I have a question about in-text citations. I have read different answers and want to be sure about it: when I paraphrase a text from paper A, I should cite the author; if there is a reference in the text which is the author of the paper B, paper C and so on, should I also cite them in my text? Is there any other way besides using "as cited in"? For example, in paper A there are multiple sources that the author refers to like [1],[2], [3] in the part that I want to paraphrase. Should I cite them all?

1 Answer 1


This question is a bit vague, but if we assume you are trying to publish a paper in a peer-reviewed journal you can follow the general rule of cite any ideas that are not your own and try to cite them at the source. Best practice is to find the paper the idea originally comes from but that is not always necessary. Obviously if we did this all the time we would have unwieldy reference lists. For example, a review is appropriate to cite by itself, rather than citing all of the papers it draws from. There is an argument to be made for including direct citations to important papers from that review, but I doubt anyone would fault you for just citing the review when discussing general background information or the state of the field. On the other hand, it would not be appropriate to only cite an unrelated experimental paper that contains a relevant citation in the introduction.

This is based on my experience and can be very subjective. It also assumes you are holding yourself/being held to a relatively high standard. Even if this is not the case, I think that it is still applicable as a guideline. Ultimately you need to decide what papers are worth citing.

A side note, I'm note sure you should be "paraphrasing" anything to the extent that you even need to ask this question. There is a difference between synthesizing information and including it in your paper (with appropriate citation) and lifting entire sections from something you've read. Tread lightly here.

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    I would go a bit further and say that the part about the paraphrasing is not the side not but the main issue. You should not parafrase a paragraph and then wonder what to do with the citations therein. You should write, in your own words, which idea you want to convey and cite the appropriate primary literature (ideally the first papers describing the finding you talk about) in whichever sentence has content they refer to.
    – BioBrains
    May 11, 2023 at 21:46
  • thank you for your response, for example, i need to describe the effects of the socioeconomic of households on air emissions, paper A mentioned several papers to indicate other works and findings on the effects of age, gender, income, number of workers, and so on on the emission, when I want to write about it, I think i should cite all the papers that paperA mentioned , not just summarize what paper A reviewed and just cite paper A, am i right?
    – Samin Ba
    May 12, 2023 at 5:44
  • Yes, in that scenario it would be more appropriate to cite the relevant papers - in addition to paper A - if you intend to address all of those topics individually. Again though, I encourage you to be careful lifting what sounds like a large section from another paper, cited or not. Simply rewriting another's work in your own words (with the same citations no less) might raise some eyebrows.
    – sErISaNo
    May 12, 2023 at 6:27
  • thank you very much for replying, in this case, the bibliography becomes very long, is it no problem?
    – Samin Ba
    May 12, 2023 at 17:14
  • The length of the bibliography is less important that ensuring proper citation. If the bibliography is becoming excessively long because you are lifting citations directly from another paper, that is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. As long as you are behaving ethically, cite whatever is needed and do not worry about the number of references.
    – sErISaNo
    May 12, 2023 at 18:03

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