Exceptions to citing in-text according to the APA rules

Once you’re busy with your referencing in APA Style, you will soon notice that occasionally the basic rules can’t help you with citing sources in the text.

What do you do, for example, when you don’t have a publication date or when you have multiple publications from the same author?

If the year of the publication is not known, then the abbreviation n.d. (no date) is placed after the author’s name.

Example: Publication with an unknown publication year

The most used payment method in the Netherlands is iDEAL (Swaen, n.d.).

If you are using more than one publication of the same author, you can write an ‘a’ and ‘b’ behind the year it was published. If the year of publication is not known, you write ‘n. d.-a’ and ‘n. d.-b’.

Example: several publications of the same author with an unknown publication date

The most used payment methods in the Netherlands are iDEAL  (Swaen, n.d.-a) and wire transfer (Swaen, n.d.-b).

When you reference a website in its entirety, you only mention the URL. The website is not included in the reference list.

Example: Citation to website

The Scribbr website (https://www.scribbr.com) has recently been updated.

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When you reference the same publication within the same paragraph in the running text, you don’t have to mention the year again.

Example: Cite author again in paragraph

Research by Swaen (2014) shows that there is a great need for an APA Generator. Swaen also noted that this tool should be offered for free… The conclusion was made to develop the APA (Swaen, 2014).

Rank the authors alphabetically, separated by a semicolon and a space.

Example: Multiple publications from different authors

Various studies (Driessen & Anterveld, 2002; Swaen, 1997; Van Laak, 2011) show that…

The oldest publications are mentioned first. Publications from the same year are given a suffix.

Example: Multiple publications from the same author

Various studies (Driessen, 1990, 2002, 2007; Swaen, 2016a, 2016b) show that…

Example: Multiple publications from the same author in the reference list

Swaen, B. R. M. (2016a). American football is my passion. Zaandam, Netherlands: Voetbal International.

Swaen, B. R. M. (2016b). After football, only emptiness. Zaandam, Netherlands: Voetbal International.

Example: Multiple publications from the same author in the reference list – internet source

Swaen, B. R. M. (2017a, February). Why Scribbr?. Retrieved from https://www.scribbr.com/why-scribbr.

Swaen, B. R. M. (2017b, March 1). Why not?. Retrieved from https://www.scribbr.com/why-not.

If the surname of the first author appears often in various sources, then you also use initial of these authors’ first name, even if the publication date is different.

Example: Authors with the same surname

K. J. Driessen (2013) describes, as does B. Driessen (2007)

Various studies (B. Driessen, 2007; K. J. Driessen, 2013) show that …

If two references have three or more authors with the same first author and the same year, the shortened form of the citation (‘with et al.’) will be the same.

Example: citations with the same shortened form

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, & Corrieri, 2014) in subsequent citations shortened: (Swaen et al., 2014)

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, Mertens, & Corrieri, 2014) in subsequent citations shortened: (Swaen et al., 2014)

You can solve this problem by adding as many of the subsequent authors as necessary to distinguish both citations. If you have any authors left, you use ‘et al’.

Example: citations with adding extra authors

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, & Corrieri, 2014) in subsequent citations shortened: (Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, & Corrieri, 2014)

(Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, Mertens, & Corrieri, 2014) in subsequent citations shortened: (Swaen, Driessen, Van Laak, Mertens, et al., 2014)

Sometimes you only know an author’s first name and not his/her surname. In this case, you use the first name as if though it were the surname in the reference.

Example: Author of whom only the first name is known

It is not very likely that everyone knows about this (Ben, 2013).

The same goes for the bibliography. Use the first name as the surname in the reference. This means you do not need to write down any initials.

If the author is unknown, then the shortened title is used. All main words are capitalized.

  • Use double quotation marks for titles of articles, book chapters and web pages.
  • Titles of periodicals, books and reports are italicized.
Example: Publications with unknown or anonymous author

Internet is becoming more and more popular (“Internet is hot,” 2014).

According to the article in Plagiarism on purpose? (2010) plagiarism is the result of a lack of knowledge about referencing.

You only note simply ‘Anonymous’ when there is an explicit reference in the source to this name.

Example: Reference to Anonymous

The teacher can’t do anything (Anonymous, 2014).

When this occurs, you write a short description of the subject between brackets.

Example: Author, year and title unknown

Clear and direct explanation is the priority (“[Vision of Scribbr],” n.d.).

More info about missing data in your reference list

It sometimes occurs that you find in one source an interesting citation to another source. When you can’t find this other source, you may refer to it indirectly. You then write: ‘as cited in’. In the reference list, you only note the source that you have consulted. In this case, that is Swaen.

Example: Indirect citation

Mid-sentence: Driessen (as cited in Swaen, 2014) describes three possible causes.

End-of-sentence: Three possible causes are described (Driessen, as cited in Swaen, 2014).

More about indirect sources

If you use personal communications, don’t mention these sources in the reference list. They are, after all, not accessible to others. We’re talking here about emails, private letters and conversations. You do need to refer to this in the text, however by stating ‘personal communication’. Always write the initials of the first name of the author and add a date that is as exact as possible.

Examples: Personal communication

According to B. Swaen (personal communication, December 24, 2012) the results are available quickly.

The results are available quickly (B. Swaen, personal communication, December 24, 2012).

More about personal communication

A source that you have obtained from the intranet is often not accessible to the public. Look at the following article for explanation on the use of intranet sources: Intranet sources according to the APA Style.

With classics, the date of publication often cannot be determined. Instead of the publication date, use the year of the translation or of the version that you’re using. For translation, use the abbreviation ‘trans.’ and then the year. For the version, first write the year and then ‘version’.

Pay attention! Important old classical works such as the Bible and the Koran are not noted in the reference list, but you do mention them as a source in the text. When you cite from a classic, don’t mention the page number, but rather, for example, the chapter or verse number.

Example: Classics as reference in the text, translation and version

The first property of style is clarity (Aristotle, trans. 1970).

You can better be lucid than speak loudly (Aristotle, 3rd version).

Example: Citing important classics

(John 3:16 New international version)

In Psalm 35:1 (New Bible)

If you think that your audience cannot understand a certain quote in a foreign language you can choose to translate the quote. According to APA Style your translation of a quotation should be handled as a paraphrase. So, when you translate a quote, you follow the basic rules for a paraphrase.

In the reference list you cite the source in its original language and add a translation of the title inside brackets “[]” after the original title.

Example: Translation of a quote

In the text:  This has never happened before. Markus Kuhn is the first German to score a touchdown in the NFL (Springer, 2014).

Reference list: Springer, A. (2014, December 8). Kuhn schafft als erster Deutscher einen Touchdown [Kuhn is the first German that scores a touchdown]. Retrieved from http://www.welt.de/sport/article135129811/Kuhn-schafft-als-erster-Deutscher-einen-Touchdown.html

Abbreviations in citations

In some cases, when citing an organization, you may want to use the abbreviation (for example, the American Psychological Association). In this case, you should first cite the full name and then add the abbreviation in parentheses afterwards.

Example: Citing an (abbreviated) organization

Author in the running text: According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2019), plagiarism is the result of a lack of knowledge about referencing.

Author between parentheses: Plagiarism is the result of a lack of knowledge about referencing (American Psychological Association [APA], 2019)

Subsequent citations: APA (2019); (APA, 2019)

Note: Never use abbreviations for authors/organizations in your reference list.

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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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