Citation Types and Formats

Generally, once information is in any kind of fixed form (e.g., a short paper, a manuscript, a social media post, a piece of music, artwork, a photograph), the person who created it owns the copyright. In your MBA coursework, you must cite any information that is not your own work or idea. Citing sources lends credibility to your writing and allow readers to look up your data. You don't need to obtain permission to use information academically, but you might need permission to use certain sources from your workplace.

Citing sources is essential to maintaining academic integrity. Though we don’t anticipate issues, there are academic misconduct policies in place for those rare times when academic integrity policies are violated. Refer to the information page on Academic Misconduct for more information.

You will use APA style, which is published by the American Psychological Association. The rules are highly precise, but there are many resources like the Purdue Online Writing Lab to help you accurately cite your work.

Citing Summarized or Paraphrased Information

Before we get into the mechanics of citing, we should talk about how a student shares and integrates information to demonstrate they've learned course concepts. This often will occur in papers or discussions, in response to a prompt or question the instructor asks. Sometimes you will apply the material to yourself or your workplace and often you will be asked to integrate sources, either from the course or through your own research.

You might summarize information, which means that you recap the main idea of a work in your own words. It is the broadest use of source material. For example, if you read a book chapter, you might condense the main idea of the entire chapter in a sentence or a few sentences using your own words. Paraphrasing means that you restate all of the key ideas in a piece of work in your own words and sentence structure. This is more than substituting new words for the ones already there. Paraphrase by reorganizing ideas for emphasis or simplifying material in your original source. Both strategies require that you put a source’s ideas in your own words.

Citing in Text

It's important to cite your sources right by the information from your source so readers can easily tell where your information is from. Below are examples of two ways to cite sources.

Example 1: According to Huang-Horowitz and Evans (2020), an organization’s identity is constructed by its values; these values impact and are impacted by the communication of them, making organizational identity a fluid, rather than static, construct.


Example 2: Although some writers and designers have preferred fonts, they must first consider the impression their work will have on an audience (Murphy, 2019).

Multiple authors are cited differently in text and in the reference list depending on the source. You can review In Text Citations: Author/Authors from the Purdue Online Writing Lab APA Formatting and Style Guide to help you navigate citing multiple authors. 

There are many details with APA style but we don't want to overwhelm you here! Focus on providing a citation when you are sharing information from a source, even if all the details aren't perfect. 

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge refers to information that most people would accept as true, for instance, the temperature at which water freezes. Common knowledge can vary depending on the culture, context, and audience; when in doubt, provide a citation. For more information, please see this webpage from MIT.


You probably already know that a quote is the exact words from a source. In other words, your wording and the source's wording are identical. Quotes are cited in-text as you just learned, but a page number is also included. The example below and more information is available on the APA Style website. This webpage also includes instructions on formatting quotes over 40 words long as block text.

Effective teams can be difficult to describe because "high performance along one domain does not translate to high performance along another" (Ervin, 2018, p. 470).

Direct quotes should not make up more than 10–15% of your writing. You want to rely on integrating paraphrasing and summarizing with your original ideas. Remember, too, that the sources do not answer a question; you answer the question. Citing your sources provides credibility for your answer. Thus, you do not want to provide responses to prompts or answers to questions by copying and pasting content from a website. You want to respond in your own words and then integrate sources to support your response.

The Reference List

All sources cited in text (paraphrased, summarized, or quoted) must also be listed in the reference list at the end of your paper and vice versa. You will most often be citing books, journal articles, and websites in this program. Examples are provided below. Online resources will provide a formula to follow for formatting.

An APA style reference list should have a "hanging indent" - meaning the first line is flush left and subsequent lines are indented. I know, picky, right?! The examples below should have a hanging indent, but due to the responsive design of this page it might not wrap properly.

Example 1: Journal article - should have a digital object identifier (doi) Bellur, S., Nowak, K. L., & Hull, K. S. (2015). Make it our time: In class multitaskers have lower academic performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 53, 63-70. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.06.027


Example 2: Book Aggarwal, D. D. (2007). History and scope of distance education. New Delhi, India: Sarup & Sons.


Example 3: Electronic source (specifically from the Harvard Business Review website) Strauss Einhorn, C. (2021, April 20). 11 myths about decision making.

Integrating Sources to Create a Seamless Discussion

The reason you are citing sources is to effectively to build an argument or make a case when responding to a discussion or completing an assignment and demonstrate that you understand your course material.

Citing sources in your work is an art. You don't want to answer a question or respond to a discussion and then tack a source on the end of a paragraph for whatever source you are talking about earlier in the paragraph. Nor do you want to copy and paste material from a source, cite the source, and call that a response. Instead, you want to integrate your sources in such a way that you present a seamless discussion of your ideas.


  1. Follow this pattern: State your claim > Back up your idea with a source > Expand on your claim and the source with discussion in your own words > Repeat when you get to your next point.
  2. Remember that you answer or respond to a discussion, assignment questions, case, or writing prompt, not your sources. Your sources are there to provide credibility and support for the answer you provide.

The following short video illustrates how you can effectively integrate your own ideas with your sources to create a logical, fluid argument. Note that it references APA style and a few others, but the important point is that whatever style you use, the same strategies apply.


There are many resources to learn and implement APA style:

And there you have it. It's a lot of information, I know, but as you use sources throughout your MBA program, eventually your ability to integrate sources and cite them appropriately will become much easier. As always, if you ever have questions, your instructor will be happy to answer them.

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