Researchers often encounter material in publications by other scholars for
which the sources used by those scholars cannot be located or confirmed.
What should you do if you wish to cite such material in your paper?
The procedure for citing material which has been reported by others,
but for which you cannot locate the original source (the one which had
been used by the scholar in whose work you saw the quotation) is referred
to as "citing from an indirect source," otherwise described as the "B in
Always First Try to Find the Original Source of B's Work
As the above implies, in such a case (where you have been reading a book
by "A" which reports information which had come from "B"), you should
first attempt to find the original source which "A" had used for the
quotation. If this was a standard print reference, finding it may be easy.
However, if it was from a conversation or an unrecorded interview, there
may be no 'source' other than how "A" had reported it.
Consulting the original source would enable you to confirm that "B" had
been quoted accurately, e.g. both that there were no misprints or
omissions, etc., in the quotation, and that it had been reported in an
accurate context. If you are able to find the original source, then use
this for your citation, rather than the 'secondary' reporting by "A."
Naturally, the original work by "B" would also be added to your Works
Cited along with the work by "A."
However, if the original source is not available, then all one can do
is to cite the information from "B" as it had been reported by "A," with
only the work by "A" appearing in your Works Cited.
A Typical Example of "B in A"
The Examples of In-text Citations section of the Quick Guide to Citations gives an
example of citing "B" in "A":
Here "Hemingway" would be the "B," with "Smith" being "A." In other
words, Wallace Smith wrote a book which you are consulting. This book
will be part of your Works Cited. In his book, Smith refers to the work
of Ernest Hemingway to support one of his arguments.
- When an idea is cited from an indirect source
Hemingway's words associate admiration with pleasure (in Smith 66).
In your paper, you could refer to Hemingway's work in one of two ways.
In the example above, Hemingway's name has been referred to directly in
the text; therefore one only needs to refer to the page on which his work
appears in Smith's book. This is done with the "B in A
[pagenumber]" formula (as illustrated above).
The second option for doing this would be:
- "My writing aims at associating admiration and pleasure" (Hemingway in
The above would be for a direct reference to Hemingway's
association of admiration with pleasure which appeared on page 66 of
In both of the above examples, the text of your paper before the
in-text citation would need to have mentioned Ernest Hemingway's full
name; otherwise one would have no way of knowing from the "B in A" formula
(or the citation to Smith's book) which "Hemingway" it was.
Another Example of Citing "B in A"
In a recent example of citing "B in A," a student was writing about the
1944 resettlement of Karelian evacuees from the village of Sakkola (see A Nation in
Transition: the Resettlement of the Karelian Evacuees). One source was
the web page Sakkolalaisten
Evakkotaival. The bottom of this page has the credit: Lähde:
Leo Paukkunen: Siirtokarjalaiset Nyky-Suomessa. Jyväskylän
yliopiston yhteiskuntapolitiikan laitoksen tutkimuksia,
Jyväskylä 1989. How should this be cited? As the student
inquired, "Can one assume that the information on this web page comes
directly from research done by Leo Paukkunen (as the page itself
suggests), and therefore refer to Paukkunen as the 'author' in the Works
The short answer is "no." In order to list Paukkunen in your Works
Cited, you would need to have consulted his work directly. While one could
assume that the page's information "comes directly from research done by
Leo Paukkunen," one cannot be certain that the web page has reported
exactly what Paukkunen had written, or intended (even if one might
presume this to be the case). Thus the Works Cited listing should be
(after first going 'upward' two levels in the web page URL to determine
who the 'publisher' of the page was, with no author name being
However, with the in-text citations in the paper itself, one could
refer to both Leo Paukkunen and his work, for example by saying "As Leo
Paukkunen has noted in his 1989 study Siirtokarjalaiset
Nyky-Suomessa [Karelian Evacuees in Present-Day Finland], in November
1939 Sakkola became one of the first Karelian villages to be evacuated
(reported in Sakkolalaisten) [or, "reported in
Sakkola-Säätiö" if the 'institutional publisher' option above
Using the "B in A" Formula for Lecture Quotations
The "B in A" formula is normally used for print sources. However, it may
also be used to cite quotations in a lecture presentation, or
from a TV or Radio Program or a documentary
film or DVD special feature.
For instance, to cite a quotation of Noam Chomsky given in one of
Gerard McAlester's lectures, one could do the following. Your Works
Cited would include, for example:
Your in-text citation might then be "(Chomsky in McAlester)" (if Chomsky's
name had not been mentioned in the same paragraph as your in-text
citation), or "(Chomsky, quoted by McAlester)" or "(Chomsky, reported by
McAlester)" or simply "(in McAlester)", depending on exactly how McAlester
had presented Chomsky's idea.
- McAlester, Gerard. PP1A Grammar and Usage Lecture. Department of
Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland. 13 April 2003.
This example also assumes that Chomsky's name would have been mentioned
in the same paragraph, thus making it obvious the citation reference was
to Noam Chomsky. The "B in A" procedure is necessary in this case to
distinguish between the intellectual property (or 'words') of Noam Chomsky
and those of Gerard McAlester, since otherwise McAlester would get full
credit for all the material presented in his lectures.
What About 'Anonymous' Quotations in Reported in 'A'?
Occasionally one finds web pages which report the work of others
without giving their names. In such cases, the "B in A" formula can't
work directly, since A has not revealed B's identity. Thus the best you
can do with your citation is to make it clear that you found the
information in A's page. There are two ways of doing this:
Both examples essentially say the same thing, that you found what Martha
had reportedly seen in Parker's web page or book, but have no further
information to verify this. Example one is shorter, whereas the "reported
in" of example two makes it a bit more clear that what you have quoted was
not Parker's own language (although presumably this would be clear to
anyone who read Parker's work).
- Martha said that Elvis was seen in Michigan two weeks ago (in
[Where "Parker" is the last name of the web page author, and
thus your Works Cited key word] or . . .
- Elvis was seen in Michigan two weeks ago
(reported in Parker 66).
[Where "Parker" is the author of a book, PDF
file, etc., with page numbers that is listed in your Works Cited.]