When citing authors in academic papers in-text citations vary, with some systems employing numbering while others state the authors’ names and dates of publication. For those employing the Harvard Referencing System the reader is able to view the names of some or all of the cited authors’ names, and the date of the publication, without needing to refer directly to the referencing section of the document. One problem which can occur in this case is the over-insertion of the same authors and dates in concurrent streams of text, particularly when no other publications have been mentioned to cloud the reader’s understanding of whose ideas or assertions are being presented.
Several strategies can be employed to overcome this occurrence when citing authors in academic papers:
Employ more pronouns
In a recent paper, the author cited a paper before proceeding to reference it repeatedly and unnecessarily in subsequent sentences. The following example models this excessive usage.
Example 1: Jones et al. (2004) are comprehensive in their citation of authors in their article. Jones at al. (2004) also discuss the necessity of ensuring that every citation is unequivocally linked back to the original owners of said ideas. Jones et al. (2004) go on to explore the dangers of plagiarism, and how the apprehension of being accused of infringing the strict guidelines surrounding the recognition of the original sources of information ensures that academic writers closely adhere to their referencing systems.
Now while it is beyond doubt that ideas, findings, assertions, etc., must be credited to their original authors, there can be a danger of overstating the citations to the detriment of the writing’s flow. In Example 1 above, the issues being discussed clearly originated from Jones and his/her colleagues in 2004, so it is more effective to employ pronouns to enhance the flow of the text and avoid citing authors repeatedly, as presented in Example 2 below.
Example 2: Jones et al. (2004) are comprehensive in their citation of authors in their article. They also discuss the necessity of ensuring that every citation is unequivocally linked back to the original owners of said ideas. Furthermore, they go on to explore the dangers of plagiarism, …
In the second example, restating of the original authors has been avoided through the use of pronouns and linking structures to guide the reader through the discussion, while at no time creating any doubt as to the original authors. Clearly this approach is much more effective and enjoyable for the reader. The question then arises as to when the authors’ names and dates of publication should be restated when citing authors. This can be clarified as follows.
Occasionally restate the author(s) name(s) when:
- the discussion is of some length, as although no other authors’ concepts, findings, etc., have been introduced since the initial citation, occasional restating will help to remind the reader of the origins of the content under discussion (see example below).
Jones et al. (2004) are comprehensive in their citation of authors in their article. They also discuss the necessity of ensuring that every citation is unequivocally linked back to the original owners of said ideas. Furthermore, they go on to discuss the perils of plagiarism, and the apprehension it can invoke in authors. Interestingly, Jones et al. explore several case studies on the idiosyncrasies of differing referencing systems.
It is clear from the above example that the origin of the content under discussion is both from Jones et al., and features in their 2009 publication.
Always restate the authors’ names and dates of publication when:
- additional authors are introduced into the text, so there can be no doubt of their contribution to the discussion (see example below).
As Kenworthy (1987) highlights, the greater the contrast between the phonology of the L1 and English, the more challenges are presented for the student to overcome. Nevertheless, in Jones’s (1997) investigation into pronunciation materials and second language acquisition he cautions that there is …
- a new paper by the same author(s) is presented, and so needs to be disassociated from the earlier paper discussed through restating the author’s name, and particularly the date of publication (see example below).
Kenworthy (2011) discusses the development of pronunciation methodology through the latter half of the 20th century in her recent investigation into ESOL speakers in the North of England. This is a deviation from her earlier study (Kenworthy, 2000), where she pays less importance to the emergence of methodologies …
Conclusions for citing authors in academic papers
It can be seen that the careful citing of authors will inform the reader of the original sources of the matter under discussion, while avoiding including surplus instances of citations that only detract from the continuity of the text by burdening the reader with unnecessary information. To summarise, always ensure that the origins of ideas and discussions are clear to your readers, but do not needlessly overload them by restating your sources.
* Note that the discussions and sources used in the above examples are purely to demonstrate good citation practice, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the authors cited.