A complete guide to APA in-text citation

An APA in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and year of publication, for example: (Smith, 2020). When quoting, also include page numbers, for example (Smith, 2020, p.170).

Here’s what an in-text citation looks like in a sentence:

  • The author claims that “plagiarism is becoming a bigger problem” (Smith, 2014, p. 170).
  • As Smith (2014) has shown, plagiarism is a serious issue for universities.
  • In 2014, Smith found that plagiarism is becoming increasingly widespread.

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

Scribbr APA Citation Generator

APA in-text citations with 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
Author typeFirst in-text citationSubsequent in-text citations
No author(“Title of the Work,” 2018)(“Title of the Work,” 2018)
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.

In-text citations explained in under 4 minutes

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Punctuation in APA in-text citations

  • 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).

When to include page numbers

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).

Sources with 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)

APA in-text citations with lists

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.

If you’re using multiple sources from the same author, you don’t have to repeat the author. Just add the other years and separate them with a comma.

Several studies show that … (Brown & Brody, 2009Porter, 2004; Swaen, 2015, 2017a, 2017b).

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).

Frequently Asked Questions

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

When citing an entire website 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).

Since web pages don’t have page numbers, you don’t include a locator in the in-text citation.

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?

Depending on the number of authors a source has, an APA in-text citation is shortened by using “et al.” (meaning “and others”) after the first author’s name.

Sources with 3–5 authors are written in full the first time and shortened from the second citation onwards. Sources with 6+ authors are always shortened, even the first time.

  • First in-text citation: (Taylor, Kotler, Johnson, & Parker, 2018)
  • Subsequent in-text citation: (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.

Is this article helpful?
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.

48 comments

Ariel
June 5, 2020 at 2:12 PM

thanks a lot. The table (as of June 5th 2020) says that 3 – 5 authors should be cited (1st time in text) such as (Taylor, Kotler, Johnson, & Parker, 2018). However, in https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/apa-seventh-edition-changes/ you write
"The in-text citation for works with three or more authors is now shortened right from the first citation. You only include the first author’s name and “et al.”

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
June 9, 2020 at 12:45 PM

Hi Ariel,

This article currently reflects the rules of the 6th edition; you're correct that the rules have been updated in the 7th edition of the APA manual. We're currently in the process of revising all our articles and updating our APA Citation Generator to reflect these changes. In the meantime, the most important changes are listed in the article you linked to.

Reply

lina
June 4, 2020 at 2:41 PM

Thank you for the information about apa style. Please if i site a quote but not taken from the original book , rather it is taken from a dissertation how do i cite it
a quote taken from a dissertation!

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
June 9, 2020 at 12:50 PM

Hi Lina,

You should always try to locate the original source if possible, to make sure the quote is correct and you fully understand the context.

However, if this isn't possible, you can cite indirectly by first writing the original author's name and publication date, followed by "as cited in" and then the author and date of the dissertation. For example: (Smith, 2018, as cited in Jones, 2020). On the reference page you list only the dissertation where you found the quote.

Reply

Judith
June 2, 2020 at 11:59 PM

Hi

I'm writing my bachelor thesis with Zotero, citation style must be APA 7. In references in the text, Zotero (with APA 7) always writes two authors (e.g.: Van Gestel, Steier, et. al, 2014) when I am referencing a single chapter of a book (and not the entire book). Is this correct? Or shouldn't the reference in the text be as follows, i.e. with just one author: Van Gestel et al., 2014 (as in normal references, when referencing an entire book written by 3 or more authors)? You can see the chapter (and the book) I refer to bellow.

Thank you for your help!
Judith

Chapter:
Van Gestel, A. J. R., Steier, J., & Teschler, H. (2014). Primäre und sekundäre Atemmuskeln. In Physiotherapie bei chronischen Atemwegs- und Lungenerkrankungen: Evidenzbasierte Praxis (2. Auflage, S. 57 – 69). Springer.

In the book:
Van Gestel, A. J. R., & Teschler, H. (2014). Physiotherapie bei chronischen Atemwegs- und Lungenerkrankungen: Evidenzbasierte Praxis (2. Auflage). Springer.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
June 9, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Hi Judith,

You're correct that according to APA 7, if there are three or more authors, only the first author should be named, regardless of the source type.

One exception to this rule is when citing multiple works that would have identical abbreviated citations. For example, if you cite a different chapter from the same book that's also by Van Gestel et al. (but with different co-authors), you would include as many authors as necessary to distinguish between the two chapters in your in-text citations.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Suzanne
May 29, 2020 at 12:55 PM

Hi

Thank you for your helpful videos. I want to reference from a thesis paper that was published in a book. How do I do that? The book has its own author but each chapter is a research paper by someone.

Please assist. Thank you.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
June 9, 2020 at 3:33 PM

Hi Suzanne,

This would be cited as a chapter in a book. The author and title of the individual paper is cited first, followed by full details of the book (including the name of the editor who compiled it).

Reply

allie
May 28, 2020 at 12:08 AM

Hi! Let's say I have two sentences about the same study. I cite an in-text citation in the first sentence. I go on to talk about the results of the study in the next sentence, but do not quote direct information. Does that second sentence need an in-text citation, even though it is consistent with the information from the sentence prior?

