Ultimate guide on APA in-text citations

When you use a source, you are required to cite it directly in the text. The APA Style requires that you always note the author and year of publication.

The basic rules for in-text citations

It’s important to remember that you must cite every type of source in exactly the same way. For instance, there is no difference between a book and a Facebook message. However, there is a difference between quoting a source and paraphrasing or summarizing a source.

With an in-text citation, you always note the author and the year of publication of the source. If you use a quote then you also always mention the page number of the relevant quote.

So:

  • Paraphrase/summary: Author and publication year
  • Quote: Author, publication year and page number

Examples

Example: In-text citation with a paraphrase or summary

Option 1: Research by Scribbr shows that there is a great need for an APA Citation Generator (Swaen, 2014).

Option 2: Swaen (2014) writes that there is a great need…

Option 3: In 2014, there was concern that Swaen forgot to think about…

When you use Option 1, always put the source before the final punctuation mark of the sentence. So, the period of the sentence always comes after the source reference. Always use a comma between the author and the year of publication.

Example: In-text citation with a quote

Option 1: This is also true from the business plan: “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (Swaen, 2014, pp. 14-15).

Option 2: Swaen (2014) states the following: “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (pp. 14-15).

Option 3: In 2014, Swaen wrote as follows: “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (pp. 14-15).

When quoting, the period still comes after the source reference.

More APA examples

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In-text citation with multiple authors

Has the source been written by multiple authors? With three or more authors, the rules change slightly. See the examples below or read the in-depth guide on in-text citations with multiple authors.

For two authors, you use an ampersand (&) at the end of the text, and you use ‘and’ in the running text.

Example: In-text citation with 2 authors

Research by Scribbr shows that there is a great need  (Swaen & Driessen, 2014).

Swaen and Driessen (2014) write that there is a great need…

In the first in-text citation, you note all of the authors. In the subsequent citation, you only note the first author, followed by ‘et al.’ which means ‘and others’.

Example: In-text citation with 3-5 authors (at the end of the text)

First citation: Research by Scribbr shows that there is a great need (Swaen, Driessen, & Van Laak, 2014).

Subsequent citations: In addition, many students make use of it (Swaen et al., 2014).

Example: In-text citation with 3-5 authors (in running text)

First citation:  Swaen, Driessen, and Van Laak (2014) argue that much research about this phenomenon has been done.

Subsequent citations: Swaen et al. (2014) notice the differences becoming greater.

Here, you should note only the first author, followed by ‘et al.’. Be careful! If this abbreviation causes this short reference to be identical to another source from the same year, then add extra authors until the sources can be distinguished from each other. Again, as long as you leave authors out, you end the citation with ‘et al.’.

Example: In-text citation with 6 or more authors (at the end of the text)

First citation: The authors argue that the difference is becoming greater (Swaen et al., 2014).

Subsequent citations: Despite these differences, the agreements remain influential (Swaen et al., 2014).

Example: In-text citation with 6 or more authors (in running text)

First citation: Swaen et al. (2014) see the differences becoming greater but they remain optimistic.

Subsequent citations: Swaen et al. (2014) remain not only optimistic, but they are also going full steam ahead.

A complete overview of in-text citations with multiple authors

Number of authorsFirst in-text citation (paraphrase or summary)Subsequent in-text citation (paraphrase or summary)*First in-text citation (quote)Next in-text citation (quote)*
1 author(Swaen, 2014)(Swaen, 2014)(Swaen, 2014, p. 4)(Swaen, 2014, p. 4)
2 authors(Swaen & Driessen, 2014)(Swaen & Driessen, 2014)(Swaen & Driessen, 2014, p. 4)(Swaen & Driessen, 2014, p. 4)
3, 4 or 5 authors(Swaen, Driessen, & Van Laak, 2014)(Swaen et al., 2014)(Swaen, Driessen, & Van Laak, 2014, p. 4)(Swaen et al., 2014, p. 4)
6 or more authors(Swaen et al., 2014)(Swaen et al., 2014)(Swaen et al., 2014, p. 4)(Swaen et al., 2014, p. 4)

* The ‘subsequent in-text citations’ means that with multiple uses of the same source, you write the citation in short form beginning with the second use. See the example with 3, 4 or 5 authors.

No author and/ or no date

It may happen that you can’t find the author or publication. This is a common problem for internet sources. See these examples of what to do when information is missing.

An organization as the author

It’s also common that instead of a person, the author is listed as an entire organization. An example here is the Royal Bank of Scotland. When this happens, the name of the organization is used as the author.

Layout rules for quoting according to the APA Style

In addition to always specifying the page number for the source reference of a quote, APA also has rules for the layout of the quote. For example, there is a difference between a quote of fewer than 40 words and a quote of 40 words or more.

No page number for the quote

Sources that come from the internet often have no page numbers. If the source does have paragraph numbers, then use the paragraph number instead of the page number. The abbreviation is ‘para.’.

Example: Paragraph instead of a page number

This is also true from the business plan: “making an APA Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (Swaen, 2014, para. 2).

You will find that with internet sources, there is often no mention of paragraph numbers. If there is a title (heading) for the text, then take the title and count from there to determine the paragraph number from which the quote originates.

Example: Paragraph with a heading instead of a page number

This is also true from the business plan: “making an APA Generator is a lot of work but many students benefit from it” (Swaen, 2014, Conclusion, para. 2).

If the title is very long, then you may also shorten it in your citation.

A source within a source

Using a source that is cited in another source is called an indirect citation. The APA Style requires that you include the indirect source text as well as the actual source.

The location of the repeated sources to multiple paragraphs

If you use the same source multiple times in a paragraph or section, you will have to include the citation each time. However, you can be creative about this. The important thing is to make it clear to the reader that the information comes from a source. See these examples (which include explanations) that show where to place your citation.

Noting sources in the reference list

In addition to citing the source directly in the text, the APA Style prescribes that you note the source as a reference in the reference list.

Use the APA Citation Generator

All of these rules and exceptions are automatically applied in our free APA Citation Generator.

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Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas loves to teach and is an experienced thesis writer. He tries to help students with writing clear and easy to comprehend articles about difficult topics.

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