Skip to main content

Citing a source of information you have not seen: Home

Students sometimes need to cite a source of information which is only referred to in another (second) source of information.

Secondary citation, secondary referencing or citing indirect sources

Students sometimes need to cite a source of information which is only referred to in another (second) source of information.

In other words: you want to reference Source A. However, you’re not able to see Source A for yourself. You have read about it in Source B. You should aim to see all the sources you reference in your work. However, occasionally, it is not possible to see a particular source, but you have read about it in another source, and you need to use it.

What should you do? In depends on the citation system you’re using. If you use an online citation generator, it may be able to help, but, if not, the following sections on APA, Chicago, Harvard, MLA and Turabian systems may be helpful to you. 

Chicago

Where this happens in Chicago, this is referred to as ‘one source quoted in another’.

Your footnote needs to include the words “quoted in”, e.g.

Mark Rutherford, “Socioeconomic conditions”, Journal of Ethical Economics (March 1999): 64, quoted in Thomas McCarthy, Symbiosis of ethics and economics (London: Ibis Press, 2006), 192.

You also reference both sources in your bibliography.

N.B. Don’t forgot that you can usually obtain the complete details of the original source (the one you haven’t seen) from the bibliography or works cited list of the information source you have seen.

 

Harvard

You should try to find the original source. If you can’t, in your essay text, you need to cite both sources, using the phrase ‘cited in’ or ‘quoted in’.

However, in the bibliography, you only reference the source you saw or read yourself.

 

MLA

If you’re using the MLA referencing system, this is called citing an indirect source, and this what you do:

In your reference list/bibliography you reference Source B, i.e. the source you have seen/read.

In the text, you identify that Source A is referred to in Source B. If it is a quote, then use qtd. as an abbreviation for quoted, such as (qtd. in Obama 453). This in text citation shows that the quote you have used appeared in a book by Obama, on page 453. If you paraphrase rather than quote something, use (cited in Obama 453). 

APA

If you’re using APA, this is known as using a secondary source, and what you do.

In your text, you mention the work you have not seen and cite in-text the work you have seen, e.g.

… Goldman’s study (as cited in Singh & Blake, 2005). 

In your reference list (or bibliography), you include only the source you saw or read. 

Turabian

Always cite the source you use or read. However, you need to make it clear that a secondary source is being cited, e.g.

Thomas 1985, p.56; quoted in Singh 2003, p.16.

In this example you cite the original source (the one you haven’t seen), then add the words ‘quoted in’ or ‘reported in’ then add details of the source you have seen.

In your bibliography, you reference both sources.

N.B. Don’t forgot that you can usually obtain the complete details of the original source (the one you haven’t seen) from the bibliography or works cited list of the information source you have seen.