Citing Phone Conversations in a Bibliography

The American Psychological Association, Modern Language Association and the Chicago Manual of Style are the three most common formats for academic writing. Each of these formats provides a set of guidelines that determines how information is cited and referenced. Phone conversations are considered to be personal communications and must be treated appropriately to preserve confidentiality and -- in some cases -- protect sources.

APA Style Citation

If you speak to someone on the phone regarding your research and they agree to be a source, you must include a proper citation. When citing a phone conversation using APA format, always use an in-text, parenthetical citation, which includes the person's name, the words "personal communication" and the date of communication. For example:

(M. Hutchinson, personal communication, May 13, 2013).


Hutchinson confirmed the importance of wearing sunscreen daily to prevent premature aging (personal communication, May 13, 2013).

If your phone conversation is with a research participant in a study, do not cite the conversation, as this would be a breach of confidentiality. You should still attribute ideas and quotations to these participants, but through the use of pseudonyms.

Only cite phone conversations within the text. Never include phone conversations in your reference list.

MLA Style

To cite a phone conversation in MLA style, you only need the person's last name for the in-text citation. For example:

"In order to prevent premature aging, it is necessary to wear sunscreen every day (Hutchinson)."

In order to create the bibliographic citation, use the person's full first and last name, the words "Phone conversation" and the date of the communication. For example:

Hutchinson, Molly. Phone conversation. 13 May 2013.

Note that if using a month with more than four letters, the month must be abbreviated and followed by a period. If the previously mentioned phone conversation took place in April rather than May, for example, the citation would read:

Hutchinson, Molly. Phone conversation. 13 Apr. 2013.

The Chicago Manual of Style

In order to provide an appropriate citation for a phone conversation in the Chicago style, you need the name of the person to whom you spoke, the words "phone conversation with author" and the date of the communication. This information will be included in the footnote that serves as your in-text citation. For example:

  1. Molly Hutchinson, phone conversation with author, May 13, 2013.

This information is only included as an in-text citation. Do not include it in your bibliography.

Special Considerations for Citing Phone Conversations

When citing phone conversations in any style of writing, it is important to consider the context in which the communication took place as well as the confidentiality of the conversation.

If the person to whom you spoke has given you permission to credit them in your writing, it is essential that you do so properly and accurately. When using communication with a research participant, you must maintain confidentiality by using pseudonyms. Always ensure that you adhere to basic research ethics when citing any personal communication.

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