My professor has me doing a paper that will be a summary of five different sources covering a specific mental disorder. Will I need to use citations from the information I am summarizing or will I just need to write the summarization in my own words and cite the resources at the end? I know I will not be using any direct quotations, however, I am unsure if I am to use citations as I summarize the information throughout all of the sources. I hope this makes sense! Thank you to anyone who is willing to help me answer this!

Also- when summarizing my sources, if more than one source say the same thing do I cite all of the sources that are stating the same information? Example: According to Greene (2002); Gryphin (1997); and June (2020), the symptoms of oppositional defiant disorder include oppositionality, vindictiveness, and hostile behavior.

  • Are you supposed to follow a style guide? We can tell you what the convention is for academic writing, but we can't tell you what your professor will accept for the assignment.
    – Laurel
    Nov 20, 2023 at 17:05
  • I just want to know what the convention is for academic writing. I am using APA format, however, he has not specified what he prefers for us to use. I just want to make sure I am crediting the information appropriately and am attributing information where it needs to be attributed to while still summarizing in my own words. The reason I ask is because multiple sources are saying the same thing I will be summarizing and I just want to make sure I credit the sources appropriately. I hope this makes sense.
    – Tiffany
    Nov 20, 2023 at 17:08
  • If I need to cite each source that states the same material I am summarizing then much of my paper is going to be just the citations of several different authors of the material being summarized. I’m not sure if I should just summarize everything in my own words and cite the references in the bibliography or if I should be including the several citations when I make a summarization. I hope this makes sense!
    – Tiffany
    Nov 20, 2023 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


I recommend that you pick up a copy of the APA Publication Manual from your university library and read the section on citations. That will answer all your questions and it provides a lot of illuminating examples.

Alternatively, the "APA Formatting and Style Guide" from Purdue University gives a brief introduction.

Personally, I prefer the APA Manual over all other resources. It is easy to read yet comprehensive. Questions that aren't answered in the Manual, are sometimes answered on the APA Style Blog.

Very briefly:

If you follow APA style, you must give the author, year and page number for every quotation:

"Bla bla." (Ben, 2023, p. 5)

Same when you paraphrase:

Ben said something or other (2023, p. 5).

When you summarize something from multiple sources at once, list them all:

When the sun goes down it gets dark (Mom, 1986, pp. 15-88; Dad, 1997, p. 220973298).

When you paraphrase one source over several sentences or even a whole paragraph, cite the source in the first sentence. There is no need to cite the work again in this paragraph provided it is clear that this is the only source being paraphrased.

When your quote is longer than 40 words, indent it as a blockquote and omit the quotation marks:

Ben said:

Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. (Ben, 2023, p. 5)

Do not indent long paraphrases.

You musn't change anything in what you quote. Leave italics, citations, etc. as they appear in the original:

Ben wrote: "Bla bla: 'Bla bla bla.' (Mom, 1997, p. 8) Bla bla bla." (2023, p. 5)

The APA Style Blog recommends:

It is best to paraphrase sources rather than directly quoting them because paraphrasing allows you to fit material to the context of your paper and writing style.

Use direct quotations rather than paraphrasing:

  • when reproducing an exact definition (see Section 6.22 of the Publication Manual),
  • when an author has said something memorably or succinctly, or
  • when you want to respond to exact wording (e.g., something someone said).
  • This is the right answer. @Ben, I think you could make it even better if you address why these guidelines make sense. In other words, why do we cite in the first place. Reading the OP, I get the sense that they don't understand "why," so they they think it might be ok to not include the detailed citations as the ideas are being presented.
    – Rob
    Nov 20, 2023 at 18:33

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