What's the difference between an in-text citation and a reference?
Last Updated: Mar 23, 2023 Views: 478

An in-text citation (sometimes called a parenthetical reference) is a brief reference (often just an author's last name and a date or page number) made within the body of your essay that helps identify an idea's original source. These references help to support your work with relevant research and give credit to original authors.

In-text citations often come at the end of a sentence and must have a matching reference at the end of the paper. What goes into your in-text citation depends on which citation style you're using.

Here are two examples of an in-text citation in APA style.

APA includes a page number within the in-text citation when quoting.

(Watson, 2012)

(Watson, 2012, p. 73) 

A reference should provide complete information about a source and where it can be found.

All references must have at least one paired in-text citation and are added at the end of your paper following a specific format.

Here's a reference for the same in-text citation above in APA style:

Watson, J. (2012). Human caring science: A theory of nursing (2nd ed.). 

Jones & Bartlett Learning. 

Should I use APA or MLA?

You will likely be following either APA guidelines or MLA guidelines as identified by your instructor. If you're not sure which style your instructor assigned, check your assignment handout or your course outline.

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