To give credit where credit is due I strive to make it clear where ideas of others, which I use/refer to in my papers/work, are from. For this I cite and quote and this question is about the correct form to do so. Unfortunately I lack the words to describe the problem and like to give two examples.

  1. There is this idea (Person(s) 1984).

  2. It has been this idea of Person(s) (1994).

While I know that it is possible to use (1.) form I often also encounter the cases in which I would rather prefer to phrase it in the style of (2.) in which the Person(s) cited appear as an actual word of the sentence. Now this is where I am lost what to do with the year of the actual cited paper/book/etc of this Person(s).

The question therefore:

Is it possible/legitimate/"okay" to refer to previous works/others by telling about those people directly inside of a sentence (meaning appearing as a part of the sentence)?


if yes, how?

if no, reason why not possible/"okay"?

2 Answers 2


Both ways are equally acceptable and used in separate instances. Basically if the author(s) names occur in the sentence type (2) should be used and if the name(s) are not then type (1) should be used. The question is then when the two forms result.

Type (1) is a more passive form used when you, for example, are describing general background where the specific reference might not be key. The form is quite common (but not exclusive) to the introduction section. The sense is that the information is more distant from your own study. Version (2) is used when the cited studies are building the story and is closer to your work and thus more important for understanding the details of your study. A good example may be in the discussion where your results are compared with other specific studies. This is just a generalization since both are useful in all parts of a research article.

  • Thank you for the explanation. And the form to put the years in paranthesis after the name is then "okay", as I understand? Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 18:22
  • Yes. You can look at the Purdue OWL (online writing lab) for some more details based on Modern Language Assoc. (MLA) and American Psychological Association (APA) standards, which are representative sources of referencing in general. Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 19:13

Purdue's page about APA in-text citations indicates that your example 2 is quite acceptable in that style. Your example 1 needs a comma after the authors but otherwise also fits within ADA style rules.

The decision on which to use depends on the main point you're trying to make. If you're just trying to say the idea is out there or that some fact has been proven, etc. it makes more sense to put the authors' names in the parentheses.

If you want to distance yourself a bit from those conclusions, or if you're about to contrast what Person(s) found with what Other(s), possibly including you, found, or if you want to emphasize the person as a part of that idea/discovery, it makes more sense to put the author outside of the parentheses.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .