Citing Summary from a Source in APA Style

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11771

A summary by any other name is ... not a quotation or a paraphrase. They are treated differently and must follow different citation styles. Learn about summaries from the OWL and our printed handouts!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


"Hmmm . . . Is this a quotation, summary, or paraphrase?" Not only are they different in content, but they are cited differently as well. Learn the professional APA definitions and styles!

Before continuing, if you missed the first lesson in this APA In-text Citations series, find it under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar.

Although the terms "quoting," "summarizing," and "paraphrasing" may seem similar, they are actually different actions you can take when incorporating text from an outside source into your own writing.

  • Quoting is using another writer's precise words in their exact order (verbatim) in your paper.
  • Paraphrasing is rewording the outside author's ideas in your own words, but keeping all the information from the outside source in your writing.
  • Summarizing is choosing the main ideas from another writer's work and condensing those ideas into fewer sentences in your own words. It is generally better to summarize than paraphrase, because most ideas can be presented more concisely in summary, leaving more room in a paper for you to expound on your own thoughts and ideas.

The chart below is an easy way to remember the differences among the three categories:





Identical to the words found.


Constructing a passage into your own words. Putting main ideas/points into your own words.


Other person's idea and words.


Use your own  sentence structure. Presents only  the most important ideas of a source.


Quotation marks " " must be used!


Attribute to your original source. Attribute to your original source.


This lesson focuses on how to cite summary from a source in APA style. The same steps for citing the summarized source correctly would be used to cite a paraphrase as well.

To learn how to cite summary from a source, print the APA In-text Citation Format for Summary handout located in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. As you read, answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper:

  1. What two pieces of information are required when citing summary from a source?
  2. Where does the parenthetical citation get placed in a sentence when the author's name is used in the sentence?
  3. What piece of information is substituted in the in-text citation when the date is unknown?
  4. What piece of information is substituted in the in-text citation when the author's name is unknown?
  5. How are the names of additional authors represented in the in-text citation when there are six or more authors?

After you have answered the questions, discuss your responses with your parent or teacher. You can then check your answers below:

  1. When citing summary from a source, the author's name and year of the source's publication are used in the in-text citation.
  2. While the citation typically goes at the end of the sentence, if the author's name is used as part of the sentence, the citation immediately follows the author's name.
  3. If the date is unknown, the term "n.d." is used instead.
  4. If the author's name is unknown, the title of the source is used instead.
  5. If there are six or more authors, use the first author's name and follow it with "et al."

Now that you have learned how to correctly cite summary from a source in APA style, move on to the Got It? section to practice these types of citations.

Elephango's Philosophy

We help prepare learners for a future that cannot yet be defined. They must be ready for change, willing to learn and able to think critically. Elephango is designed to create lifelong learners who are ready for that rapidly changing future.