6.5 Frequently Asked Questions

1. In-Text Citations – Where do they go?

It can be tricky to know exactly where to place the in-text citation in your sentence. Generally, the default position for a citation is at the end of the sentence, unless placing it there would create confusion. For example, where should the citation go in the following sentence?

Smith claims that “insert a quotation here,” but other scientists argue that her conclusions are flawed.

If you place the citation for Smith at the end of the sentence, you are saying that Smith acknowledges that many scientists think her conclusions are flawed. That wouldn’t make sense. You would have to cite like this:

Smith claims that “insert a quotation here” (2021), but other scientists (Jones, 2019; Blake, 2020; and Singh, 2021) argue that her conclusions are flawed.

The citation can be placed at several places:

  • At the end of the sentence, if the entire sentence is a quotation, paraphrase, or summary of the source’s idea: Chan asserts ideas X and Y, and he gives additional examples to illustrate them (2021).
  • Directly after the name of the source: Chan (2021) claims…
  • Directly after the quotation: Chan asserts that “insert quotation here” (2021), and carry on with your idea (your analysis of Chan’s assertion).
  • After referring to a source or an idea from a source:
    • This theory was first put forward in a 1996 study (Smith 2019).
    • Several recent studies (Jones, 2019; Blake, 2020; and Singh, 2021) have suggested that…

Occasionally, some writers use APA citations like this:

As Jones (2019) and Blake (2020) have shown, quantum theory has many practical applications in real-world settings. Singh (2021) disagrees, however, and argues that ….

NOTE: Your citation should NOT go inside the quotation marks; it is not part of the quotation. However, punctuation must be placed AFTER the citation, as that citation is part of that sentence (or clause), not part of the next sentence.  For example

Author X claims “this idea is a quotation” (2021). The next sentence starts here…

Author X claims “this idea is a quotation” (2021), and I add my interpretation after.

This is why you must put the period AFTER the citation when a sentence ends with a citation. A citation that comes AFTER the period technically belongs to the next sentence, as in the preceding example.

For detailed information on creating citations, please visit the APA Style In-text Citations page.

2. Do I need to keep citing the source every time I refer to it?

If you are discussing the ideas in a source at length (for example, in a summary), you do not need to cite every consecutive sentence. Cite the first time you mention the source. As long as the following sentences clearly indicate that the ideas come from the same source—for example, you are using signal phrases, such as “the author further clarifies the problem by…”—you do not need to keep citing.

If you stop using signal phrases, be sure to include a citation. If you introduce material from another source or add your own analysis between references to that source, you will have to re-cite the source when you refer to it again. Always make sure your reader knows which ideas come from a source, and which come from you, and when you shift from one to the other. If in doubt, cite.

3. What if a source has more than one author?

If the source you are citing has one or two authors, use their names in your signal phrase:

  • Brady (2019) argues that ….
  • Mehta and Barth’s study (2020) demonstrates that ….

If the source has three or more authors, use the name of the lead author, followed by “et al.”– the Latin term meaning “and the others.” In APA style, “et al.” does not have to be italicized:

  • Isaacson et al., in their study on fluid dynamics, found that ….

NOTE: In your Reference at the end of your paper, it is a courtesy to list the names of ALL the authors who contributed to the source (rather than using “et al.”). However, if there are 6 or more authors, it is acceptable to use “et al.” in your reference list.

4. How do I find the title of an academic journal?

 Figure 6.5.1 shows a typical .pdf file of a journal article. It will help you determine the various elements of an academic article that must be included in your reference. Note the difference between the database (such as Elsevier, EbscoHost, JSTOR, etc.) and the name of the journal.

An academic article will have information about the database, title, volume, issue, date, pages, authors, doi, and summary
Figure 6.5.1 Elements of an Academic Article.

American Psychological Association (APA). (2020).  APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/

American Psychological Association (APA). (2020).  In-text citations. APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations

Seneca College Libraries. (n.d.). APA citation guide (APA 7th edition): Welcome. Seneca College. https://library.senecacollege.ca/apa


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Technical Writing Essentials Copyright © 2019 by Suzan Last is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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