How to Cite an Article in an Essay? (APA and MLA)

Before we get to all the different cases that change the way to cite an article in your essay, we must clarify a couple of things first.

  1. There are more than two citation styles out there. But, we will cover only APA and MLA because these are the most common ones.
  2. This article covers in-text citations, so it won’t go over the references page and how you should organize your sources there.

Note: For references, you can try our free online tools that support many styles — Citation Generators.

Usually, your assignment sheet instructions say what style you must stick to. If it doesn’t, ask your tutor for help.

MLA In-Text Citations (Modern Language Association)

Indicating your citations in the essay’s body is meant to be as short and as readable as possible. It’s quite different from the references pages where you indicate tons of details about the source. Your in-text citation is a link to the works cited page at the end of your paper.

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CONTINUE

There are two ways of using a quote in an essay MLA. The in-text method requires only the page number of the source used in parentheses at the end of the quote. The parenthetical one requires you to include both the author’s last name and the page number.

Using a Direct Quote

The author’s words are left unchanged and enclosed within quotation marks. Examples:

Case 1

Use the author’s last name before the quote.

Smith states, “Citing an article in your essay correctly is fundamental if you want to avoid plagiarism” (26).

Case 2

Don’t use the author’s last name before the quote.

The report states, “There are two ways of in-text citation” (Smith 26).

Case 3

Use a lengthy excerpt (block quote) without quotation marks but with left indentation (half an inch). Moreover, note that you will have to place a period before the parentheses. A quote is regarded as long if it takes four or more lines in your essay.

Smith elaborates further:

All the citation rules might seem too complicated, especially if you haven’t dealt with them before. One of the reasons for that could be the fact that students neglect to buy a corresponding style manual or to consult with their tutor. (26)

Note: If you refer to a web source or an article with no pagination, don’t mention the page number at all.

Paraphrasing or summarizing

When paraphrasing the source, you don’t have to use quotation marks:

According to Smith, you must learn how to cite a source in your essay not to plagiarize (26).

Sometimes, you might choose to paraphrase individual quotes from multiple pages. In such a case, you can indicate the pages or a page range separated by a comma like this: (Smith 26, 28, 31-33).

My source has more than one author

Case 1: Two authors

Just use “and” to separate them. For instance:

Moisson and Zakher have found that “Having a 20-minute nap during the day improves information retention by 500%” (127).

“Napping three times a week lowers the risk of dying of heart disease by 37%” (Moisson and Zakher 127).

Case 2: More than two authors

Mention the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” (which means “and others”). For example:

“Daytime napping brings many advantages” (Moisson et al. 127).

The author is unknown

The author’s name might be unknown. If it’s the case, use the first several words from the article’s title but omit “A,” “An,” or “The” at the beginning. It can be written in quotes or italics, depending on how it’s written in your list of references. The number of words you pick to use depends on the title. You want as many as to make it clear for the reader what source the quote is from. For example:

(Astrophysics 221) or (“Global Warming” 310)

What if I have two authors with the same surname?

To avoid confusion, use the author’s initials or their full names (if the initials are also identical) like this:

Some researchers claim that North America’s global warming early signs were enough to start taking measures (H. Black 22), others refuse to even acknowledge global warming as a planet-scale issue (T. Black 35).

MLA citation examples with references

Take a look at some more examples of MLA in-text citations with their respective reference entries.

Newspaper article

In-text

On October 1, 2019, Hanoi (Vietnam) became the leader in the list of cities with the highest levels of air pollution. (Smith 3)

Works Cited page

3. Smith, Thomas. “Hanoi Wrapped in Clouds.” The Morning Sun [Houston, TX] 1 Oct. 2019, p. 7.

Scholarly article

In-text

Features of the child’s interaction with their relatives, the degree of relatives’ responsiveness to the signals received from the child, and the completeness of satisfying their needs in many aspects determine the nature of relations with people formed from the first years of life. (Spencer 5)

Works Cited page

5. Spencer, Laura. “Aggressive behavior in adolescents and the identity of the parents.” Psychological Science and Education, vol. 50, no. 5, 2018, p. 14.

Magazine article

In-text

To restore the movement of qi energy, the doctor acts on certain acupuncture points — areas where the meridians come closest to the surface of the body. (Turnbull 5)

Works Cited page

5. Turnbull, Katarina. “The Best Procedures for Your Vitality.” The Health, 19 May. 2018, p. 70.

Journal article

In-text

The construction of the Okayama castle complex was completed in 1615, and the castle served as a residence for local daimyo (feudal lords) throughout the entire Edo period (XVII-XIX century).  (Gilliam 2)

Works Cited page

1. Gilliam, Szymon. “Cities with Historic Gardens.” Big in Japan, 3 Apr. 2019, p. 24.

Research article

In-text

Research on social networks in higher education institutions usually focuses on one of the two main groups of participants — teachers or students. (Kent 8)

Works Cited page

8. Kent, Oscar. ” Social Networks of Students: Factors of Formation and Influence On Education.” Education Today, vol.11, no. 2, 2018, p.31.

