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Accessing Resources: Where Do I Start?: In-text Citations

This guide will teach students how to access information using various library resources and how to insert the information into their research papers.

General Rules


The following rules apply generally to referring to works within your paper (refer to the other tabs for how to format your Works Cited page).
  • Capitalize proper nouns in the paper itself
  • Use italics for the titles of long works like Book or Journal titles
  • Use "quotation marks" for the titles of shorter works such as "article" and "single web page" titles.
  • Page numbers are required for quotations and recommended (but not required) for paraphrases


Quotations always require the page number of the source.  For non-paginated material, include the paragraph number when possible (Robinson, 1999, para. 7), or the abbreviation n.p. when not (Robinson, 1999, n.p.)

Short quotes (under 40 words): Short quotes should be placed within quotation marks in the body of your text.

  • Robinson (1999) concluded that "students preferred print formats during evening study sessions" (p. 78).
  • The research concluded that "students preferred print formats during evening study sessions" (Robinson, 1999, p.78).

Long quotes (over 40 words): Are not placed in quotation marks.  Rather, they are set aside in block text using a five-space margin for every line.

Paraphrasing or summarizing: Do not require page numbers, but they are encouraged.


When more than one author is listed for a source inside a parenthetical reference: Use an & 
  • Example: According to a recent survey, Muskingum students prefer books to e-books (Robinson & McLaughlin, 2009).
When more than one author is listed for a source in the text of your paper: Use the word "and"
  • Example: Robinson and McLaughlin's (2009) survey suggested that students prefer books to e-books.
When a source has 3-5 authors: Cite every name first.  Subsequent citations may use "et al."
  • Example, 1st citation: (Ellenburger, McLaughlin, Bronkar, & Adamich, 2010)
  • Example, later citations: (Ellenburger, et al., 2010)
When a source has 6 or more authors, you may always use "et al."
When using more than one source in a single citation, separate the sources with a semicolon:
  • (Bronkar, 2006; Robinson, 2009)
When two or more authors share the same last name, use their initials to prevent confusion:
  • (N. Robinson & K. Robinson, 2008)
When using multiple works from the same author published in the same year, label your sources using a lowercase letter after the publication year.  Use the same label scheme in your works cited page:
  • (Ellenburger, 2007a)
  • (Ellenburger, 2007b)

Unknown or Organizations as Authors
When an author is unknown, cite a useful portion of the title (usually the first word or two).  Use italics or quotation marks depending on the length of the item:
  • ("Vegetarian Chili," 2006)
When an organization is an author, spell the organization's name the first time and provide an acronym, if desired. Thereafter, you may use the acronym in your citation.
  • Example, 1st citation: (American Library Association [ALA], 2007)
  • Example, later citations: (ALA, 2007)
Electronic Sources
When citing electronic sources, follow all the above rules as closely as possible.  In addition:
  • Sources with no identifiable publication date use the abbreviation "n.d." (Bronkar, n.d.)
  • When quoting a source with no page numbers, try to help the reader by including paragraph number (Bronkar, n.d., para. 7)