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Answered By: Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen
Last Updated: Nov 08, 2015     Views: 175991

When you summarize or paraphrase someone else's information in several sentences or more, it feels awkward to put in a citation at the end of each sentence you write. It is also awkward to read! However, technically, APA demands that your reader knows exactly what information you got from someone else and when you start using it. Thus, an end-of-paragraph citation does not meet that requirement. 

Solution:  Use a lead-in at the beginning of your paragraph. Basically, introduce the source you are summarizing or paraphrasing at the beginning of the paragraph and then refer back to the source when needed to ensure your reader understands you are still utlizing the same source. 

For examples of the "bad," the "ugly" and the "good," please see below:

Bad. In this paragraph, the citation occurs only at the end and reader does not know exactly when/where information comes from the source. Do not do this:

Frogs are excellent indicator species to measure wetland health. They are very sensitive to changes in pH caused by acid rain, and they are also very sensitive to different types of pollution. When frog populations in a wetland plummet, one can be sure that something is going wrong in the wetland. In addition, when oddities in frog morphology appear, like frogs with five legs or two heads, one can also assume something is going wrong in the wetland environment (Willemssen, 2010).

Correct but Ugly. This paragraph is technically correct for APA, but it is difficult to read in large part because the in-text citations are intrusive and awkward:

Frogs are excellent indicator species to measure wetland health. They are very sensitive to changes in pH caused by acid rain, and they are also very sensitive to different types of pollution (Willemssen, 2010). When frog populations in a wetland plummet, one can be sure that something is going wrong in the wetland (Willemssen, 2010). In addition, when oddities in frog morphology appear, like frogs with five legs or two heads, one can also assume something is going wrong in the wetland environment (Willemssen, 2010).

Good. These paragraph are "APA correct" and easy to read. Note the reader knows exactly when/where information from the source is used:

Sample 1

Frogs are excellent indicator species to measure wetland health. According to a recent study by Willemssen (2010), frogs are very sensitive to changes in pH caused by acid rain, and they are also very sensitive to different types of pollution. The study notes that when frog populations in a wetland plummet, one can be sure that something is going wrong in the wetland. In addition, when oddities in frog morphology appear, like frogs with five legs or two heads, one can also assume something is going wrong in the wetland environment (Willemssen, 2010).

Sample 2

Frogs are excellent indicator species to measure wetland health.  Willemssen (2010) relates research conducted recently in Wisconsin that shows that frogs are very sensitive to changes in pH caused by acid rain, and they are also very sensitive to different types of pollution. Her research indicates that when frog populations in a wetland plummet, one can be sure that something is going wrong in the wetland. In addition, she finishes by noting that when oddities in frog morphology appear, like frogs with five legs or two heads, one can also assume something is going wrong in the wetland environment.

Sample 3

Frogs are excellent indicator species to measure wetland health.  Willemssen (2010) recently conducted research in Wisconsin that shows that frogs are very sensitive to changes in pH caused by acid rain, and they are also very sensitive to different types of pollution. Willemssen's research indicates that when frog populations in a wetland plummet, one can be sure that something is going wrong in the wetland. One very telling quote from Willemssen's research is that "87% of wetlands where two-headed frogs are found have high levels of  environmental contamination" (p. 341). 


For more information on quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing in APA, please see:

Our answer on quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing

Our APA Guide's In-text Citation section

Comments (24)

  1. That is incredibly helpful! I've been puzzled about this for so long!
    by becca on Jan 02, 2015.
  2. Thank you so much for this great advice. I wish examples like this were included in the APA manual.
    by Chris on Jan 25, 2015.
  3. Thank you for this information! I don't know why it isn't included in the APA manual.
    by Gia on Feb 22, 2015.
  4. Thank you so much, I have never been sure how to do this correctly and worried that incorrectly cited paraphrasing would be seen as plagiarism.
    by sally on Mar 23, 2015.
  5. What if the source has multiple authors? I am citing a book with four authors and the title of the book is incredibly long as well. It would be awkward to say "According to Roehlkeparatin, King, Wagener, and Benson (2011) frogs . . ."
    by Laurie L on Mar 25, 2015.
  6. You do list all four authors the first time you cite them in-text. However, once you have listed them all the first time, you can change to just listing the first author and replace the rest with et al.

    So in your example you would start as you did and then might continue with something like this: Roehlkeparatin et al. (2011) continue by saying ….

    For more information on how to work with multiple authors, see our answer at http://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/32514
    by Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen on Mar 26, 2015.
  7. This is brilliant, thank you! I have been struggling with this for awhile.
    by Riaan on Apr 08, 2015.
  8. This was the thing I was looking for and Sample 3 does the job for me ! Thank You ! This puzzled me for a while, but what was more puzzling is that I hadn't found anyone or any material to explain it like this.
    by josh on May 17, 2015.
  9. Thank you so much! This helped A LOT!

    cheers
    by J S W on Aug 21, 2015.
  10. Examples are extremely helpful. Thank you.

