Setting Up and Punctuating In-Text Citations

Setting Up In-Text Citations

Set-Up, Background, Context

There are a few common methods for setting up citations and introducing authors whose work you are citing.

There are many correct ways to do this, but here are some tips to get you started. 

  1. When citing from a research source, use the author’s full name the first time you refer to him or her.
  2. Also, it is often helpful to briefly mention the author’s profession or expertise to clarify the reason that you are citing that person. You can also mention the title of the author’s work as a way to indicate your reason for citing that person.

Examples:

Diana George, a media critic and social policy expert, argues that images of poverty in America are inaccurate in ways that deepen the poverty problem and keep people who need help from seeking it out (3).

Writer John Short summarizes the issue well, saying, “Most of us, including people living in poverty, don’t know what ‘being poor’ looks like.”

The first time you mention an author, use the author’s first and last name. On subsequent mentions of the same author, just use the last name.


Punctuating In-Text Citations

Where does the period go?

In most situations for American English, we will place the punctuation inside the quotation marks.

This is true for punctuation at the end of a quotation and for punctuation around article titles.

Example:

In “The Singer Solution to Poverty,” Peter Singer proposes a simple solution to world poverty, arguing that “Whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away.”


When we follow a quotation with parenthetical information such as a page number, we will place the end punctuation after the parenthesis:

In “The Singer Solution to Poverty,” Peter Singer proposes a simple solution to world poverty, arguing that “Whatever money you’re spending on luxuries, not necessities, should be given away” (908).


Again, when including parenthetical information at the end of a citation, the punctuation will appear after the parenthesis.

Using THAT to set off a quotation

When setting off a quotation with the word THAT, we will not use a comma after THAT:

As a result of the global pandemic, Robinson Meyer of The Atlantic reports that “American greenhouse-gas pollution fell 10.3 percent, a staggering decline and the largest year-over-year drop since World War II.”


Deciding What to Include

How much and what kind of information is needed for a complete in-text citation?

Here is the fundamental rule: When creating in-text citations, include enough information to guide your reader to the correct entry in the Works Cited page.

Another rule: Always include page numbers in a citation if the original source actually has page numbers. However, if the original source does not have page numbers, you don’t need to include page numbers for MLA.

The big picture is covered by the first rule here. If you know that a reader can look at a sentence that is quoting from a source and match that material to a specific entry in the Works Cited section, then you have included enough information.

That means we are left with some options as to where to include the necessary information in our citation. We also have some flexibility as to what information we include.


Parenthesis Are Sometimes Optional

Citations do not have to end with parenthetical information

You can include the necessary information in the body of the sentence, which means, in the signal phrase. 

Example:

Clarisse Starling, the FBI’s chief spokesperson, explained that “Serial killers do tend to really love cereal.” 


Leaving Out the Author’s Name

For clarity, you will often include the author’s name within the in-text citation. Usually, this is preferred. However, there are times when you will want to leave the author’s name out of your in-text citation.

You can use other information to indicate which source is being referenced from the Works Cited page.

  • Article Title
  • Publication Title

Example:

A chief FBI spokesperson explained that “Serial killers do tend to really love cereal” (“Broken Minds”).   

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