Writing tip: Citing long paraphrases

Hand holding yellow pencil

Suppose you want to paraphrase the passage on the left below. On the right is one possible option, involving several sentences, each rephrasing ideas first introduced on the left. Where would you place the in-text citation(s) for the paraphrase on the right? Do you cite each sentence because every sentence uses your words to express someone else’s idea? Or does a single, appropriately placed citation do a better job of communicating the single source of information for the entire series of connected sentences? 

Original (from Schachter, 2001, pp. 4-5)

Paraphrase (from Hitchcock, 2006, p. 260)

I propose that memory’s malfunctions can be divided into seven fundamental transgressions or “sins”, which I call transcience, absent-mindedness, blocking, misattribution, suggestability, bias, and persistence. … Transience, absent-mindedness, and blocking are sins of omission: we fail to bring to mind a desired event, fact, or idea. … In contrast to these three sins of omission, the next four sins of misattribution, suggestability, bias, and persistence are all sins of commission: some form of memory is present but it is either incorrect or unwanted. 

In The Seven Sins of Memory, Daniel Schacter (2001) classifies the cases of inadequate human memory. Three of his seven “sins” are sins of omission, causing failure to retrieve the desired information. … Another three “sins” are sins of commission. … The seventh “sin” is a source neither of failure nor of distortion: but of unwanted intrusion.

 The answer to these questions will often depend on the context and content of the paraphrased sentences themselves. According to advice from the APA Style manual, the example paraphrase on the right is appropriate since “once a work has been cited, it is not necessary to repeat the citation as long as the context of the writing makes it clear that the same work continues to be paraphrased” (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020, p. 269). In the example, because Hitchock (2006) connected all four of these sentences with clear transitions, his minimal citation elegantly expressed the source of the paraphrase, while multiple, identical citations may have only impeded the overall clarity and the flow of the passage.

 By contrast, repeating citations throughout the example would be helpful if the paraphrase is closely followed or interrupted by a paraphrase or quotation to a different source. In these cases, “the paraphrase incorporates multiple sources or switches among sources”, so authors should “repeat the citation [to each individual source] so the source is clear” (APA, p. 270, 2020). In other words, the context of every single sentence in the passage should make it clear when each additional sentence is continuing that paraphrase, and additional citations can help make it clear when they are not (APA, p. 260, 2020).

In your own writing, to determine whether an individual sentence requires a citation, consider the following questions:  

  • Is the paraphrased sentence beginning a new paragraph? 
  • Is the sentence paraphrasing a new or different source of information from the sentence preceding it?
  • Is it possible that the paraphrased sentence on its own can be mistaken as your idea?

If you answer “yes” to one or more of the above questions, cite your source in the sentence. 

Finally, citations to quotations are not related to how often other quotations to the same source or other sources are cited throughout a work (APA, 2020, p. 270). Put simply, if you answer “yes” to the following simple question, you always need a citation in your sentence: 

  • Does the sentence quote an author’s exact words?

For an illustration and explanation of the above ideas, please see this Visual Guide to Citing Paraphrases as well as Paraphrasing from the APA Style website. For more general information on using APA Style in-text citations, visit our LibGuide on Quoting, Summarizing, and Paraphrasingexplore the WriteAnswers FAQs organized under the topic of “APA Style: In-text citations", or contact the Writing Centre to ask us your questions.



American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

Hitchcock, D. (2006). Good reasoning on the Toulmin model. Argumentation, 19, 373–391. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10503-005-4422-y

Schachter, D.L. (2001). The seven sins of memory. Houghton Mifflin.