Difference between in-text citation and Reference list

Referencing is a tool employed in academic writing which enables the writer of an academic piece to give credit(s) to the sources relied on during an academic writing process. Similarly, referencing also gives more decency, extra grades and proper insight to an academic piece.

That is to say that it is indeed a vital tool in academic writing. As important as it is, it is not something that is well known or practised among Nigerian students. Hence, the ways in which referencing can be placed in an academic piece is often misunderstood and interchanged among themselves. This article will educate you on the basic parts of proper referencing, its differences and how it should be written in an academic paper.


A properly written reference or citation consists of two parts namely:

  • An in-text citation.
  • List of references.


An in-text citation is a brief form of referencing that is incorporated in the body of an academic piece. It is basically made up of:

  • The last name of the author(s).
  • The year of publication.

Depending on the referencing style, the page number can be used in place of the year of publication or both can be used. An in-text citation either be directly quoted or indirectly quoted.

A direct quotation involves stating the referenced phrase word for word.

For example, if the original source is “Primary Narcissism is developed at childhood, during such stage, the child’s libido is directed towards him/herself instead of others”.

The direct quotation with be, “Primary Narcissism is developed at childhood, during such stage, the child’s libido is directed towards him/herself instead of others”(Adefarasin, 2021).

If the authors of the cited work exceed three, it would be written as (Adefarasin et al,2021), the term “et al” refers to “and others”

Always begin a direct quotation with a quotation mark and put the necessary information needed for citing in a bracket. If the direct quotation exceeds forty words, put the words in a block form without quotation marks.

An indirect quotation involves taking an idea from a source and compiling the ideas with different words. An indirect quotation can either be paraphrased or summarized.

An example of an indirect quotation includes: Freud’s argument that narcissism is imbibed in the nature of everyone(1914, p.23). If the amount of papers include more than one, be sure to include ‘pp.’

A direct quotation and an indirect quotation can also be included in one sentence. For example, Freud argues that narcissism is an “inherent character in human beings”(1914,p.23).


A list of references is a list of all the sources that were relied on during the writing process. A list of references can be written as the following:

A footnote refers to a form of reference list that is situated at the end of every page in academic work. This occurs when the in-text citation is paraphrased with a number above it. For example:” The amount of corrupt practices that occur yearly in Nigeria is statistically above one thousand per cent”1. The end of the page will then contain a list of references that the readers can refer to later. The list will be arranged numerically, according to the works cited and numbered first.

An endnote is exactly the same as a footnote, the only difference is that the latter is found at the end of the academic piece instead of page by page.

Apart from these two, a referencing list can simply just contain the full references of all the works cited in the piece at the end of the page or piece. The mode of arrangement could also vary depending on the style used. For example, the APA referencing style demands that the list of references should be arranged alphabetically whereas Bluebook requires that they be arranged according to the order of authorities cited in the piece.


The distinct differences between a list of references and an in-text citation include:

  • An in-text citation always contains the name(s) of the author(s), year of publication and/or the page number which contained the cited. For example, an in-text citation could include only (Uwadia 2021, 13). A list of referencing on the other hand contains much bulkier information about the source materials used in the list. Such information could include Freud, S (1914). On Narcissism. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Volume XIV(1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and other works, 67-102.
  • An in-text citation remaining unchanged regardless of the type of material(s) cited, it will still consist of the name of the author(s), the date published and/or the page number of the source cited. Citing in a list of references varies depending on the type of source material and the referencing style used. For example, citing a book on a referencing list could include the aforementioned example whereas citing an article journal could include: Thompson, O.(2009). The importance of personal hygiene in Women. The Feminine Journal, 15, 207-225. Depending on the style used and material(s) consulted, the reference could be written and arranged differently.
  • A list of references can be arranged alphabetically or according to the order of names and cases cited depending on the referencing style, An in-text citation begins with a name and ends with a number regardless of the referencing style used. The referencing style of an in-text citation can only demand that either the last name or page number of the book cited is added or removed.
  • An in-text citation could either be directly or indirectly quoted. Citing in a referencing list must always be straightforward.
  • A referencing list could either be footnoted, that is imbibed at the end of every page of the academic piece or end-noted, that is cited at the end of the text or at the beginning of the text or both. An in-text citation can only be cited in the body of the academic piece.


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