In-text citation in APA, MLA and Chicago

In-text citations are used each time you quote, paraphrase or refer to a source in the body of your paper. The in-text citation directs the reader to the correct entry in the reference list or bibliography.

Every citation style has different rules for how to cite your sources. Your supervisor or university will usually inform you which citation style to use. If you are allowed to choose, it’s important to consistently follow one style.

Citation styleExample of an in-text citation
APA(Bryson, 2003, p. 2)
MLA(Bryson 2)
Chicago author-date(Bryson 2003, 2)

You can easily create in-text citations in APA and MLA using our free citation generators.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

Types of in-text citation

There are two methods of citing sources in your text:

  • Parenthetical citations give a short reference in parentheses directly in the text.
  • Numerical citations give only a number that corresponds to a footnote, endnote or reference list entry.
Example of a parenthetical citation:
“Cosmologists have long argued over whether the moment of creation was 10 billion years ago or twice that or something in between” (Bryson, 2003, p. 2).
Example of a numerical citation:
“Cosmologists have long argued over whether the moment of creation was 10 billion years ago or twice that or something in between.”1

Parenthetical vs. numerical citation style

Citation style typeCitation styles
Parenthetical citationAPA, MLA, Chicago author-date, Harvard, AAA, APSA
Numerical citationChicago notes and bibliography, Vancouver, OSCOLA, IEEE, AMA, ACS

As numerical citations follow many different formats, the following sections focus on parenthetical citations. We give examples from three of the most common citation styles: APA, MLA and Chicago author-date.

How to use in-text citations

To avoid plagiarism, it’s essential to include an in-text citation every time you use someone else’s ideas or information.

Parenthetical citations usually include the author’s name, and sometimes the year of publication. When directly quoting or paraphrasing a specific passage, the citation also includes the page number.

Place the in-text citation as close as possible to the relevant information, before any punctuation mark. The exception is when citing a block quote; in this case, the citation comes after the period.

If you already mentioned the author’s name in the sentence, you can leave it out of the parentheses:

Mandela describes the Xhosa as “a proud and patrilineal people with an expressive and euphonious language” (1994, p. 1).

Every citation in your text should correspond to an entry in the reference list or bibliography at the end of your paper. This gives full publication details of each source, allowing the reader to easily find it themselves.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing.

See editing example

How to cite a book or journal article

Citation styleRulesExample
APAList the author surname, year and page number. Include a comma after the author name and date, as well as a ‘p.’ before a single page number and a ‘pp.’ before multiple page numbers.(Mandela, 1994, p. 1)
MLAList the author name and page number(s). No commas are necessary.(Mandela 1)
ChicagoList the author name, year and page number. Include a comma between the date and page number.(Mandela 1994, 1)

How to cite a website

Citation styleRulesExample
APAList the author name or publisher, year and paragraph number. Include a comma after the author name and date.(Scribbr, 2018, para. 2)
MLAList the author name. If the author name is unknown, list the article title (or a shortened version of it).(“How to Cite”)
ChicagoList the author name or publisher and the year.(Scribbr 2018)

How to cite sources with multiple authors

Each citation style has different rules for how many author names should be included in an in-text citation. The Latin abbreviation “et al.” (meaning “and others”) is used to indicate that some author names have been left out.

In all citation styles, you should list the authors in the same order as they are listed in the source (not in alphabetical order).

Citing multiple authors in APA
RuleExample
If there are two authors, include an ampersand between the author names.(Blessinger & Bliss, 2016, p. 11)
If there are between three and five authors, list all authors in the first citation, then in subsequent citations, list the first author followed by “et al.”First citation:
(Nowlan, Gove, & Winkel, 2010, p. 139)

Second citation:
(Nowlan et al., 2010, p. 182)
If there are six or more authors, list the first author followed by “et al.”(Crane et al., 2010, p.1)
Citing multiple authors in MLA
RuleExample
If there are two authors, include the word “and” between the names.(Blessinger and Bliss 11)
If there are more than two authors, list the first author followed by “et al.”(Crane et al. 1)
Citing multiple authors in Chicago
RuleExample
If there are two or three authors, include “and” between the names.(Blessinger and Bliss 2016, 11)
If there are more than three authors, list the first author followed by “et al.”(Crane et al. 2010, 1)
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Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).

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