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Signal and Lead-in Phrases

In most citation styles, including APA, MLA, and Chicago style, you can add variety to your research writing by not always using the same sentence structure to introduce quotations, paraphrases, or pieces of information borrowed from different sources. It is relatively simple to use a wide variety of different expressions to introduce both direct and indirect citations. These expressions, which usually occur in the parts of sentences that come just before quotes and paraphrases, are called signal phrases (or, in some cases, lead-in phrases). 

Often, signal phrases can be distinguished by the presence of a verb like "indicate" or "argue" that references what the author is doing in the original source. However, a few select signal phrases contain no verbs (e.g., "According to [author],").

In the examples below, the author being cited is Jane Doe. The examples in the first section are adapted to APA, which recommends past-tense verbs in signal phrases. For MLA (as well as Chicago style), the same verbs can also be used in the present tense instead of the past tense, as the second section below shows. 

APA

According to Doe . . .
The work of Doe indicated that . . .
Doe asserted that . . .
Doe acknowledged that . . .
Doe has drawn attention to the fact that . . .
Doe claimed that . . .
As Doe pointed out. . .
As Doe stated. . .

MLA

Doe declares. . .
Doe argues that . . .
Doe believes that . . .
The work of Doe shows that . . .
As Doe indicates. . .
As Doe implies. . .
As Doe suggests. . .
Doe thinks that . . .
Doe addresses. . .

Be sure each signal phrase verb matches you intention for the in-text citation. Read the whole sentence after you finish to ensure that the signal phrase grammatically coheres with any content that follows the quote or paraphrase.

Expressing Disagreement with a Signal Phrase

Of course, some quotes and paraphrases express disagreement or negative opinions. In these cases, be sure that any verbs in the signal phrase match the nature of the quote or paraphrase. See the examples below.

APA

Doe rejected the claim that nature is more important than nurture.

Doe denied the claim that nature is more important than nurture.

MLA

Doe refutes the claim that nature is more important than nurture.

Doe disputes the claim that nature is more important than nurture.