Thank you!

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
June 9, 2020 at 3:42 PM

Hi Allie,

As long as it's completely clear which source you're referring to, it shouldn't be necessary to repeat the full citation. It's best to name the author directly in the second sentence to ensure clarity. According to APA, if you mention the same author again within a single paragraph, you don't need to include another parenthetical citation with the year.

However, do include a full citation if you mention the same source in again a new paragraph.

Reply

Muah
May 27, 2020 at 1:55 PM

Wow. You've saved my life. Honestly. Jah bless

Reply

Ahmed Zakaria
May 3, 2020 at 3:34 AM

please when do we use "&" and when do we use "and" during in text citation.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
May 6, 2020 at 9:00 PM

Hi Ahmed,

In APA style, use "&" when the author names appear in parentheses. Use "and" when you name the authors in the text:

  • (Smith & Jones, 2019)
  • Smith and Jones (2019)

Note that some other citation styles, such as MLA, always use "and", even in parenthetical citations.

Reply

Sakina Elshibli
April 24, 2020 at 2:57 PM

Hi Raimo,

I have used first citation system for 3-5 authors as you have described, but now I am challenged by my peers while assessing my paper that they did not find any support (reference) to this system from the official webpages of APA. They consider correct only - first auther at al. system for any more than three. I new in studying the subject.
Thanks and best regards,
Sakina

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
April 24, 2020 at 7:29 PM

Hi Sakina,

The guidelines in this article are taken from the 6th edition of the APA manual. The 7th edition, which was published recently, has new rules; according to the updated edition, you should indeed always use "et al." for sources with more than 3 authors.

We are working on updating our articles to reflect the 7th edition. In the meantime, you can refer to our overview of the most important changes in the 7th edition.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Jon Mayled
April 13, 2020 at 2:36 AM

In using Harvard APA 6, if I paraphrase information from 2 works into a single paragraph, how do I write the in-text citation?

Specifically:
If the first work has 6 Authors, the second work has 5 authors and neither have been referenced in the research to this point should I use 'et al.' for both? Example: (AuthorA et al., 2017; Author1 et al., 2018)

Or should I use 'et al.' for the first, while listing the 5 authors in the second work? Example: (AuthorA et al., 2017; Author1, Author2, Author3, Author4 & Author5, 2018)

'Author' in both cases refers to the last names of the authors.

Thanks, Jon

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
April 24, 2020 at 7:37 PM

Hi Jon,

According to the 6th edition, your second example is the correct format for this citation. Note that in the 7th edition, "et al." is used from the first citation if a source has more than three authors.

Hope that helps!

Reply

hayette
March 17, 2020 at 3:10 PM

Hi Vicky,

I have repeatedly used in my paper the same author multiple times and in different paragraphs ...knowing that all of what i used belongs to one book only ..so, how can I properly reference and cite the author?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
March 30, 2020 at 1:37 PM

Hi,

If you use only one source by the same author, you just have to cite the author name and year each time you refer to that text. If you quote or paraphrase a specific passage, include the page number as well. The book must be listed in the reference list at the end of your paper.

Reply

Karen H Moonie
March 2, 2020 at 6:20 AM

The articles that I am citing are mostly written by men and women with academic titles (M.D., PhD, etc.). Is their title included in the citation (Biskin, MD & Paris, MD, 2012) or not (Biskin & Paris, 2012)?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
March 2, 2020 at 10:14 AM

Hi Karen,

No, you shouldn't include academic titles in APA citations. The second version of the citation you gave is the correct one.

Reply

Sharlene Tigchelaar
March 29, 2020 at 10:41 PM

Hi, how do I do in text citations when my source is a video? Also, how do I do the reference citation for a video?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
March 30, 2020 at 1:25 PM

Hi Sharlene,

If you accessed the video online, you can follow the format of an APA YouTube citation. The article gives examples of both in-text citations and full references for videos.

Reply

I. Nasir, Aujara.
February 6, 2020 at 7:03 PM

Very pulchritude

Reply

vasani suresh
February 6, 2020 at 5:15 PM

if i use many paragraph from one book at that time how i give citation?????

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
February 10, 2020 at 5:57 PM

Hi Vasani,

You should include an in-text citation every time you refer to the source. If you summarize a source without quoting or paraphrasing a specific passage, you don't need to add a page number, but you do need to cite the author and date.

Hope that helps!

Reply

jake
January 28, 2020 at 5:02 PM

This needs to be updated to show the 7th edition. thanks

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
January 28, 2020 at 6:18 PM

Hi Jake,

Thanks for pointing this out. Since many students are still using the 6th edition guidelines, all of our APA articles are currently based on those rules. We'll be reviewing this on an ongoing basis and adding updates where necessary.

