Beginner’s guide to APA in-text citation

This article reflects the APA 7th edition guidelines. Click here for APA 6th edition guidelines.

In-text citations briefly identify the source of information in the body text. They correspond to a full reference entry at the end of your paper.

APA in-text citations consist of the author’s last name and publication year. When citing a specific part of a source, also include a page number or range, for example (Parker, 2020, p. 67) or (Johnson, 2017, pp. 39–41).

Omit suffixes (e.g., “Jr.”) and titles (e.g., “Ph.D.” or “Dr.”), and only specify the year of publication, not the day and month.

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APA in-text citations explained in 4 minutes

Parenthetical vs. narrative citations

The in-text citation can be placed in parentheses or naturally integrated into a sentence.

  • Parenthetical: There is a correlation between social media usage and anxiety symptoms in teenagers (Parker, 2019).
  • Narrative: Parker (2019) found a correlation between social media usage and anxiety symptoms in teenagers.

The publication year appears directly after the author’s name when using the narrative format. The parenthetical citation can be placed within or at the end of a sentence, just before the period. Check out a full example paragraph with in-text citations.

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APA in-text citations with multiple authors

If a work has two authors, separate their names with an ampersand (&) in a parenthetical citation or “and” in a narrative citation. If there are three or more authors, only include the first author’s last name followed by “et al.”, meaning “and others”.

Group authors known by their abbreviations (e.g., CDC) are written in full the first time and are abbreviated in subsequent citations.

Multiple authors in APA in-text citations
Author type Parenthetical Narrative
One author (Harris, 2020) Harris (2020)
Two authors (Harris & Cook, 2020) Harris and Cook (2020)
Three or more authors (Harris et al., 2020) Harris et al. (2020)
Group authors (Scribbr, 2020) Scribbr (2020)
Abbreviated group author

  • First citation
  • Subsequent citations
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020)

(CDC, 2020)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020)

CDC (2020)

No author, date or page number

Missing information in APA in-text citations
Unknown element Solution In-text citation
Author Use the source title. (Source Title, 2020)
Date Write “n.d.” for “no date”. (Harris, n.d.)
Page number Use an alternative locator or
omit the page number.
(Harris, 2020, 03:46) or
(Harris, 2020)

No author

If the author of a source is unknown, try to determine if there is an organization responsible for creating the content. If so, include the organization’s name in the in-text citation (and reference entry).

The costs of solar energy have decreased by 34% in the past three years (Tesla, 2020).

Alternatively, use the source title in place of the author. Italicize the title if it’s italicized in the reference entry. Otherwise, enclose it double quotation marks.

Apply title case capitalization, and shorten long titles. The first word of the title should always be included so readers can easily locate the corresponding reference entry.

  • (“U.S. Flood Risk,” 2015)
  • (Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2017)

No publication date

If the publication date is unknown, write “n.d.” (no date) in the in-text citation.

(Johnson, n.d.).

No page number (alternative locators)

Page numbers are only required with direct quotes in APA. If you are quoting from a work that does not have page numbers (e.g., webpages or YouTube videos), you can use an alternative locator, such as:

  • (Liu, 2020, 03:26)
  • (Johnson, 2019, Chapter 3)
  • (McCombes, 2016, para. 4)
  • (Davis, 2016, Slide 15)
  • (Flores, 2020, Table 5)
  • (Streefkerk, 2020, “No page number” section)

Multiple sources in one parenthesis

If a statement is supported by multiple sources, the in-text citations can be combined in one parenthesis. Order the sources alphabetically, and separate them with a semicolon.

When citing multiple works from the same author, list the years of publication separated by a comma.

Several studies have replicated these results (Brown, 2009; Porter, 2004; Smith, 2015, 2017).

Avoiding ambiguity in APA in-text citations

When in-text citations are ambiguous because they correspond to multiple reference entries, apply the solutions outlined in the table below.

