In-Text Citations:
To Cite or Not to Cite? Part 4 of 5

In-Text Citations

Learning Outcome: By the end of the lesson, the student will be able to

Approximate Completion Time: 25 minutes.

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In-Text Citations

Including a full list of citations on a Reference page is important when writing a paper, but it is not enough. In this section you will learn how to include in-text citations within your paper. 

When to Cite

There are only two types of information that do not require a citation:

Everything else requires a citation. When in doubt, cite. 

Watch a brief video clip on the differences between paraphrasing and plagiarizing. 

Note: This video may take a moment to load.

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge includes facts that are well-known and not widely disputed. They are often historical.


Examples of well-known facts

Periodic Table of the Elements

  • The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
  • Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
  • Disney World is located south of Orlando, Florida.
  • Thanksgiving is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November in the United States.
  • The chemical symbol for carbon is C.


Periodic Table of the Elements

Figure 1. Image of the periodic table. Reprinted from Torrone, P. (2005, August 19). Periodictable [Image]. Retrieved from Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.


Experts do not always agree on what else is included in common knowledge.

Stolley and Brizee (2010) of the Purdue Online Writing Lab, a widely used and highly regarded source on citation, suggest, "Generally speaking, you can regard something as common knowledge if you find the same information undocumented in at least five credible sources ("Deciding If Something Is," para. 1)."

Many sources such as Kirszner and Mandell's (2011) Wadsworth Handbook include "familiar sayings and well-known quotations" and "information most readers probably know" (p. 223).

Keep in mind though that information your readers already know may be context-dependent, i.e. it may vary based on which class you are in, who the other students are, which discipline (English, Math, Biology, etc.) is involved, etc.

When in doubt, cite. It is better to have some unnecessary citations than to neglect needed ones.  

When to Cite Activity

Complete the following activity. Decide which of the following examples should be cited. 


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In-Text Citations

In-text citations give the reader a brief idea of the source of information used. In-text citations are sometimes called parenthetical citations because they appear in parenthesis in the body of the text in both the APA and MLA styles. Although more commonly used in papers, in-text citations are sometimes incorporated into

Check with your instructor to determine his or her preferences on including in-text citations in any of the above.


In-Text Citation Examples

In the APA format, an in-text citation includes

Example: "If government insures 30 million or more Americans, health spending will rise" (Samuelson, 2009, p. A21).


Conservative Activists

Figure 2. Photo of Conservative Activists Hold a Second 'House Call.' Reprinted from Talk Radio News Service. (2009, November 7). Conservative Activists Hold a Second 'House Call' [Photo]. Retrieved from

Used under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license. 

In-Text Citation Example for Web Sources

For electronic resources that have no page numbers, substitute a paragraph number IF the paragraphs are numbered. In the event the paragraphs are NOT numbered (most are not) look for a section name within the document. From within the section, locate and list the paragraph number from which the information came from.

Review this news article to see how this type of citation would work:

According to Kelland (2010), "Scientists have found a strong correlation between higher economic growth and lower mortality rates" (Shock Therapy section, para. 1).

In the event there are no page numbers, no paragraph numbers and no sections listed, simply enclose the author's last name and the publication year in parentheses. Your readers will have to use the Find Text feature in their browser to locate the passage you quoted.


Image of Molly Secours

Figure 3. Photo of Speaker Pelosi and Molly Secours.

Reprinted from Speaker Pelosi and Molly Secours [Photo]. (2009,July 22). Retrieved from:

Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

In-Text Citation Example for No Author Given

If a particular work has no author, use a shortened version of the title instead of the author's last name.

Example: "The Affordable Care Act expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health care professions." ("Health Disparities," 2010). 


In-Text Citation Activity

Connect to the following story from the Orlando Sentinel and decide how you would do an in-text citation for it:

Orlando Sentinel story


Now complete the following citation activity.


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Citing Figures

According to the Sixth Edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010), "figures enable authors to present a large amount of information efficiently" (p. 125). Figures should be used sparingly, and only when it is best to convey information using an image.

Figures include graphs, charts, maps, drawings and photographs.

If the figure you use

cite it within your paper and provide a full citation on your References page.

When including a figure, give credit to the original author in a caption located at the bottom of the source. Sources should be numbered consecutively throughout the paper, ie. Figure 1.


Here is a graph created from data taken from a study conducted by the University of Michigan. The graph is located on the government web site National Institute on Drug Abuse. Below the graph is a caption giving an explanation of the figure and the figure title (the title is the first sentence of the caption). Captions should be brief, descriptive and include citation information.

Marijuana or Cigarette Use

Figure 4. Graph of the percent of 12th grade students reporting marijuana or cigarette use in the past month from the years 1975 to 2011 from a study conducted by the University of Michigan. Adapted from "Topics in Brief: Marijuana," by National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. (2011). Percent of 12th Grade Students Reporting Marijuana or Cigarette Use in the Past Month, 1975 to 2011 [Graph]. Retrieved from Copyright 2011by the University of Michigan.


Notice that the full citation for the source comes after the "Adapted from" information. In this case, the full citation for this source would be:

National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health. (2011). Percent of 12th Grade Students Reporting Marijuana

or Cigarette Use in the Past Month, 1975 to 2011 [Graph]. Retrieved from


Any figures used in the body of the paper should be included in the References list as well.

Citing Graphs Activity

Connect to the following article from the Gallup Poll and look at the graph labeled, "American Adults, by Weight Category."


Gallup Poll article


Now complete the following activity.


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Why URLs are Not Enough

Including a URL in a citation can be helpful to your audience in locating a web resource (and it is required for an APA full citation), but by itself it is not enough for three reasons:

If you have included a full citation for web resources used, your audience has a good chance of finding them even if the URLs have changed. Simply typing the author and title into a search engine will probably be enough to find it.


Sources Used in this Module - Cited in APA Format



Gallup. (2010). American adults, by weight category: Weight category as determined by BMI [Graph]. Retrieved from


Kelland, K. (2010). Analysis: Health and austerity: When budget cuts cost lives. Retrieved from


Kirszner, L. G. & Mandell, S. R. (2011).The wadsworth handbook (9th ed.). Boston: Wadsworth.

Samuelson, R. (2010, July 13). A savings mirage on health care. Retrieved from


Stolley, K. & Brizee, A. (2010, April 21). Is it plagiarism yet? Retrieved from 

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2012). Health disparities and the affordable care act. Retrieved from


Weber, Amy S. & Demetrak, R. (Directors). (2006). Information literacy: The perils of online research. Retrieved from



Your instructor will provide the link to the online assessment. You must take the assessment to receive credit for completing this tutorial.