APA in-text citation

APA in-text citations consist of the author’s last name, publication year and, if applicable, page numbers. Page numbers are required when quoting and encouraged when paraphrasing. Omit page numbers when referring to a source as a whole.

In-text citation can be included in multiple ways:

  • The author claims that “plagiarism is becoming a bigger problem” (Smith, 2014, p. 170).
  • Smith states that plagiarism is an increasingly big problem (2014, p. 170).
  • The study of Smith shows that plagiarism is an increasingly big issue (2014).

You can easily generate your in-text citations (and full reference list) in APA format with Scribbr’s free citation generator.

APA in-text citation 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).

APA in-text citation multiple authors
Number of authorsFirst in-text citationSubsequent in-text citations
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.

Punctuation in APA in-text citation

  • 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).

Page numbers in APA in-text citation

Including the page number(s) in the in-text citation is required when quoting a source. 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:

  • This is also confirmed by the business plan: “creating an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (Smith, 2014, pp. 14–15).
  • Smith (2014) states: “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (pp. 14–15).
  • In 2014, Smith wrote: “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (pp. 14–15).

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.

  • (Johnson, 2019, Chapter 3)
  • (McCombes, 2016, para. 4)
  • (Smith, 2014, Conclusion, para. 2)
  • (Streefkerk, 2019, “No Page Numbers,” para. 2)

Lists and APA in-text citations

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.

List from one source:

The following factors are identified:

  • Wired lifestyle
  • Time pressure
  • Risk aversion
  • Internet experience
  • Social interaction (Johnson, 2016, p. 18).
List from several sources:

The following two basic characteristics were found in the literature:

  • Consumers experience greater risk for online purchases (Writers et al., 2016, p. 47).
  • Young consumers experience no risk for online purchases (Porter, 2016, pp. 63-64).

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.

No author

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.

  • (“U.S. Flood Risk Could Be Worse Than We Thought,” 2015)
  • (Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2017)

No date

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.

Several studies show that … (Brown & Brody, 2009Porter, 2004; Swaen, 2017).

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.

Research by Swaen (2014a) shows that …

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.

Research by Swaen (2016) shows that students think the APA Citation Generator is a useful tool. Swaen also states that universities are increasingly using the generator. Scribbr is therefore continuing to develop the APA Citation Generator (Swaen, 2016).

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.

B. Swaen (2017) states that … , as does G. H. Swaen (2008).

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:

Porter (as cited in Johnson, 2017) states that…

Note that you only need to include the publication year of the source you consulted (here Johnson).

Personal communication

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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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo has a bachelor's and master's degree and has written several papers and theses. He likes to share his knowledge by writing helpful articles.

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