Learn How to Cite Sources in an Essay Using Various Formats

Home » Learn How to Cite Sources in an Essay Using Various Formats

Generally, in an academic paper or essay, to prove the thesis statement, you will have to provide numerous supporting evidence or facts from various credible sources relevant to the topic. But when you take data from other sources, it is essential to cite the original source; otherwise, it will lead to plagiarism issues. Basically, in an essay, citations can be done in different ways. If you have no idea what essay citations are or in case, you are unaware of how to cite sources in an essay, then keep on reading. Here, with examples, we have explained how to cite sources in an academic essay using different referencing styles or formats such as APA and MLA. Explore this blog and update your knowledge of essay referencing methods.

What Do Citations in an Essay Mean?

A citation in an essay is a reference to the informational source you have utilized to research the essay. You can write citations either in the form of reference list citations (also known as end-of-paper citations) or in-text citations.

In-text citations are references to a longer notation that are added inside the body of your academic paper or essay. But, on the other hand, the reference list citations include all the relevant details about the information source and are included at the conclusion of the paper or essay.

Why Citations are Necessary for Academic Essay Writing?

How to Cite Sources

The main purpose of citations is to prevent plagiarism by accurately recognizing external sources and authors of materials utilized in your work. Here, let us look at a few more major reasons why citations are important for academic writing.

  1. They assist readers in learning more about your thoughts and their origins.
  2. Citations demonstrate the extent of your study.
  3. Citations shield you from being blamed for the errors of others. The ideas you share could be an improvement of the original ideas developed by the writers in your sources.
  4. Citing sources boosts your work since you are providing external backing for your views.

It is essential to cite sources in essays if you explicitly paraphrase, quote, or summarize an idea that belongs to someone else.

Therefore, it is important to learn and understand how to cite sources in your essay properly.

Know How to Include Citations in an Essay

Essay citations will usually provide the basic information necessary for the readers to correctly spot the sources and revisit them. Some essential details that you need to include while citing the sources in an essay are

  • The title of the work
  • Author information
  • Publishing date of the work
  • The name and location of the publishing firm
  • Page numbers of the information that you have used

It is critical to understand How to Make an Essay Longer. If you don’t know how to accomplish this, you might not be able to engage your audience with facts and data.

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Where to Add Citations in an Essay?

You can place citation either as

  • In-text (or)
  • At the end of a reference list

In-Text Citations

In-text citations are short types of references that you can include in the text’s body. These citations provide sufficient information to specifically recognize the source in your reference list. Since in-text citations are necessary before you can include a reference list, it is challenging to discover an essay without them.

Before you learn how to cite something in an essay, first have a strong knowledge of in-text citations.

Typical in-text citations include:

  • The last name of the author (s)
  • Publication year

All citations must follow these rules, whether they are referring to a report, journal article, or video.

Learn How to Cite Sources in an Essay using In-Text Citation

Every time you paraphrase or quote a source in your academic work, you must include an in-text citation. Therefore, understanding how to paraphrase or quote a source in an essay is crucial.


Quoting signifies that you have utilized the author’s words directly in your source. When quoting text, you should use opening and closing quotation marks to begin and end the quotations.

Quotes should always be accompanied by a signal phrase. In most circumstances, you should additionally include the page number from where you obtained the quote.

Here is an example in APA format:

Evolution occurs gradually and “can only act by very short and slow steps” (Darwin, 1859, p. 510).

To indicate that some of the original text has been omitted before the direct quotation, place an ellipsis (…) before it.


When you are paraphrasing, you must include in-text citations. Providing information from a source using your own words is referred to as paraphrasing. In this scenario, providing an in-text citation will help you ignore the perception that you’re getting credit for someone else’s work or ideas.

Particularly, when paraphrasing, incorporate the page number(s) with your in-text citations, if feasible.

Here is an example:

Over a long length of time, the evolutionary process involves a number of small, gradual changes (Darwin, 1859, p. 510).

Various Forms of In-Text Citations

There are several ways to write in-text citations. The most typical ones are parenthetical citations and note citations.

Parenthetical Citations

The usual structure for parenthetical in-text citations is (author, source information). The specific information required in the brackets varies depending on the citation style.

When utilizing this format, brackets are typically required in the citation. Note that, citations that are information-prominent are also referred to as parenthetical citations. They are employed to draw attention to the text or data being quoted.

Parenthetical citations must be included in the sentence’s punctuation and should come just after the content is cited.

