A complete guide to APA in-text citation (6th edition)
An APA in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and year of publication, for example: (Smith, 2020). When quoting, also include page numbers, for example (Smith, 2020, p.170).
Here’s what an in-text citation looks like in a sentence:
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APA in-text citations with multiple authors
Multiple author names are separated using a comma. Only the final name in the list is preceded by an ampersand (“&”), for example: (Taylor, Johnson, & Parker, 2019). Use “et al.” to shorten in-text citations of sources with 6+ authors (first in-text citations) and 3+ authors (subsequent in-text citations), for example: (Taylor et al., 2019).
|Author type||First in-text citation||Subsequent in-text citations|
|No author||(“Title of the Work,” 2018)||(“Title of the Work,” 2018)|
|1 author||(Taylor, 2018)||(Taylor, 2018)|
|2 authors||(Taylor & Kotler, 2018)||(Taylor & Kotler, 2018)|
|3 – 5 authors||(Taylor, Kotler, Johnson, & Parker, 2018)||(Taylor et al., 2018)|
|6+ authors||(Taylor et al., 2018)||(Taylor et al., 2018)|
|Organization (identified through abbreviation)||(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2018)||(CDC, 2018)|
|Organization (no abbreviation)||(Apple, 2018)||(Apple, 2018)|
Using “et al.” in APA in-text citations
Sources with three, four or five authors are shortened after the first citation. From the second citation onwards, include only the first author name followed by “et al.” (“and others”). Sources with six or more authors are always shortened, including in the first citation.
In-text citations explained in under 4 minutes
Punctuation in APA in-text citations
- When using the abbreviation “et al.,” always include a period (“.”).
- Include a comma between “et al.” and the publication date (e.g. Taylor et al., 2018).
- There should be no punctuation between “et al.” and the author’s name preceding it.
- The period ending the sentence always comes after the citation (even when quoting).
Never use an ampersand symbol (“&”) in the running text. Instead, use the full word “and.”
- According to research by Taylor & Kotler … (2018).
- Taylor and Kotler conclude … (2018).
When to include page numbers
Including the page number(s) in the in-text citation is required when quoting a source in APA. It is encouraged, but not required, when paraphrasing a source. Don’t include page numbers when referring to a work as a whole, e.g. “the study shows…”.
If the quote or paraphrase covers just one page, use “p. 16.” If it covers two or more pages, use a double ‘p’ followed by a page range (e.g. pp. 16-18).
The in-text citation can be included in three different ways:
Sources with no page numbers
When quoting a source that has no pages or page numbers, you can include a chapter or paragraph number instead.
If the source uses headings, cite the heading and the paragraph number following it. Long headings may be shortened, but then they should be enclosed in quotation marks.
APA in-text citations with lists
If the cited list originates from one source, put the in-text citation after the last list item. If the list comes from several different sources, add the in-text citations after each list item.
Exceptions and missing information
The basic APA guidelines are not applicable to every source. Information can be missing, confusing for the reader or simply different. The most common exceptions are listed below.
If the author is unknown, cite the first few words of the reference list entry instead (usually the title). Enclose the title in double quotation marks when citing an article, web page or book chapter. Italicize the title of periodicals, books, reports and brochures.
For sources without a year of publication, use “n.d.” (no date) instead: (Johnson, n.d.).
Multiple sources in the same parentheses
If you’re using multiple sources to support a statement, you can combine the in-text citations and separate them using semicolons. Order the sources alphabetically.
If you’re using multiple sources from the same author, you don’t have to repeat the author. Just add the other years and separate them with a comma.
Multiple publications from the same author(s) in the same year
To differentiate between two publications from the same author published in the same year, add a suffix after the publication year.
Repeated use of the same source
For citing the same source multiple times in a paragraph there are specific APA guidelines. The first mention should include the author and publication year. For subsequent mentions in the running text, you only have to include the author’s last name, not the year. However, citations in parentheses should always include the year.
Different authors with the same last name
To differentiate between two (or more) authors with the same last name, include the initials. This rule applies even if the year of publication is different.
Citing a source within a source (secondary source)
If you want to cite a source that you found in another source, you can do one of two things. First of all, you should try to find the original source (primary source). If you’re able to find it you can use regular APA guidelines.
If you are not able to find the primary source, you should cite it through the source that led you to it (secondary source). The in-text citation looks like this:
Note that you only need to include the publication year of the source you consulted (here Johnson).
Personal communication such as phone calls, emails and conversations are not cited in the reference list because they can’t be found anywhere. However, you should still cite them using an in-text citation.
Give the initials and the last name of the person you communicated with and provide as exact a date as possible.
Sales are declining in the second quarter (P. G. Brown, personal communication, June 13, 2018).
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