On the performance tasks and ELA tests for middle school, and I imagine the Regents as well, students have to cite evidence WITHIN an argumentative essay.
I have taught inline citations and signal phrases. This is a shot of my favorite Youtube tutorial.
Here is a link to the Youtube page where this is posted.
Here at my curriculum site, you can find some of the handouts I give when I demo reading a short article, underlining the evidence I want to cite, and composing a paragraph using a signal phrase or an inline citation. It is a short mini-lesson and then the students practice doing the same thing.
I give them the topic sentence and the article. Then they have to try find a piece of evidence, and either paraphrase or quote using a signal phrase or an inline citation to CLEARLY IDENTIFY where their evidence was found.
They are very motivated to do this because I tell them it is high school work and the only way that you can write sophisticated essays. All middle school kids want to be sophisticated! Who knew?