    Sam
    by Sam on Aug 22, 2015.
  11. Bravo. Its people like yourself that make the internet useful!
    by Ryan on Aug 25, 2015.
  12. This is a very interesting subject and It helps me understand and identify how APA should be used and how not use the wrong formatting on my citations when writing. I also learned from the video that once you mention the citation in a paragraph, you then use transitional words like according to, in addition to, the study suggests. To keep the reader informed of what you are referring to.
    by Erick Vargas on Sep 19, 2015.
  13. Thanks so much! It helped me a lot!!!
    by Maryam on Oct 13, 2015.
  14. This is very helpful, but what if your source is a book? Do you never have to mention page numbers? How are readers supposed to find the information you paraphrased?


    Sara, Librarian: Great question Sean. According to the APA Handbook (6th Ed.), section 6.04 says, "when paraphrasing or referring to an idea contained in another work, you are encouraged to provide a page or paragraph number." However, APA does not explicitly require a page or paragraph number for paraphrased ideas/statements.
    by Sean on Oct 16, 2015.
  15. Very helpful. Thank you so much.
    by Lin on Oct 18, 2015.
  16. I found this extremely helpful when writing my first APA style paper, however I do have one more question about citations that was not answered above.

    I'm currently assigned an APA paper in which I had to read a book and answer questions. After talking with my professor, I learned that using other sources was allowed but discouraged for this specific assignment. My question is, how can I properly cite the information in my paper when I only used the one source? As your example above, that would work very well for one paragraph. Should I use that format throughout the entirety of the paper? (Even though it looks terrible?)
    by Sam on Nov 07, 2015.
  17. Sam,
    Yes, we suggest that you use the same format throughout your paper - even if it looks terrible. Usually papers will have more than one source and thus not look quite so awkward. But for one source, we suggest the same format and style.

    Thanks for your question!
    -Sara
    by Sara, Librarian on Nov 08, 2015.
  18. Is it okay to start out with the author's last names with the date and at the end of the paragraph an intext citation?

    For example, Smith (2015) .... (paraphrased statements)....and at the end of the last sentence (Smith, 2015).


    Sara, Librarian: Your example is providing two citations for one sentence. You could do that, but it's not technically APA correct, nor is it necessary.
    by Hussein on Nov 13, 2015.
  19. THANK YOU! The Purdue site that always comes up as the top result when searching for this was no help at all, but this was exactly what I needed. Having done mostly history in undergrad, I'm having a rough time transitioning to APA for grad school.
    by Portia on Nov 13, 2015.
  20. Shouldn't APA format be in past tense? I'm noticing that in the examples there is some present tense action occurring.


    Sara, Librarian: Great question Austin. There is nothing in the APA handbook that says APA papers have to be written in a certain tense. APA does specifically mention that the use of first person (I, we) should NOT be used, but there are no limitations on tense beyond proper grammar use.
    by Austin on Nov 17, 2015.
  21. What if there is no author for the source?


    Sara, Librarian: First, check and make sure there really is no author for your source. Sometimes an author is a group or organization rather than a specific person. For example, the Centers for Disease Control may put out a report - but there is not a person listed as the author - but, in this case, your author is actually the CDC. If there truly is no author, then you will substitute the content title with the author's name like this ("Chickens cross the road," 2010).
    For additional help on what to do if there's no author, see the APA Style Blog: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2010/01/the-generic-reference-who.html
    by Thomas on Dec 13, 2015.
  22. There are no words to appreciate this article!!!! WHENEVER I write a paper and cite paragraphs I feel very uncomfortable not knowing what to do to make the citation clearer. It's super duper helpful!!!!
    by Yeh on Dec 24, 2015.
  23. I had a question: when you are summarizing an essay or article, are you supposed to put the in-text citation at the end of the entire paragraph or just the end of the last sentence? Also, how would you cite it?


    Sara, Librarian: Great question Caitlin. Summarizing and citing can be difficult, but follow these general tips and you should be good to go:
    - Summary “a brief restatement, in your own words, of the main idea of a passage or an article. It is always much shorter than the original because it omits the strategies that writers use to add emphasis and interest” (Kirszner & Mandell, 2008, p. 143).
    -Cite a summary using the author’s last name and year of publication in parentheses.
    -Include citations whenever necessary to help the reader distinguish between your original thoughts and information from your sources.

    We have a great Answer with examples of summaries and paraphrases here: http://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/32524
    by Caitlin Ohanlan on Mar 29, 2016.
  24. What if I have to cite about 21-35 sources throughout my APA paper and I am only allowed to cite the source twice, differently and not consecutively?

    Sara, Librarian: Hi Kathy, APA has no minimum or maximum requirements for the citing of any one source, nor are there any reasons why you can't cite consecutively. So I'm going to assume that these are additional parameters set up by your instructor. 21-35 sources is a lot, but not uncommon in longer papers. If you have multiple sources that state similar facts, you should be able to ensure that you're not citing the same source consecutively. And varying between an in-text citation such as: "Smith (2010) said that chickens lay eggs...." and an end-of-sentence citation like: "Chickens tend to flock together (Smith, 2010, p. 2)" will count as a different type of citation for the same source.
    Use your best judgment, and when in doubt, ask your instructor for help or clarification.
    by Kathy on Apr 13, 2016.

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