How to cite a lecture

To cite a lecture or speech, you need an in-text citation and a corresponding reference listing the speaker, the title of the lecture, the date it took place, and details of the context (e.g. the name of the course or event and the institution).

The exact information included varies depending on how you viewed the lecture and what citation style you are using. The main citation styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago style.

Citing a lecture in APA Style

In APA Style, you don’t provide a formal citation for a lecture unless it is recorded or documented in some way. This is based on the idea that it’s only useful to document sources your reader can actually access.

Instead, you should usually just cite the lecture as a personal communication in parentheses in the text. State the lecturer’s name (initials and last name), the words “personal communication,” and the date of the lecture.

Citing a lecture as a personal communication
(D. Jones, personal communication, September 28, 2011)

For a talk at a conference, you do provide a full reference. For example, a paper presentation is cited in the following format.

APA format Author name, Initials. (Year, Month DayDay). Paper title [Paper presentation]. Conference Name, City, State, Country. URL
Reference entry Jang, S. (2019, August 8–11). Deconstructing the opposition of natural/arbitrary in Coleridge’s theory of language [Paper presentation]. NASSR 2019: Romantic Elements, Chicago, IL, United States.
In-text citation (Jang, 2019)

A different format is used to cite information from the lecture slides themselves.

Recorded or transcribed speeches

When citing a speech or lecture that you accessed as a recording or transcript, the format follows that of the source type that contains the speech (e.g. book, website, newspaper).

For example, the following is a citation of an audio recording of a speech hosted on a website.

APA format Speaker last name, Initials. (Year, Month Day). Speech title [Speech audio recording]. Website Name. URL
Reference entry Obama, B. (2009, January 20). What is required: The price and promise of citizenship [Speech audio recording]. American Rhetoric. https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamainauguraladdress.htm
In-text citation (Obama, 7:15)

Citing a lecture in MLA Style

In an MLA Works Cited entry for an in-person lecture, list the title in quotation marks, with headline capitalization, and include the word “Lecture” (or a more specific descriptive term) at the end of the entry.

The in-text citation just lists the speaker’s last name.

MLA format Speaker last name, First name. “Lecture Title.” Course or Event Name, Day Month Year, Institution, Location. Lecture.
Works Cited entry Jones, David. “The Causes and Consequences of the Spanish Civil War.” 20th Century History, 28 Sept. 2011, Harvard University. Lecture.
In-text citation (Jones)

A different format is used to cite information from lecture slides.

Recorded or transcribed speeches

When a lecture or speech is recorded or transcribed within another source (e.g. a website, a book), you should follow the format for the relevant source type, adding a descriptive phrase at the end of the Works Cited entry to clarify what kind of source it is.

For example, the following is a citation of a speech in audio form from a website.

MLA format Speaker last name, First name. “Speech Title.” Website Name, Day Month Year, URL. Descriptive label.
Works Cited entry Obama, Barack. “What Is Required: The Price and Promise of Citizenship.” American Rhetoric, 20 Jan. 2009, www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobama/barackobamainauguraladdress.htm. Speech audio recording.
In-text citation (Obama 7:15)

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Citing a lecture in Chicago Style

In Chicago notes and bibliography style, you cite sources using footnotes and corresponding entries in the bibliography.

A bibliography entry for a lecture you viewed in person lists the title of the lecture and the event or institution that hosted it. It also includes a descriptive label (e.g. “Lecture”) to clarify the type of source.

Chicago format Speaker last name, First name. “Lecture Title.” Lecture, Institution Name or Event Name, Location, Month Day, Year.
Bibliography entry Jones, David. “The Causes and Consequences of the Spanish Civil War.” Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, September 28, 2011.
Footnote 1. David Jones, “The Causes and Consequences of the Spanish Civil War” (lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, September 28, 2011).

2. Jones, “Spanish Civil War.”

A more specific label can be used if you’re citing information specifically from the slides or lecture handout:

Chicago PowerPoint citation
Davis, William. “Antisemitism in 19th-Century Europe.” PowerPoint presentation, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, September 15, 2012.

Chicago also offers an alternative author-date citation style; examples of lecture citations in this style can be found here.

Recorded or transcribed speeches

When you’re citing a recorded or transcribed lecture (rather than one you saw in person), the format depends on the type of source that contains it (e.g. book, newspaper, website).

For example, the following citation refers to an audio recording of a speech, hosted on a website.

Chicago format Speaker last name, First name. “Speech Title.” Recorded at LocationMonth Day, Year. URL.
Bibliography entry King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream.” Recorded at Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963. https://archive.org/details/MLKDream?_ga=2.40689319.403758245.1621009795-1614779249.1621009795.
Footnote 1. Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream,” recorded at Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963, 1:15, https://archive.org/details/MLKDream?_ga=2.40689319.403758245.1621009795-1614779249.1621009795.

2. King, “I Have a Dream,” 4:40.

Frequently asked questions about citations

What are the main elements of a lecture citation?

The main elements included in a lecture citation across APA, MLA, and Chicago style are the name of the speaker, the lecture title, the date it took place, the course or event it was part of, and the institution it took place at.

For transcripts or recordings of lectures/speeches, other details like the URL, the name of the book or website, and the length of the recording may be included instead of information about the event and institution.

How do I cite a source with no page numbers?

When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation. You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)

In APA Style, you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.

For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.

Which citation style should I use?

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

1 comment

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 19, 2021 at 2:23 PM

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