APA How-To: Cite A Single Source Throughout A Single Paragraph
This blog post presents guidelines for citing the same source multiple times throughout one paragraph, specifically when you do not cite any other source in the paragraph. We have other posts devoted to this topic (like this helpful post written by Amber), but this is a complex rule. When we admit this, academic writers start asking questions about APA style and its requirements for citation placement in this scenario, such as:
Is it really necessary for me to cite this source every time I mention it in this paragraph?
In answering this question, first consider: APA style strives for clarity. When citing information from sources, a method for creating clarity is to cite your source in every sentence that contains outside information. To master the balancing act of creating clarity and avoiding citation redundancy, incorporate sentence variety in your text. You can create sentence variety by utilizing all the ways APA style suggests you to refer to a source: by providing signal phrases in your text, by paraphrasing something said in your source, and by including a direct quote from your source.
The sample paragraph below is an example of what not to do when citing one source multiple times throughout one paragraph. The paragraph features a fictional author, Townsend, who published a fictional case study about cats. In the below paragraph, the ideas in each sentence are paraphrased and so require parenthetical citations.
1. A recent case study revealed that cats are often moody (Townsend, 2017). 2. As a result, cats can sometimes make people question their choice to adopt (Townsend, 2017). 3. However, all cats need in order to be enjoyable pets is positive attention from their owners (Townsend, 2017). 4. The researcher went so far as to claim that cats may soon take the place as man’s best friend, dogs (Townsend, 2017). 5. While these claims may be considered bold by some, the study actually promoted cat adoptions at the humane society featured in the study (Townsend, 2017).
As an academic writer, I did not incorporate strategic sentence structure in the paragraph above. As a result, I had to include a parenthetical citation after every sentence, which is distracting for the reader and creates redundancy.
The next paragraph is an example of what to do to effectively create variety in your sentences using different source identification strategies. Use this as a guide for citing one source multiples times throughout a paragraph.
1. In a case study of families who had recently adopted cats from humane societies in a small town in Minnesota, researcher Townsend (2017) discovered that cats are often moody. 2. As a result, cats can sometimes make people question their choice to adopt (Townsend, 2017). 3. However, the researcher claimed that “while cats can be moody, their temperament is often alleviated by playtime, treats, and snuggles” (p. 29). 4. The researcher went so far as to claim that cats may soon take the place as man’s best friend, dogs. 5. While these claims may be considered bold by some, Townsend’s findings promoted cat adoption at the humane society featured in their study.
Lessons to take away from this paragraph include:
- The first time you cite a source in your paragraph, always provide a citation. I do this in sentence 1 in this paragraph. This sentence also contains a signal phrase. A signal phrase occurs when you mention an article in your text.
- In clause two of sentence 1 of this paragraph, I referred to Townsend as “researcher Townsend.” I used this language as an opportunity to refer to Townsend as “the researcher” in sentences 3 and 4. This makes it so I did not have to begin one sentence with “Townsend claimed,” followed later by sentences with structure beginning with “Townsend said” or “Townsend concluded.” Beginning too many sentences with this sentence structure can create repetition and redundancy. You can consider using similar language in your own writing by referring to the writers of your source as “the organization,” “the research team,” or something similar.
- Sentence 2 in this paragraph presents an instance that must be cited because I chose to paraphrase Townsend’s ideas. Paraphrasing is unique because your readers will not know that the ideas you are presenting are not yours unless you provide a signal phrase in your sentence, such as “the researcher.” I do not refer to “the researcher” in sentence 2, so the reader will not know that these ideas are not my own without the citation.
- In sentence 3 of this paragraph, I provide a direct quote from Townsend’s article. In a signal phrase in the sentence, I refer to “the researcher,” which the reader now knows to be Townsend. This makes it so that I do not need to include the name Townsend again, or the year of publication. However, you will always need to include a page number or paragraph number when you include a direct quote in your text.
- In sentence 4, I paraphrase another idea presented by Townsend. However, I do not need to provide a citation in this sentence because I make a signal phrase to “the researcher.”
- In sentence 5, I refer to Townsend’s findings and results from their study. However, the readers were equipped with the year of publication of Townsend’s article earlier on in sentence 1, and there is no need to provide it again here.
Nicole Townsend is a writing instructor in the Walden University Writing Center. She has worked in writing centers for ten years, with an interest in individualizing support for diverse student populations. While Nicole also enjoys editorial work and teaching English as an adjunct professor, her passion is for the foundation of collaboration embedded in writing center best practices.
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