Ambiguity in APA in-text citations
Situation Solution In-text citation
Multiple works by the same author in the same year. Add a lowercase letter after the year. (Cooper, 2018a)
(Cooper, 2018b)
Different authors with the same last name. Include the authors’ initials. (H. Taylor, 2019)
(B. J. Taylor, 2016)
Multiple works with 3+ authors that shorten to the same form (i.e., same first author(s) and date). Include as many names as needed to distinguish the citations. (Cooper, Lee, et al., 2015)
(Cooper, Ross, et al., 2015)

Citing indirect sources (“as cited in”)

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.

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”.

(Parker, 1978, as cited in Bloom et al., 2017)

If the publication date of the primary source is unknown, include only the year of publication of the secondary source.

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

Only include a reference entry for the secondary source, not the primary source.

Citing personal communication

Personal communications, such as phone calls, emails, and interviews, are not included in the reference list because readers can’t access them. The in-text citation is also formatted slightly differently.

Include the initials and last name of the person you communicated with, the words “personal communication,” and the exact date in parentheses.

Sales are declining in the second quarter (P. G. Brown, personal communication, June 13, 2019).

General mentions of websites and software

General mentions of a website or software don’t have to be cited with an in-text citation or entry in the reference list. Instead, incorporate relevant information into the running text.

  • The website of Scribbr (www.scribbr.com) contains various useful resources.
  • Statistical software SPSS (version 25) was used to analyze the data.

Example paragraph with in-text citations

Adapted example paragraph
Body image issues have been widely associated with social media usage, particularly in young women (Perloff, 2014). The relation between media depictions and body image concerns is well-established; a meta-analysis by Grabe et al. (2008) concluded that exposure to mass media is linked to body image dissatisfaction among women. Several empirical studies have focused on Facebook usage in adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014), while a systematic review by Holland and Timmerman (2016) established a relationship between social networking and body image for both women and men.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does an APA in-text citation for a website look like?

When citing a web page or online article in APA Style, the in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and year of publication. For example: (Worland & Williams, 2015). Note that the author can also be an organization. For example: (American Psychological Association, 2019).

If you’re quoting you should also include a locator. Since webpages don’t have page numbers, you can use one of the following options:

  • Paragraph number: (Smith, para. 15).
  • Heading or section name: (CDC, 2020, Flu Season section)
  • Abbreviated heading: (CDC, 2020, “Key Facts” section)
How do I cite a source with an unknown author or publication date in APA?

No author

Instead of the author’s name, include the first few words of the work’s title in the in-text citation. Enclose the title in double quotation marks when citing an article, web page or book chapter. Italicize the title of periodicals, books, and reports.

No publication date

If the publication date is unknown, use “n.d.” (no date) instead. For example: (Johnson, n.d.).

When should I use “et al.” in APA in-text citations?

The abbreviation “et al.” (meaning “and others”) is used to shorten in-text citations with three or more authors. Here’s how it works:

Only include the first author’s last name, followed by “et al.”, a comma and the year of publication, for example (Taylor et al., 2018).

When should I include a page number in an APA in-text citation?

Always include page numbers in the APA in-text citation when quoting a source. Don’t include page numbers when referring to a work as a whole – for example, an entire book or journal article.

If your source does not have page numbers, you can use an alternative locator such as a timestamp, chapter heading or paragraph number.

How do I cite an indirect source in APA Style? (“as cited in”)

In an APA in-text citation, you use the phrase “as cited in” if you want to cite a source indirectly (i.e., if you cannot find the original source).

Parenthetical citation: (Brown, 1829, as cited in Mahone, 2018)
Narrative citation: Brown (1829, as cited in Mahone, 2018) states that…

On the reference page, you only include the secondary source (Mahone, 2018).

Should I place the in-text citation before or after the period?

An APA in-text citation is placed before the final punctuation mark in a sentence.

  • The company invested over 40,000 hours in optimizing its algorithm (Davis, 2011).
  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership “would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters” in a referendum (Levring, 2018).
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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo is an expert in explaining plagiarism and citing sources. He has been writing helpful articles since 2017 and is continuously improving Scribbr's Citation Generators.

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