Citations and Style: APA Documentation With a Purpose
Most Walden proposals (the first three parts of a capstone study) cover three topics: overview of the study, literature review, and methodology. Because many of the sentences in those chapters present facts or ideas that do not belong to the writer, citations are needed, whether parenthetical or in-text.
Choosing between parenthetical and in-text citations
It is important to understand the difference between a parenthetical citation—where the author(s) and year appear between parentheses, often at the end of a sentence—and an in-text citation—where the author(s) appears in the narrative, often toward the start of a sentence. The difference is one of relative importance. For example, a parenthetical citation is generally used because the authors’ ideas are more important than the authors themselves. By keeping the ideas in the foreground and the authors in the background, the argument is easier to follow and the text is easier to read.
On the other hand, an in-text citation is often used because the authors are roughly as important as their ideas, for example, in a discussion of competing theories. (In-text citations have one other application that is unrelated to importance: They are used to start out a series of sentences that are based on a single source. With the author in the narrative, another citation is not needed until after a new source is used within the same paragraph.)
Purposefully using parenthetical and in-text citations
Although parenthetical and in-text citations are of equal validity, parenthetical citations are virtually hidden in a sentence. Because a given sentence typically carries one idea, and because parenthetical citations appear right after that idea, such citations often appear at the end of a sentence, cloaked in parentheses, and thus easily ignored as readers leap to the next sentence.
In-text citations, on the other hand, are a prominent part of a sentence by design. Often enough, they are the subject. But this means they can easily imbalance a sentence. Here are some words of guidance for developing your own citation style:
1. Using author names in the narrative can overemphasize them when they are used as the subject of a sentence, but the problem is compounded when the names are used at the start of a paragraph: That is where readers need a topic sentence. Readers have still more trouble if a series of paragraphs starts with an in-text citation—common in the literature review. While the author names are important, they should not overshadow the import of their claims.
2. As the subject of a sentence, an in-text citation can retard flow—of both sentence and paragraph—especially if the citation includes multiple authors. If possible, the sentence should be rewritten to move the citation out of the subject position. Instead of “Anders, Berwin, and Cretel stated that,” greater balance is possible with the alternative phrasing, “According to Anders, Berwin, and Cretel…."
3. In-text citations require verbs to characterize what the author(s) wrote, for example, claimed, suggested, conducted, and examined. But for many students, it is not easy to accurately characterize what a source writes. However, it is very important to get close. The simple verbs, “stated” and “wrote” are good places to start. Also keep in mind that verbs describing what sources did should be conjugated in the past tense.
4. Sometimes a sentence that ends with a parenthetical citation is followed in the very next sentence by that same citation used as an in-text citation. For example, “…adapted for homeless populations (Gelberg, Andersen, & Leake, 2000). Gelberg, Andersen, and Leake (2000) suggested that homeless populations are….” Here, the sources are listed back-to-back, once in each sentence. To avoid this logjam, start with an in-text citation. Because the author is given in the narrative, no further citations would be needed in the same paragraph until after a different source were used.
Citations are required for all facts or ideas that do not belong to the writer. While parenthetical citations and in-text citations are equally valid, in-text citations are more visible; they carry more weight and are harder to work with, especially when used as the subject of a sentence or at the start of a paragraph. By becoming familiar with both kinds of citations, students can control the prominence of authors and improve sentence flow: important steps for shaping scholarly style.