quote itself, and then the page for any readers interested in seeing more.

Here's another example. "Ryan Onizu is less certain, the only sure thing about NASA's feature is the legacy it has already achieved will outlast the scope of congressional budget hearings.'"

And if you don't use a signal phrase that notes the author prior to the quotation, then you should use a parenthetical reference that includes the author or authors and the page or paragraph number after the quotation, like this. "The quickest way to Rome, it seemed, was to go around, 'finding the Mediterranean blockaded, Hannibal was forced to bring his army through the Iberian Peninsula.'"

Here's one more example. "So long as the status quo remains, America's working poor will continue to lose." Notice the punctuation here. The quotation marks come immediately after the quoted material and then the parenthetical reference, followed by a period.

In block quotes, however, the sentence punctuation comes before the parenthetical reference, because there are no quotation marks to begin or end the quote.

APA formatting requires the use of what's called a reference page at the end of the essay to log all the sources used. It's essentially a list of all the bibliographic data, properly formatted of course, for all the sources that are cited anywhere in the essay. Any sources that were consulted but actually cited or used directly should be left off of this page.

It's important to correctly document sources, so every in-text citation correlates correctly with the proper source listed on the reference page. It shouldn't be hard for readers to match them up. The basic formatting requirements for a reference page in APA style include the word References at the top of the page, capitalized and center spaced.

The second and subsequent lines of each reference should be indented one half of an inch. This is sometimes called a hanging indent. And virtually every word processor has an option for it, usually somewhere under formatting.

The author's name should be listed by last name with a first initial. And the entry should be in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author of each source. For multiple sources by the same author, they should be organized by date of publication, from oldest to newest.

The titles of shorter works, such as essays, stories, or individual pages from a website shouldn't have quotation marks, italics, or underlines around them. You should, however, include the page span of any essays or articles, as well as the URL of any online sources.

Now, these are all the basic rules. But there are more specific guidelines, rules governing how to format sources with multiple authors or an anonymous author, for example. Because there are specific rules for specific cases, it's important to look up how to format a source if you're ever unsure.

But don't worry, it gets easier with time and practice. And there are many different print and online sources of information for formatting and stylistic requirements of reference pages. So help is available.

I should caution, however, against using so-called citation generators. These tools can sometimes be effective. But often, they result in errors. So in the long run, we're all better off learning to do it ourselves.

Now, we're going to look at a reference page, so we can all get a sense for what they're supposed to look like. Here's a sample of the sources I used for research essay about dialects, creoles, and different kinds of literature.

As you can see, the five entries are formatted with hanging indentations. And they're in alphabetical order of the authors' last names. The first source, an article I found online, is listed by the author's last name and first initial, the date the website was last edited, since I couldn't find an original publication date, and then the title of the article, and finally the URL where I found it.

Next comes an article from a print journal. I listed the author's name, the publication date, and the title of the article, followed by the title of the journal in which it appeared and 21 for the journal's volume number. Finally, I have the pages on which the article appears.

My third source was a book. So I needed the author's last name, first initial, the publication date of the book, its title, and the location and publisher. Number four is another online source listed by the author's last name, the date the source was last edited, and the title of the page, followed by the URL.

And finally, my last source came from an anthology. I listed it by the author's name, the publication date, the title of the article, and then the name of the editor of the anthology, and the umbrella source's title, then the publisher's location and name. So this is an example of what a reference page can actually look like and the information it requires.

What did we learn today? We learned about putting together in-text citations and reference pages and the APA formatting style. Then we looked at a sample reference page. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

Terms to Know
In-Text Citation

Sources used or cited in an essay through quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing, so-called because they appear within the text of the essay itself (as opposed to in footnotes or on a references page).

Parenthetical Reference

Specific bibliographic data, contained in parentheses at the end of in-text citations.

References/references page

A list at the end of an essay or book that includes properly formatted bibliographic data for all the sources cited in the essay.