When to Use an Author Name in the Body of a Sentence and When to Keep It in the Parenthetical Citation
Monday, June 20, 2011 Citations
By Tim McIndoo, Dissertation Editor
Scholarship requires acknowledgement of all sources of text or ideas not one’s own. APA style calls this an in-text citation. It is done in two ways:
Gardner’s (year) theory of multiple intelligences...
The theory of multiple intelligences... (Gardner, year)
In the first example, the author’s name appears in the body of the sentence; in the second example, it appears in the parenthetical citation. Both are correct. But why choose one over the other?
Which is more important to the sentence or paragraph: the author of the idea or the idea itself? When you are comparing authors’ ideas—which would be common in a discussion of theories, for example—readers need to know which idea belongs to which author. Thus, the author’s name (or names or et al.) should appear in the body of the sentence—that is, in the foreground. But outside of this direct comparison—when the ideas are more important than who presented them—the author’s name should be kept in the citation, that is, in the background.
By keeping ideas in the foreground (and authors in the background), you improve clarity, continuity, and thus comprehension. The sources of ideas (author names) do not get overemphasis. Readers are not forced to keep reading authors’ names, which are secondary to ideas. Relegating authors’ names to parenthetical citations also benefits you as the writer: You don’t have to find artful ways of integrating names into the text.
To recap: All sources of ideas or text not your own must be cited. Broadly speaking, when the author’s name is as important as his or her idea, include the name in the sentence; when the idea is more important than the author’s name, keep the name in the parenthetical citation.*
*See also p. 172 of The Craft of Research (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 1995), a highly recommended guide.