Should you Include Citations in Introductions and Conclusions?

author By Mary Boies

Any academic paper that you write must focus on your essential ideas. Your introduction and conclusion paragraphs should contain the thesis statement, which tells your readers about your paper. The thesis will then be developed in the body of your paper, supported by other related points. Every point you gather from outside sources should be cited appropriately in the body and reference section. Failure to do this will result in plagiarism, a serious academic violation. With this said, an introduction should contain citations, but only if you intend to include them in the body of your essay. Similarly, a conclusion should contain citations you have used in the body of the paper. You are not allowed to introduce new information in your conclusion.

In this paper, you will learn whether including citations in the introduction and conclusions is okay. You will also learn why and when to add the citations in the introduction and when not to add them. The final part will look at the best ways to cite sources in your introduction.

Why and When to Include Citations in the Introduction Paragraph

A good introduction should contain a brief and clear summary of what you are writing in the body of the paper. Every new idea that you talk of must be properly cited. However, if you are just introducing these ideas to talk about them in the body of your paper or without making any factual points, there is no need. You will just be repeating yourself. Nevertheless, you must add a citation if you start the introduction with a statistic or quote not discussed in the body.

The APA (American Psychological Association) guidelines do not forbid or allow having citations in the introduction paragraphs. This is not to say that you must add or omit them in your essay. Choosing to add citations in your introduction is solely up to you, and your instructor gives the instructions. With that said, there are instances when you are supposed to cite:

Note that your introduction aims to engage readers and make them want to read your essay. So it would be best to make your paper sound as interesting as possible. You can achieve this in different ways, and one of them is adding interesting and factual information. When doing this, make sure you provide a reference to these facts.

Providing citations is a way of telling readers that you have borrowed the information from somewhere else. Additionally, it shows your readers that you have read all the relevant published works and, therefore, can demonstrate authority for all the stated texts. It also prevents plagiarism.

Citing information is also a way of telling readers that you acknowledge the information and contributions of other writers in your field. You are telling them that you respect other writers' contributions and are happy to include them in your work.

Why and When Not to Include In-text Citations in the Introduction

Citing sources in your work is important. However, there are certain instances when you are not supposed to do this. The following are examples of when you should not include in-text citations in your essay introductions.

You should provide in-text citations whenever you summarize or quote from an outside source. Remember, the purpose of an in-text citation is to show the reader the source of your information at that point in your essay where it is relevant.

Should a Summary contain Citations?

Yes. You must provide citations for every summary you provide in your academic work. This is because you are still providing other people's original works.

One of the distinctive characteristics of academic writing is dependence on clearly articulating other people's ideas and facts. Therefore, you must know how to write these ideas and properly acknowledge their contributions to your field. Summarizing is one of the best ways of integrating other people's ideas into your work.

Summarizing involves providing brief statements of the given material, such as a book, passage, etc. Take note that there is no association between the length of the summary and the book. A 600-page book could be summarized in only one or a few sentences.

Keep the following in mind when summarizing information for your essay:

If you have been asked to write an essay summarizing a book or any other information, you must introduce the source right away. For instance, Kendricks and Johnson conducted the experiment in the '70s.

A page number is not included when citing a summary using the APA style. However, if it would be helpful to the reader, for example, in helping them find the relevant information in a long summary, you are encouraged to include it. However, make sure you ask your instructor first before you do this.

If you are citing a magazine article, take note of the following:

For in-text citations for a summary of a magazine article, it should be placed at the end of the last sentence of the summary text just before the final punctuation. For instance, (Wright, 2004).

A comma in parenthesis should separate the author’s name, along with the year of publication. If there is directly quoted text within the summary, provide a page number. For example, (Wright, 2004, p.7).

On the reference page, you must include the following:

Then, in a parenthesis, include the year and publication month separated by a comma and finish with a period. Next, write the title of the article and only capitalize the first letter of the first word just after the colon. Then place a period after the title. You must italicize the title of the magazine and capitalize all major words. Next, place a comma, and then italicize the volume number, place the issue number in parentheses followed by a comma, page range, and finally, a period.

For example, Wright, S. (2005, April). Nations at war. Political Season, 14(7), 4.

Importance of Citing Your Summaries

The following are reasons why you must cite summaries in your work.