Note Citations

With in-text note citations, you should include the source’s citation in a footnote or endnote. Sometimes it’s necessary to provide footnotes (notes at the bottom of the page). However, endnotes have taken over as the most common way to cite notes.

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Know How Each Referencing Style Uses Various In-Text Citation Systems

Basically, the referencing or citation styles are of different types such as APA, MLA, Chicago, ASA, Turabian, and so on. Here, let us see how some common citation styles such as APA and MLA use various kinds of in-text citation systems.


The MLA citation format is mostly utilized in the humanities. It employs the (Author Last Name Page Number) style of parenthetical in-text citation.

Add the reference after the final quotation mark, if it is quoted directly and but before the period at the conclusion of the phrase.

Here is an example:

(Snow 21)

General MLA Citation Style Rules of Parenthetical Citations

The following are some standard rules that MLA citation style uses while dealing with parenthetical citations.

  1. If there are two quotations from distinct sources, the parenthetical reference linked with each should be put as near to the citation as feasible without interfering with the sentence flow.
  2. If a paragraph contains many quotations from a single source, just one parenthetical citation should be used at the conclusion of the sentence. Page numbers should be supplied for each citation, separated by a comma, and organized in the order the quotations appear in the paragraph. Example: (Beatrice 12, 19). Here, the quote from page 12 of the source occurred before page 19 in your text’s paragraph.
  3. If the author is referenced more than once on the Work referenced page, use the general style (Author Last, “Title Fragment” Page Number) or (Author Last, Title Fragment Page Number). In the parenthetical reference, you should use the same title as on the Works Cited page. As a result, if it is highlighted on that page, it should likewise be highlighted in the parenthetical citation. Example: (20, Beatrice, “Last Ship”) or (20, Beatrice, Last Ship).
  4. For MLA parenthetical in-text citations, adopt the following structure for works with more than one author.

Two authors- (Kim and John 42)

Three authors- (Jane, Brian, and Helen 36)

More than 3 authors- (Michael, et al. 132)

  1. If there is no author, you can connect the usage of the source and the citation of the source on the Works Cited Page using a title fragment. This often has the form (“Title Fragment” Page Number) or (Title Fragment Page Number).


In education, psychology, and social sciences, you can use the APA citation style. It employs in-text parenthetical citations in the style (Author’s Last Name, Year of Publication):

Here is an example:

(Brown, 1998).

APA Style Narrative Citation

If you choose not to make use of parenthetical in-text citations in APA style, then instead, you can use the author and publication date of the work you intend to cite in the body of your writing. You can accomplish this in two ways as per the examples shared below.

  • Patrick (2009) found physiological similarities between mammals.
  • In 2009, Patrick found physiological similarities between mammals.

Since the narrative citation focuses more on the author of the text from which you obtained your information, this kind of in-text citation is also known as author-prominent citation.

Narrative citations provide diversity to your writing and make an oral presentation appear more genuine. However, it also needs greater expertise to utilize.

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APA Style Parenthetic Citation

Basically, APA-style parenthetic citation does not need page numbers and chapters. However, we recommend using them so that the reader can find the information in the source text more easily.

After the publication year, you can include page numbers and citations as per the example presented below.

(Mathew, 1988, p. 244) or Mathew (1988, chap. 5).

General APA Citation Style Rules of Parenthetical Citations or Narrative Citations

The following are some standard rules that APA citation style uses while dealing with parenthetical and narrative citations.

  1. If the work you’re mentioning has one or two authors, then you can either use the word “and” in a narrative citation or an ampersand in parenthetical citations. All in-text citations must consistently include the names of all authors.


 Parenthetical citation:  (Joe & Anna, 1996)

Narrative citation:  Joe and Anna (1996)

  1. If your source contains three or more authors, then just specify the first author’s family name in the first mention of the citation, followed by “et al.” Examples


 First citation:  Williamson, Michael, Jane (1998)

Subsequent citation:  Williamson et al. (1998)

  1. Use the full name of the author in the first mention of the citation, followed by a recognizable abbreviation if the author is a group, firm, or organization.


 First citation: (Department of Horticulture, 2004)

Subsequent citation:  (DOH, 2004)

  1. If the source material doesn’t have an author, omit the last name of the author and instead use the first two words of the title. Note that, you should format and punctuate the title fragment in the same way as the title on the References page.