In the meantime, you can consult our quick guide to the APA 7th edition changes.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Liz
January 25, 2020 at 1:16 AM

Hello,
When writing a synthesis and including data points, do I have to include a page and paragraph number?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
January 28, 2020 at 6:20 PM

Hi Liz,

If you're referring to a specific part of a source, it's always a good idea to include a page number if available. Paragraph numbers are only necessary if the source doesn't have page numbers.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Payal Bhatia
January 22, 2020 at 2:08 PM

The updated style guide says that we can list up to 20 authors in a reference but how do we style it if the total number of authors is 21?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
January 22, 2020 at 2:14 PM

Hi Payal,

If you're following the 7th edition, for sources with 21 or more authors, list the first 19 authors followed by an ellipsis (...) and then the final author's name.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Kaylee Bowen
January 22, 2020 at 9:01 AM

Hi,

After an author and date are cited, is a repeated citation is needed for every sentence related to that same work for APA format?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
January 22, 2020 at 2:10 PM

Hi Kaylee,

Yes, you should cite the source every time you use it in your paper.

Reply

madiha
December 22, 2019 at 5:05 PM

hello there ...when i want to cite a book i found that inside it there different chapters like for example in the book of media written by James walker ....a chapter named media in education for instant is written by Karla shofler;magy rober et al ...
who can i cite that plz§

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
December 23, 2019 at 11:55 AM

Hi Madiha,

In this case, you should cite the authors of the specific chapter. In the reference list, you first give the authors and title of the chapter, then full details about the book (including the editor's name and the page range on which the chapter appears). You can find an example in our article about citing a book in APA. Hope that helps!

Reply

Cynthia
December 18, 2019 at 10:45 PM

I'm editing a paper which includes these citations:

(Trathan and Lascelles 2014, BirdLife International 2018)
and
(Kukkala et al., 2016, Ramirez et al., 2017)

Can you tell me if these are correct? Should I include a semicolon between sources, or is a comma the correct punctuation?

Would you also include a comma before each publication year in the first citation?

Thank you!

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
December 23, 2019 at 12:11 PM

Hi Cynthia,

Yes, in APA style, you're correct that you should add a semicolon between the sources and a comma before each year. Also note that an ampersand is used instead of "and" for sources with multiple authors. Your first example should look like this:

(Trathan & Lascelles, 2014; BirdLife International, 2018).

Hope that helps!

Reply

Alhassan
November 15, 2019 at 7:51 AM

What do I do when citing an online source?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
November 25, 2019 at 1:16 PM

Hi Alhassan,

The in-text citation for an online source looks the same as a standard APA citation: the author's last name followed by the year. If there is no author listed, use the title in place of the author; if there is no publication date, add "n.d." in place of the year.

If you want to refer to a specific passage, you can use a paragraph number or section heading instead of a page number.

You can read more in our guide to APA website citations. Hope that helps!

Reply

Erik Hayes
November 9, 2019 at 11:53 AM

i am citing a website with no author or year. should i say: According to a website (“Into Europe”, n.d.) ... ?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
November 25, 2019 at 1:13 PM

Hi Erik,

You're correct that you should use the title of the page and add "n.d." in your citation. Instead of just saying "a website," a better option would be either to name the title directly in your sentence, or to give a more precise introduction that gives the reader some context. For example:

  • According to "Into Europe" (n.d.)...
  • According to the website of one industry-leading company... ("Into Europe," n.d.).

Remember that you should use the title of the specific page or article where you found the information, not just the title of the website as a whole. You can read more in our guide to APA website citations.

Reply

Karen
November 4, 2019 at 11:50 PM

Thank you for these rules:
1. Enclose the title in double quotation marks when citing an article, web page or book chapter.
2. Italicize the title of periodicals, books, reports and brochures.

Do titles of Theses fall in # 2 - as a report?

Reply

Raimo Streefkerk
Raimo Streefkerk (Scribbr-team)
November 8, 2019 at 1:14 PM

Hi Karen,

That's a good question. As a general rule of thumb you should italicize the title in the in-text citation if it's also italicized in the reference entry. If the title is not italicized in the reference entry you should use double quotation marks around the title in the in-text citation.

For theses the title is italicized in the reference entry and in-text citation.

Cheers,
Raimo

Reply

Lekan
September 29, 2019 at 7:07 AM

Can eat al. be Used in when there are numerous number of editors

For instance 20 journals

Reply

Leon Smits
Leon Smits (Scribbr-team)
September 30, 2019 at 11:17 AM

Hi Lekan,
The editors do not have to be mentioned in the in-text citation. If there are multiple authors, you can indeed use et al.
With 3-5 authors you use et al. after the first citation, with 6 or more you can use et al. every time.
Cheers,
Leon

Reply

Vicky
September 19, 2019 at 1:42 PM

Thank you for the examples and the chart with multiple authors was helpful!
As for APA in-text citations, in my research class, we were told if the author's name is stated in the sentence, always place the year in parentheses immediately after the name. Are there exceptions to this rule?

Reply

Raimo Streefkerk
Raimo Streefkerk (Scribbr-team)
September 19, 2019 at 4:38 PM

Hi Vicky,

That's a great question! It's perfectly fine to include the publication year right after the author's name when stated in the sentence. However, it's not the only correct way; you may also include the publication year (and page number) at the end of the sentence, just before the final punctuation mark.

Cheers,
Raimo

Reply

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