Should a Conclusion Paragraph contain Citations/References?

Yes, it should. If sharing information like a statistic or a quote, then you should provide quotations. However, if you are writing information drawn from other sources and you have properly talked about them in the body of your paper, there is no need to reference it.

Remember, just like introductions; the conclusion varies depending on the type of academic assignment. But generally, your conclusion should contain the following basic components:

After writing this, you can include references in your conclusion. But you are not allowed to add any new references because there is no longer any room to do that.

A conclusion is only supposed to summarize what you have already discussed in the body part. This is not to say that you shouldn't add anything "new." For instance, a conclusion is where you look to the future. So when advising your readers on what they should do next, you can provide references to "push" the impact of your essay. Remember that you should only add citations if they would make a meaningful impact on your work.

Best Ways to Cite Sources in Introduction or Conclusion Paragraphs

After deciding to cite information in your introduction or conclusion, you need to learn how to do it the right way.

The following are steps for citing sources properly:

Choose the Proper Formatting Style

Your instructor will give you the formatting style along with other instructions to guide you in your essay. The following are the different citation styles you will encounter:


It is important to use the citation required in your field. For instance, the APA style is generally recommended in social sciences fields.

Create In-text Citation

Read the rules on how to create in-text citations in the style guide. Check the following rules, which are usually thorough:

Determine Your Sources

Come up with a full list of the sources for your essay. Make sure your sources:

Classify your sources as either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are first-hand information, and they include Research articles, literary texts, and Historical documents such as diaries, Autobiographies, etc.

Secondary sources are those that rework information already written in the primary sources. Some examples of secondary sources include educational textbooks, biographies, data reports, etc.

Citing Different Sources

Always keep the filling in mind when citing different sources in either the introduction or conclusion.

If using in-text citations, you must provide the author's name and publishing year in brackets. For example, it must be written before the citation (Herbert, 2004). However, if you named the author in your text, there is no need to add the name, just the year of publishing.

Make sure you use past tense if you are introducing a quote; for instance, "Smith found" instead of "Smith finds."

For brief quotations that have less than forty words, make sure you use quotation marks to show them at the beginning and end. Then cite the author's name(s), publication year, and the page number(s) where the quoted material appears. Use commas to separate every element in the parenthesis. The citation should come after the quoted text, the closing quotation marks, and the end period. You can include the title of the book, but this is entirely up to you. The title, author's name, and publication year must appear in the body of the essay.

If you are paraphrasing the main points of a research paper in your introduction or conclusion, just provide the author's name and year of publication. However, if you are summarizing a specific idea, include the page number.

Take note that APA guidelines do not require you to provide a page number for materials that are not directly quoted. However, if your instructor asks, you can do so.

If formatting a longer passage, you have to use a different format to present the quoted material. Rather than using quotation marks, you should use block quotes. Always use this when quoting long passages between characters. Unlike other types of quotes, block quotes are freestanding, so they do not require quotation marks.

When citing a website, you must include the name or organization and the date the information was created. For example,

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020)

Alternatively, simply write:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) …

If you are citing specific pages within a website, provide information that includes author names and the date it was last created. For instance,

(Li 1999)

Alternatively, write:

(World Health Organization 2020)

When citing information from online media sources, provide the name of the source and the date it was published.

For instance,

(Zane, 2011)

Providing information from media articles (print) would require you to list the following if there is no author:

However, if you know the author's name(s). Do this (Herbert, 2002, p. 3)

Citing information is critical for your essay. If you cannot cite it on your own, use citation generator software to generate a proper citation according to the required style guide.

Parting Shot!

When referring to any information from outside sources in your written work, you need to provide a reference for them. Not giving this information will lead to plagiarism, a serious academic offense, with dire consequences such as expulsion. Make sure you cite information both in your introduction and conclusion paragraphs. However, if you are just repeating this information in the body part, then there is no need to cite it.

Related Readings:

However, like with any academic paper, each institution has its guidelines. Therefore, if you are not sure about what to write, then talk to your teacher, instructor, or writing department about it. They will give you instructions and guidelines on what to include and what to omit. Some institutional guidelines can be strict when it comes to citing materials both in the introduction and conclusion.

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