APA citation for sources with multiple authors

When citing in text in APA for a source with multiple authors, you must work with either the ampersand “&” or “et al.”

For in-text citations, you must always use the authors’ surnames, the publication date and the page or paragraph number (in the case of online sources).

In the literature list, multiple authors are separated by commas, with the first initials included alongside the surnames.

Examples of APA citations with multiple authors

There are different rules depending on the number of authors. Below is an overview of what to do in each case, when working with standard sources.

Number of authorsLiterature listFirst citationSubsequent citations
OneSwaen, B. (2018).(Swaen, 2018, p. 1)(Swaen, 2018, p. 1)
TwoSwaen, B., & Van Laak, R. (2018)(Swaen & Van Laak, 2018, p. 1)(Swaen & Van Laak, 2018, p. 1)
Three, four or fiveSwaen, B., Van Laak, R., & Driessen, K. (2018).(Swaen, Van Laak, & Driessen, 2018, p. 1)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)
Six or sevenSwaen, B., Van Laak, R., Driessen, K., LaBrode, M., Jonker, S., & Corrieri, L. (2018)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)
Eight or moreSwaen, B., Van Laak, R., Driessen, K., LaBrode, M., Jonker, S., Corrieri, L., … Friesen, N. (2018).(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)

Punctuation in APA reference lists and citations

The rules for punctuation in reference lists and citations are simple:

  • Place an ampersand sign “&” before the name of the last author in the list.
  • Separate multiple author names using commas. Only the final name in the list should be preceded by an ampersand sign.
  • When using the abbreviation “et al.”, always include a period “.”
  • Include a comma between “et al.” and the publication date.
  • There should be no punctuation between “et al.” and the author’s name preceding it.

Never use an ampersand sign if you are mentioning the source as part of a sentence. Always use the full word “and” in this case.

Examples of how to punctuate references depending on the number of authors are included in each of the sections below.

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One author

When there is one author, include the initials in the literature list and only the surname, date and page number in the in-text citations.

APA example for one author:
Literature listIn-text citation
Swaen, B. (2018).(Swaen, 2018, p. 1)

Two Authors

When there are two authors, include both authors’ surnames in the in-text citation and the literature list.

In the literature list, you must place a comma after the first author’s name. If you reference the work in the text itself (not as a citation), use the full word “and” between the author names.

APA examples for two authors:
Literature listIn-text citationReference in text
Swaen, B., & Van Laak, R. (2018).(Swaen & Van Laak, 2018, p. 1)Swaen and Van Laak stated that …. (2018, p. 1)

Three, four or five authors

The first time you mention a source with three, four or five authors, use all of the author surnames in the in-text citation. In subsequent mentions or citations, only use the first author’s surname, followed by “et al.”

The same rules apply if you mention the source in a sentence.

APA examples for three, four and five authors:
Literature listFirst in-text citationSubsequent citations
Swaen, B., Van Laak, R., & Driessen, K. (2018).(Swaen, Van Laak, & Driessen, 2018, p. 1)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)

Six or seven authors

All in-text citations and in-sentence mentions of sources with six or seven authors should include only the first author’s name followed by “et al.” However, in the literature list, all of the authors’ names must be included.

APA examples for six or seven authors:
Literature listFirst in-text citationSubsequent citations
Swaen, B., Van Laak, R., Driessen, K., LaBrode, M., Jonker, S., & Corrieri, L. (2018).(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)

Eight authors or more

For sources with eight or more authors, in-text citations and in-sentence mentions should only include the first author’s name followed by “et al.” In the literature list, include the first six authors’ names, ellipses “…” and the final author’s name.

APA examples with eight or more authors:
Literature listFirst in-text citationSubsequent citations
Swaen, B., Van Laak, R., Driessen, K., LaBrode, M., Jonker, S., & Corrieri, L., Friesen, N. (2018).(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)(Swaen et al., 2018, p. 1)

Sources with the same authors

It may happen that some of your sources are difficult to distinguish between when using “et al.” This can happen when the first author is the same in two (or more) different sources.

Example of sources that appear the same when using “et al.”

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, & Corrieri, 2018) at the second reference (Swaen et al., 2018).

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, Vleeshouwers, & Corrieri, 2014) at the second reference (Swaen et al., 2018).

If this is the case, you should include more than one of the author names before “et al.,” in order to ensure the difference is clear.

Example of how to differentiate between sources with the same first author:

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, & Corrieri, 2018) at the second reference (Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, & Corrieri, 2018).

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, Vleeshouwers, & Corrieri, 2014) at the second reference (Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, Vleeshouwers et al., 2014).

Author order is crucial!

It is important that you mention the authors in the same order as the source itself does. This order is determined with great care.

Often, it is the author listed first who played the largest role in the research. There are different rules for each discipline.

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Courtney Gahan

Courtney has a Bachelor in Communication and a Master in Editing and Publishing. She has worked as a freelance writer and editor since 2013, and joined the Scribbr team as an editor in June 2017. She loves helping students and academics all over the world improve their writing (and learning about their research while doing so!).

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