Citing secondary sources in APA style

If you want to refer to a source that you have found in another source, you should always try to access the original or primary source. You can then just follow the regular APA rules  to cite it.

However, if you cannot find the original source, you should cite it through the secondary source that led you to it, using the phrase “as cited in”. This is sometimes called citing indirectly.

Citing indirectly using “as cited in”

To cite indirectly, include both authors in the in-text citation. Note the author and date of the original source first, followed by “as cited in” and the source where you found it.

Example: Source  within a source
You consult a book written by Swaen in 2014. In this book, Swaen mentions something from a 2003 book by Driessen. You now want to include a point about Driessen’s work in your dissertation, but you cannot find this book yourself. You thus have to refer to it indirectly.
Example: Citing an indirect source
  • Three possible causes are explored (Driessen, 2003, as cited in Swaen, 2014).
  • Driessen (2003, as cited in Swaen, 2014) describes similar results.
  • Driessen’s 2003 study (as cited in Swaen, 2014) supports this conclusion .

If you do not know the publication date of the original source, you can omit this and include only the date of the secondary source.

Secondary sources in the reference list

On the reference page, list only the source that you actually consulted (not the original source that you could not track down). In the above example, this would mean including Swaen’s book (but not Driessen’s).

APA book reference
TemplateAuthor Last Name, Initials. (Year). Book Title (edition). City, State/Country: Publisher.
ExampleSwaen, B. R. M. (2014). Startup Scribbr. New York, NY: Free Press.
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Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas is an experienced academic writer and loves to teach. He helps students by writing clear, simple articles about difficult topics.

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