APA In-Text Citations (American Psychological Association)

This style is the most commonly adopted one in the fields of health and social sciences. Remember to include all the articles you used in the references at the end of your essay.

Using a Direct Quote

If compared to MLA, APA style is a bit more complicated and requires the writer to specify more details. Apart from the author’s last name and the page number, you’d also need to include the year of publication.

Case 1

Smith states (2005), “Citing an article in your essay properly is essential to avoid plagiarism” (p. 26).

Case 2

The manual states, “There are two ways of in-text citation” (Smith, 2005, p. 26).

Case 3

In APA, a quote is recognized as long if it’s over 40 words. You don’t need to use quotation marks, and the indentation here is five spaces from the left margin. Example:

Smith (2005) elaborates on this issue:

All the citation rules might be very confusing, especially if you haven’t dealt with them before. One of the reasons for that could be the fact that students neglect to buy a corresponding style manual or to consult with their tutor. (p. 26)

Paraphrasing or summarizing

There are two ways you can format paraphrasing:

According to Smith (2005), you must be aware of citation rules to avoid plagiarism in your essay.

You must learn how to cite properly in your paper to avoid plagiarism-related issues (Smith, 2005, p. 26).

My source has more than one author

Case 1: Two authors

Use “and” to separate them in text and use an ampersand (&) to separate them in parentheses. For instance:

The result of research by Crompton and Gibson (2009) suggests that…
(Crompton & Gibson, 2009, p. 55).

Case 2: 3–5 authors

Mention all authors the first time you cite them. For all other instances, write only the last name of the first author and add “et al.”

(Foster, Peattie, Rajagopalan, Frankfeldt, 2001)
(Foster et al., 2001)

Case 3: 6+ authors

Use the first author’s name with “et al.” after it.

Hanks et al. (2008) suggest that…
(Hanks et al., 2008, p. 43)

The author is unknown

If the author’s name is unknown, use the first word or words of the source’s title. Titles of reports and books must be written in italics or underlined, whereas article titles and chapters should be put inside quotation marks.

Similar results were received after all students learned more about citing sources in essays (“Citation Guide,” 2016).

APA citation examples with references

Check more examples of in-text citations in APA style with their corresponding references.

Newspaper article

In-text

Earlier, journalists reported on the British Prime Minister’s plan to establish centers for customs clearance of goods across the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and to leave the duty-free regime for food and agricultural products. (Morton, 2019)

References

Morton, M. (2019, October 11). New Brexit Agreement Proposals. The Day.

Scholarly article

In-text

This position is quite common in the context of human study; it constitutes the ideology of most modern psychological assistance services and underlies the technology and many methods of psychotherapeutic and psychocorrectional work. (Watt, 2019)

References

Watt, A. (2019). Three Paradigms in Psychology – Three Strategies for Psychological Impact. The Art of Psychology, 9(7), 24.

Magazine article

In-text

16-year-old Greta insists that, according to the 2015 Paris Agreement, the governments of the 195 countries that have signed this document are obliged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere immediately. (Iles, 2019)

References

Iles, V. (2019, September 30). Greta Tunberg’s Stolen Childhood. Generation Today, 127(234), 17. https://doi.org/10.1416/generation.aay3410

Journal article

In-text

The most accepted ways in which graduates respond to the conflicts are “Competition” (27%) and “Cooperation” (24%). (Reide, 2019)

References

Reide, B. (2019). Psychological Features of Communication and Response in Conflict Situations In The Professional Education System. Interscience, 12(5), 36.

Research article

In-text

It is surprising that 78% of respondents neglect sleep and stay up late on the Internet, forget about eating, personal hygiene, household duties, study, etc. (Benjamin, 2018)

References

Benjamin, P. (2018). Internet Addiction in Teenagers. Cyber Community, 7(6), 41. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm00002415

You will find a lot more rules related to the citation style you’re using because there are many types of sources and exceptions to those sources. So, by acquiring a fresh style manual, you’ll be on the safe side when it comes to citing and paraphrasing in your essay.

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The list of references

  1. Research and Citation — The Purdue University Online Writing Lab
  2. Citation Guide (MLA and APA) — Lane Community College
  3. MLA Citation Guide (8th Edition): In-Text Citation — Columbia College

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