According to a recent edition of Academia for the Masses (2002)…

We may observe in “Bridging the Wealth Gap” (2019)…

Reference List Citations

A reference list is a list of all the sources cited in your writing. The reference list is usually presented at the end of the essay. It is added to help the reader of an essay or piece of academic writing locate the text’s sources.

A reference list also acknowledges the writers you may have consulted for suggestions.

Depending on the citation style, there are several ways to construct reference list citations.

In general, all styles need the reference list to be included at the end of the written essay or paper. Every source cited in your article or essay must also be included in the references list. Each entry in your reference list, on the other hand, must be referenced in the document.

Include your references on a separate page from the remainder of your academic work.


The reference list is labeled as “Works-Cited List” in MLA8 citation format. It includes the author’s name, source title, publication date, and additional information that varies based on the kind of source.

General Rules

The following are the general guidelines for all Works-Cited Lists

  1. It must start on a new page at the end of the paper.
  2. If you don’t know who the author is, then alphabetically organize the list by the first author’s name or title. When alphabetizing, the articles “a,” “an,” and “the” should be disregarded.
  3. For each entry, you need to add a double space.
  4. The second and succeeding lines must be half an inch indented from the margin.
  5. If there are several works by the same author, the complete name must be included in the initial citation. However, you should change the author’s name to “—” in subsequent references.


Mitchell, Michael B. A Guide to City Travel. 2nd ed, East Bay Publisher, 2019.


When drafting a reference list in APA style, you must pay particular attention to grammar, italics, indentation, and capitalization.

Other specifications, such as line spacing, differ. For the most up-to-date information, contact your professor or consult your assignment guide.

Furthermore, most sources adhere to a simple guideline. Academic journal sources, on the other hand, bear a specific weight and are subject to unique criteria.

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Know How to Format the Reference List

Label the page as “References” in bold and place it at the top center. The title should not contain any underlines or quotation marks.

The text, like the rest of the essay, should be double-spaced.

General Rules

The following are some basic rules of reference list citations in APA.

  1. You should indent all lines after the first line of each entry one and a half inches from the left margin.
  2. You should reverse the names of all writers. The last names should thus appear first.
  3. For the first and middle names of the writers, you should use initials. For instance, you should use “Parker M. S.” to refer to Mary Smith Parker, the author.
  4. Initial the first and middle names of all writers in a certain work, up to and including 20 authors. Put a comma between each author’s initials and the one after it in the list. Before the name of the last author, use an ampersand (&). The 19th author’s name should be followed by an ellipsis if there are more than 20 authors. Moreover, you can add the last author’s name without an ampersand.
  5. For each source, you should list the references in alphabetical order by the first author’s last name.
  6. If there are several sources authored by the same author or writers listed in the same sequence, list them chronologically, beginning with the earliest.
  7. Only capitalize the initial letter of the first word in the title and subtitle, the first word that follows a dash or colon in the title, and proper nouns when referencing books, chapters, articles, reports, websites, or other sources. But note that, there are certain guidelines for scholarly journal titles.
  8. Longer works’ titles should be in italics. These might include, among other things, edited collections, novels, and newspaper titles.
  9. Do not italicize, instead surround the title in quotations, or underline shorter works like articles in edited collections or chapters in a book.


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Publication manual of the American Labor Foundation (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Branson, R., & Emily, L. C. (2001). Flight Simulation Instruction and Airline Safety Tutoring. Boston, Massachusetts: International School of Flight.


Hopefully, by now, you will have gained a good knowledge of how to cite sources in an essay using MLA and APA. In case, you are still unsure how to cite sources properly or if you need an expert to help you with creating a reference page as per the citation format suggested by your university or professor, call us immediately. We have numerous well-experienced essay helpers on our platform to offer citation help online at a nominal price. Especially, in the way you want our trained essay writers will draft and deliver you a perfect reference page with proper citations.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How do you cite a source with no author?

If your source does not have an author, use the title of the work or the first word or two of the title in the parentheses of your in-text citation.

2.  What does et al. mean in a citation?

Et al. is a Latin phrase that means “and others”. In general, using et al. helps to reduce the list of author names in in-text citations and make repeating references easier and shorter.

3. How should you cite different sources created by the same author?

In MLA, you should cite many sources by the same author by including only the author’s name in the first entry. Next, replace the name with three hyphens in subsequent entries. In APA, add a lowercase letter to the publication year and arrange them alphabetically if the sources were published in

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