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APA Style Help

Resources to help with APA Style formatting

Citing References in Text

Learn how to cite references in the text, including how to implement the basic formats, cite multiple works, achieve clarity, and format references with missing author and/or date information.

Academic Writer

© 2016 American Psychological Association.

Citing References In-Text (Section 6.11-6.21)

  • Every in-text citation must appear on the Reference Page except for:
    • References to classical works (i.e. the Bible)
    • References to personal communication
  • The format of an in-text citation is "Author-date."  This means using the author's last name and the date the material was published.
  • There are two ways to cite a source with an in-text citation:
    • Parenthetical citation: The author and date are in parentheses and separated by a comma.  If the citation is at the end of a sentence, place the period or punctuation after the parentheses.  If there is other text surrounding the citation, place the commas around the year.  Examples of each are included below.
      • Parenthetical citation at the end of a sentence: (Smith, 2019)
      • Parenthetical citation with extra text: (see Smith, 2019, for more information).
    • Narrative citation: The author is mentioned in the sentence, followed by the year in parentheses. You can also include the year without parentheses, if the sentence is structured to include the year.  You only need to cite the year once if you are citing a source multiple times in the same paragraph.
      • Narrative citation in parentheses: "Hargrett et al. (2018) endorsed coping strategies such as deep breathing and writing in a diary."
      • Narrative citation without parentheses: "According to a 2019 study by Smith...
  • If you are citing the same source more than once in a paragraph, you do not have to cite it after every sentence as long as they are consecutive.
  • Rules for quotation usage in Paper Format
    • Abbreviate "page" to "p." and "pages" to "pp."
    • Abbreviate "paragraph" to "para." and "paragraphs" to "paras"
    • Use commas between numbers if they are not consecutive.  If they are consecutive, use a dash/hyphen.
  • Table 6.1 is a great quick reference
  • More than one reference can be cited within parentheses.

One Author

  • Include the author's last name in each in-text citation.
  • First Citation
    • Lastname1 (CopyrightYear) or (Lastname1, CopyrightYear)
    • ex: Carlson (2014) or (Carlson, 2014)
  • ​Following Citations
    • Lastname1 (CopyrightYearor (Lastname1, CopyrightYear)
    • ex: Carlson (2014) or (Carlson, 2014)

Two Authors

  • Include both authors' last names in each in-text citation.
  • First Citation
    • Lastname1 and Lastname2 (CopyrightYearor (Lastname1 & Lastname2, CopyrightYear)
    • ex: Carlson and Fleet (2014) or (Carlson & Fleet, 2014)
  • ​Following Citations
    • Lastname1 and Lastname2 (CopyrightYearor (Lastname1 & Lastname2, CopyrightYear)
    • ex: Carlson and Fleet (2014) or (Carlson & Fleet, 2014)

Three or More Authors

  • First Citation
    • Lastname1, et al. (CopyrightYearor (Lastname1 et al., CopyrightYear)
    • ex: Carlson, Fleet, and Edwards (2014) or (Carlson, Fleet, & Edwards, 2014)
  • ​Following Citations
    • Lastname1 et al. (CopyrightYearor (Lastname1 et al., CopyrightYear)
    • ex: Carlson et al. (2014) or (Carlson et al., 2014)

Group Authors (Organizations)

  • Groups with a readily identified abbreviation or acronym
    • First Citation
      • Organization (Abbreviation, CopyrightYear) or (Organization [Abbreviation], CopyrightYear)
      • ex: American Psychological Association (APA, 2010) or (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010)
    • Following Citations
      • Abbreviation (CopyrightYearor (Abbreviation, CopyrightYear)
      • ex: APA (2010) or (APA, 2010)
  • Groups without a readily identified abbreviation
    • First Citation
      • Organization (CopyrightYearor (Organization, CopyrightYear)
      • ex: Tiffin University (2014) or (Tiffin University, 2014)
    • Following Citations
      • Organization (CopyrightYearor (Organization, CopyrightYear)
      • ex: Tiffin University (2014) or (Tiffin University, 2014)

Multiple Works by Different Authors

  • Write the works alphabetically and separate them with semicolons.
    • ex: (e.g., Lastname1, CopyrightYear; Lastname1 et al., CopyrightYear; Organization, CopyrightYear)

Multiple Works by the Same Author

  • Order the citations chronologically by publication year.  Citations with no date go before citations with dates, and in-press citations go after citations with dates.  When a source has no date, use "n.d." as a placeholder for the date.
    • ex: (American Psychiatric Association) [APA], 1999, 2000, 2004; Smith, n.d., 2019, in press)

Highlighting a Work

  • Place the source citation that you want to feature first in parentheses followed by a semicolon, the words "see also," and place the remaining citations afterwards in alphabetical order.
    • ex: (Smith, 2019; see also Carlson et al., 2010; Fleet, 2012)

Distinguishing Similar Citations

Works with the Same First Author

  • If authors of different works share the same last name, use the author's first initial before the last name in every in-text citation.
    • ex: (Firstinitial. Lastname1, CopyrightYear) or Firstinitial. Lastname1 (CopyrightYear)
  • If authors share the same first and last name, cite the works in "Author-date" format.  If you need to clarify the difference between the sources, use the author of the first source's first initial in the in-text citation to distinguish it from the other source (like the example above).

Works That Shorten to the Same Format

  • List as many authors in the citation as needed to show the difference, followed by a comma and "et al" to represent any other authors not listed by last name.

Works with the Same Authors and Dates

  • Use lower case letters after the publication year in both the in-text citation and the reference/bibliographic entry.
    • ex: (Carlson et al., 2009a, 2009b, 2010c)

Citing Sources with Missing Information

Work by an Unknown Author

  • If the author signed the work as "anonymous," write "Anonymous" as the author and use the publication year.
    • ex: (Anonymous, 2019) or Anonymous (2019)

Work with No Author

  • Cite the first couple of words in the source title and capitalize the text using title case in the in-text citation.  Italicize a work that stands independently, like a book or report.  Journal articles, television show episodes, and other sources that are part of something larger should be in quotation marks.
    • ex: ("A Story of the University," 2020) or "A Story of the University" (2020)
    • ex: (Impact, 2020) or Impact (2020)

Work with No Date

  • Use "n.d." as a placeholder for the year.
    • ex: (Smith, n.d.) or Smith (n.d.)

Work with No Author and No Date

  • Use the first couple of words in the source's title and use "n.d." as a placeholder for the year.
    • ex: ("A Story of the University" n.d.) or "A Story of the University" (n.d.)