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Citations: Personal Communications

Basic of Personal Communications

Personal communications include nonpublished communications like private letters, memos, electronic communications (e.g., emails), personal interviews, and telephone conversations. Essentially, what makes a personal communication distinct is that it does not link to a recoverable source that readers can locate on their own.  


When citing a personal communication in the text, APA requires writers to use the source's first initial and full last name:  

J. Snyder, T.B. Cho, or R. Goldetsky. 

Citations should appear in the capstone like this: 

  • M. Smith (personal communication, February 3, 2021) )—when the individual is discussed in the narrative (narrative citation) 

  • (M. Smith, personal communication, February 3, 2021) —when the citation is only presented in the parentheses (i.e., the author is not mentioned in the sentence; parenthetical citation) 

  • NOTE: there should be no corresponding reference in the Reference List as the source is not something that readers can locate. 

  • ADDITIONAL NOTE: Participant interviews in a doctoral capstone study, however, not considered a personal communication—these are data. Information or quotations from participants should not follow these guidelines for a personal communication citation, but should be presented more in line with the formatting of quotes from the literature. See this SMRTguide on Presenting Qualitative Data in the Capstone Study

Types of Communications (and From Whom) Appropriate to the Capstone Study

Types of personal communications that are generally cited in the capstone are: 

  • Email exchanges 

  • Telephone calls or Zoom (etc.) meetings 

Student writers commonly cite personal communications from: 

  • Organizational leaders or contacts who have provided information on the study’s context or problem—NOT as a participant in the study. 

  • Government leaders or representatives of news organizations or research firms who students may communicate with when establishing the problem. 

  • Experts in the field who may have provided expert insight or consultation on the problem or method.