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.

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 or government responsible for creating the content. If so, include its 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 (except for court cases, which are italicized in the in-text citation but not the reference entry). Otherwise, enclose it in 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)

Note that Bible citations always use chapter and verse numbers, even when page numbers are available:

(English Standard Version Bible, 2001, Josh. 2:7)

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 web pages don’t have page numbers, you can use one of the following options:

  • Paragraph number: (Smith, 2018, 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).
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.

30 comments

Marie
April 7, 2021 at 3:52 PM

When I mention a source for the first time, should I then include the first name(s)?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 16, 2021 at 2:50 PM

Hi Marie,

You never mention the author's first name within a parenthetical citation. However, you can clarify an author's name in the text the first time you mention them if you think it's relevant. For example:

John Smith argues that . . . (2020, p. 21).

You might do this with an author whose work is particularly central to your argument; for most authors, it's fine to just refer to them by their last name throughout.

Reply

Jordyn
April 4, 2021 at 9:08 AM

Hi there, I was trying to figure out how to shorten a title of a journal article in 7th APA format thats in-text. I cannot figure out the rules if I need to shorten it to an agreed number of words etc. Thank you

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
April 6, 2021 at 3:26 PM

Hi Jordyn,

The best approach when you need to include a shortened title in your in-text citation (note that this is only necessary when no individual or organizational author can be listed) is to shorten it to the initial noun phrase or to the first 2–4 words, omitting any articles ("the," "a," or "an"). So for example, "The southern slope of Monsalvat: How Spanish Wagnerism became Catalan" would become "Southern slope of Monsalvat"

Hope that helps!

Reply

Nicole
March 14, 2021 at 5:10 AM

When quoting multiple lines of text, how for should it be indented? is it still double spaced?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 15, 2021 at 2:14 PM

Hi Nicole,

See here for information on how to create block quotes (for longer quotations) in APA Style. The block quote is double-spaced like the rest of the text.

Reply

Suchi
March 12, 2021 at 11:30 AM

Hello,

If I have two summary sentences from the different articles published in two different years but the first author of both the article is the same, how can I cite them?

Also, should I cite them in a narrative or parenthetical manner?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 15, 2021 at 2:51 PM

Hi Suchi,

If the two articles are published in different years, that's enough to distinguish between them; you don't need to do anything special with the citations. For example, with (Smith et al., 2019) and (Smith et al., 2020), it's clear from the different years that these are different articles.

It's up to you whether to cite in a narrative or parenthetical manner; do whatever fits most smoothly in each case.

Reply

Ethan
March 9, 2021 at 12:58 PM

I use a printing of a book from a more recent date, say 2015. But the book was originally printed in 1936. How do I cite, in-text and reference list, the source I used (2015) but mention the original publication date?
I'm told I have to acknowledge the original publication date at least in-text.

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 15, 2021 at 3:26 PM

Hi Ethan,

When you need to acknowledge the original publication date of a work consulted in a more recent edition, you can just add this at the very end of the reference entry, in parentheses (and not followed by a period): (Original work published 1936)

Only the more recent date needs to be mentioned in the in-text citation; if you want to mentioned the original date in the text, you can do so outside of the citation, e.g.:
Animal Farm, originally published in 1945, is an allegorical story about … (Orwell, 2021).

Reply

Sam
March 7, 2021 at 5:53 AM

If you are assessing an article published by one author, and within that article they have cited sources by other works, do you need to cite the authors they have cited?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 15, 2021 at 3:13 PM

Hi Sam,

Generally no, you don't need to cite a source just because it's cited in something you already cite; otherwise you could end up with an infinitely expanding number of sources!

The exception is if you quote or paraphrase a part of the text where the author is clearly quoting or paraphrasing another source. In that case, it's best to seek out the original source and cite the information directly. If you can't access the original source, you can use an indirect citation, as explained in this FAQ.

