Skip to Main Content
OASIS Writing Skills

Why We Need Citations

Title: Citations are breadcrumbs for our reader.

Audio: You’ve already learned what citations help communicate to readers and how they help writers. Practically, though, citations also act as breadcrumbs or clues to the reader about how to find the original source. Readers may be interested in ideas you mention or want to check statistics you include in your writing, so citations help them do this. A citation includes the author and publication year of a source, which is enough information for the reader to find that source in your references list. In the references list the reader can then find the full publication information for the source, which then allows the reader to find the original source and its full text.


Title: From Reference Entry to Citation

Audio: Creating citations can be overwhelming sometimes if you haven’t created the reference entry first. If you don’t have a reference entry for a source, you have to sift through all of the information in a source to find the right information to include in the citation. Once you have created the reference entry, though, creating the citation is easy because writers use the same information from the reference entry for the citation: the author, publication year, and sometimes the page number. This information is easy to identify and put into a citation from the reference entry.


Title: What do you think?

Audio: The writer needs to add more citations to this paragraph because it includes specific information from a source. In particular, we can see that these sentences with statistics certainly need a citation. Otherwise, a reader may not know where this information came from or if the writer is using sources to inform these ideas.


Click below to see one possible revision to this paragraph that includes the appropriate amount of citations. Click “Continue” when you’re ready to move forward.

Citing in Summaries

Title: Citation Frequency

Audio: APA asks writers to cite sources when they use source information. This often means you are citing different sources throughout a paragraph as you incorporate it into a paragraph. Citing this often helps establish that your ideas are evidence-based, distinguishing your own ideas and analysis from evidence from your sources. Additionally, citing like this helps the reader understand which information is coming from which source in your paragraph.


Title: Summarizing: Provide an Overview

Audio: Sometimes, however, students are unsure about how to cite when they are summarizing a source. A summary is when a writer gives the reader an overview of an entire source, often in 1-3 paragraphs. In these paragraphs, the writer focuses on just one source.

Click below to learn the three characteristics of a summary.


Title: Possible Pitfalls of Citing Summaries

Audio: Even when students summarize one source, they need to include citations. Otherwise, the reader might not realize you are writing a summary or know which source you are summarizing. However, citing sources in a summary can be a little tricky; it can result in two common pitfalls if students don’t strike the right balance: a repetitive paragraph or an unclear paragraph.

Click each type of paragraph to see an example.


Title: Writing Summaries: Clarity and Avoiding Redundancy

Audio: Repetitive or unclear paragraphs aren’t inevitable when citing summaries, however. There are multiple approaches students can use to avoid these pitfalls. Explore each approach, where you’ll see an example paragraph. You’ll also learn how the approach affects the overall flow and focus of the paragraph and its ultimate result for your reader.


Title: Vary Citation Format

Audio: One way to include citations in a summary is to vary your citation format. This means using a combination of narrative citations and parenthetical citations. Review the summary paragraph and how the author varied her citations. If you’re not sure of the difference between narrative and parenthetical citations, review these terms below.


Title: Vary Citation Format

Audio: Varying your citation format affects your summary paragraph’s focus and flow for a specific result for your reader. Click each characteristic of this approach to learn more.


Title: Citations + Signal Phrasing

Audio: One way to include citations in a summary is to combine citations with signal phrasing. The citations establish the source of the summary, while signal phrases help tell the reader that the ideas in the rest of the paragraph continue to be from the same source. Signal phrases include phrases like “the authors,” “the researchers,” or even simply “they.”

Learn more about the citations and signal phrases you can use in this approach by clicking the terms below.


Title: Citations + Signal Phrasing

Audio: Using a combination of citations and signal phrases affects your summary paragraph’s focus and flow for a specific result for your reader. Click each characteristic of this approach to learn more.


Title: Narrative Citations

Audio: Another way to include citations in a summary is to use just narrative citations. Using narrative citations throughout the paragraph means mentioning the authors’ names as part of the grammatical structure of each sentence.

This method is not preferred. Continue the tutorial to learn why.


Title: Narrative Citations

Audio: Using just narrative citations affects your summary paragraph’s focus and flow for a specific result for your reader—this result is why this approach isn’t preferred. Click each characteristic of this approach to learn more.


Title: When Would You Use Each Approach?

Audio: You’ve explored three approaches to citing in summary paragraphs, each with slightly different results. These different results mean that you’d use different approaches in different contexts. Now click each approach to learn in what situation we recommend students use that approach.