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Answered By: Cassie Sampson, Education & General Education Librarian
Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017     Views: 351352

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 using 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 paragraphs 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). 


Related Questions:
  • What if a source has multiple authors? What would that look like?
         You list all the authors the first time you cite them in-text (if your source has up to 5 authors). 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. See our Answer here: http://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/32514.
  • 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?
         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.
  • Shouldn't APA format be in past tense?
         There is nothing in the APA Handbook (6th ed.) 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.
  • What if there is no author for the source?
         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. If there is truly no author, then you will substitute the material title with the author's name like this: ("Chickens cross the road," 2010).
  • When summarizing a source, are you supposed to put the in-text citation at the end of the entire paragraph or just the end of the last sentence?
         A good rule of thumb is to include citations whenever necessary to help your reader distinguish between your original thoughts and information from your sources. Cite a summary using the author's last name and year of publication - just like you would any other source. For more definitions and help with summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting, see our Answer here: http://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/32524
  • Can you put a parenthetical citation in the middle of a sentence?
         No. Parenthetical citations like (Willemssen, 2012) need to go at the end of a sentence.
  • How do I summarize and cite a paragraph within a source that in itself has multiple citations?
        
    This can get a little complicated; for an example of what that would look like see our Answer herehttp://rasmussen.libanswers.com/faq/137650
  • How am I supposed to cite a source if it is a personal interview?
         Personal interviews require a slightly different in-text citation than a typical source. Check out our APA guide for an example of a personal interview citation.
  • Can I make my in-text citation possessive?
         Yes. You can make your in-text citation possessive; it would look something like this:
              Willemssen's (2010) study suggests...

 

For more information on APA citations, visit our APA Guide


If you're looking for help with MLA style citations, we recommend the MLA Style Center or the Seneca Libraries MLA Guide.

 

 

Comments (14)

  1. Bravo. Its people like yourself that make the internet useful!
    by Ryan on Aug 25, 2015.
  2. 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?)

    Sara, Librarian: 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.
    by Sam on Nov 07, 2015.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. This is so helpful. What about when reading material for your paper? There are so many research papers written in such a manner that one can't tell what part is the author's words/ideas and what part is paraphrased. How can one tell from the other. If am reading material and i find an idea/sentence in between two citations that i may want to paraphrase for in my work for example;

    According to Linda (2015) blah blah.......blah blah. Groups blah blah blah........blah blah. Peters (2009) noted that blah blah blah....blah.

    If i want to use the middle sentence "Groups blah blah blah.....blah blah" how can i know that's the authors words and not part of paraphrased work from the two cited sources?

    Sara, Librarian: Hi Nancy, this is a great example of a time when critical thinking skills come into play. It's not always easy to tell when an author is paraphrasing another author's work or if they are stating something in their own words. Use your best judgment in these cases. The whole idea of citing a source is to be able to point your readers to the work you used when you did your research.
    by Nancy on Jun 05, 2016.
  7. When paraphrasing information from a textbook, are you required to include the textbook name as well as the author in the paragraph or just the author?

    Kate, Librarian: When paraphrasing and creating an in-text citation, you will use the author's name(s) and the date only. For example, (Smith, 2016). The textbook or book's title will be included in the reference page, and not in the in-text citation.
    by Brittany Keen on Aug 07, 2016.
  8. That is really helpful. Thank you for taking the time to articulate this. :)
    by Kevin on Aug 16, 2016.
  9. Thank you. This is the first site I have seen anywhere that outlines this clearly with the bad, correct but ugly, good examples. May I ask, is this the same for MLA? Obviously you don't need to put in the year for MLA--but I mean as far as how you handle successive citations for the same source in a paragraph of paraphrase?

    Sara, Librarian Reply: For MLA style, Seneca Libraries actually has a great example of what the repeated use of one source in a paragraph could look like See the Seneca Libraries guide - box in the lower right corner of the page.
    by George--English Teacher on Dec 19, 2016.
  10. So another question--I read on your cite as I have on the OWL that successive parenthetical citations from a print source should initially be listed as (Lastname 323). And for each parenthetical citation thereafter without changing to a new source, you can leave out the author's last name and simply put in the page number (323). Well for sources where you have no page number, can you simply leave out a citation entirely because it's understood, use a signal phrase, or just include the citation again? So...(Lastname)...(Lastname)? I'm assuming signal phrase or repeatedly citing it unlike a print source is the answer. Thank you!

    Sara, Librarian Reply Hi George, since Rasmussen College uses only APA for references and citations, we are not the best people to ask about MLA citations. We recommend you check out the MLA Style Center for help with citations - they have an FAQ center that may have the answers you're looking for.
    by George on Dec 20, 2016.
  11. YES! This was incredibly helpful. As I was writing a focused summary for sociology, I was becoming incredibly bogged down with all the in text citations, trying to figure out if there was anyway to make it less unwieldy and awkward. This is perfect! Thanks s'much!
    by Weston on Jan 30, 2017.
  12. Can I make my in-text citation possessive? Can I write, "Willemssen's (2010) study suggests ..."?

    Sara, Librarian Reply: Hi Kevin, yes, you can make your in-text citation possessive. Your example is spot on!
    by Kevin Wallace on Feb 12, 2017.
  13. This is an excellent explanation with examples, but is specific for APA. Could it also be used for Harvard style?

    Sara, Librarian Reply: Yes, this could also be used for Harvard Style. Check out the University of Western Australia's example here.
    by Val on Mar 15, 2017.
  14. If I am paraphrasing different aspects of one article in a single paragraph, can I introduce the introduce the author/date initially, then write the different page numbers throughout?
    Ex: According to Source (2017), blah blah blah............... (p. 1268). Personal commentary. Paraphrasing again, blah, blah........... (p. 1272).

    Sara, Librarian Reply: The short answer is no. First, paraphrased citations in APA do not require page numbers, only quotations do. Second, if you include a page number at the end of a sentence (per your example) you also need to have the Author and Date in that same citation - either at the beginning of your sentence or in the parenthesis with your page number.
    by Jessica on Apr 19, 2017.

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