Reply

DONNA
March 4, 2021 at 9:48 PM

If I start out a sentence as, Chris Last name states "the quote".
Do I cite the author's name after this, since credit was given at the beginning of the sentence?

Thank you !

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 8, 2021 at 5:08 PM

Hi Donna,

No, if you've already mentioned the author's name in the sentence, you don't need to repeat it in the citation. Just include the year and page number, e.g. John Smith states "quote" (2010, p. 15).

Reply

Matilda
February 17, 2021 at 2:13 PM

Hello!
I wonder how to shorten a citation? If I e.g wants to start in the middle of a sentence or take a, for the context, irrelevant part of the text out. Do I use the (---) or is that from some other reference style?
All the best!
Matilda

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 17, 2021 at 3:08 PM

Hi Matilda,

You can find some guidance on shortening quotations in APA Style here. In general, you'd use an ellipsis (…) to omit something from the middle of a quotation. It's not necessary to use one to omit something at the start or end of a quote or to mark that a quote begins in mid-sentence.

Reply

Laura
January 31, 2021 at 4:52 AM

Hi! I want to cite two powerpoint presentations by the same teacher. How do I differentiate them as in- text citations?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
February 1, 2021 at 3:21 PM

Hi Laura,

When citing two sources with the same author, usually the year of publication differentiates them, e.g. (Smith, 2016) vs. (Smith, 2018). If both presentations in this case were in the same year, they should be differentiated with a letter after the year. The earlier presentation would be "a," the later one "b." For example, (Smith, 2020a) vs. (Smith, 2020b). These letters should also appear in the reference list entries for the presentations.

Feel free to check our article on citing PowerPoints if you need any more specific advice on this format.

Reply

Jane
January 22, 2021 at 6:34 AM

If the article is by one author, do we have to cite their name every time or just once and then just the year and page number after that?

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
January 26, 2021 at 3:32 PM

Hi Jane,

In the case of a single author, cite their name in every in-text citation, not just the first one.

Reply

tiffany
December 29, 2020 at 4:10 PM

What if the two authors are husband and wife so the last name is the same?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
January 11, 2021 at 3:53 PM

Hi Tiffany,

When the two authors of a source have the same last name, you simply cite both names as usual, for example: (Smith & Smith, 2020).

Hope that helps!

Reply

Alex
December 28, 2020 at 6:08 AM

I don't know where to say this so I will post it here. Your in-text help tool in the citation generator does not follow the APA 7th rules for 3 or more authors. As noted above in "APA in-text citations with multiple authors", in text citation of 3 or more authors should use the first author's last name followed by et al. While using the citation tool, I click on in-text citation, and it still follows the 6th edition rules of listing 3 authors names separately during the first in-text reference with all others using et al.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
January 6, 2021 at 1:11 PM

Hi Alex,

Our APA Generator supports both the 6th and 7th editions – are you sure you've switched to the 7th edition? You can find this option in the top right corner of your reference list (next to the language selector).

Let me know if this doesn't solve the issue and we can look into it further!

Reply

sage sonson
December 15, 2020 at 3:46 AM

what do you do if only a first name is given

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
December 21, 2020 at 7:52 PM

Hi,

Ideally you should try to identify the author's full name – if this isn't possible, the source may not be reliable enough to use in an academic paper. However, if an author only has one name, you may simply cite that name in both your in-text citation and reference entry.

Reply

Nicole
December 3, 2020 at 5:18 AM

How do you do the in text citation for an online dictionary?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
December 10, 2020 at 7:42 PM

Hi Nicole,

We have a separate article with examples of citing an online dictionary in APA. In most cases, you'll cite the name of the organization responsible for the dictionary (e.g. Merriam-Webster). Hope that answers your question!

Reply

Valesca
November 29, 2020 at 11:32 PM

How do I cite forthcoming research, if it is not officially published yet?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
December 8, 2020 at 8:01 PM

Hi Valesca,

Our article about APA journal citations includes some examples of how to cite unpublished research. Hope that helps :)

Reply

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