The basics of 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 citations 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 becoming increasingly widespread (2014, p. 170).
  • As Smith (2014) has shown, plagiarism is a serious issue for universities.

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 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
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

  • 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.

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.

What should I do when the author or publication date is unknown?

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 using “et al.” (meaning “and others”). In this case you only include the first author’s name followed by “et al.”.

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 the 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.

18 comments

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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