Beginner’s guide to APA in-text citation
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.
Table of contents
- APA in-text citations explained in 4 minutes
- Parenthetical vs. narrative citations
- APA in-text citations with multiple authors
- No author, date or page number
- Multiple sources in one parenthesis
- Avoiding ambiguity in APA in-text citations
- Citing indirect sources (“as cited in”)
- Citing personal communication
- General mentions of websites and software
- Example paragraph with in-text citations
- Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
|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
||(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020)
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020)
No author, date or page number
|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
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).
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.
No publication date
If the publication date is unknown, write “n.d.” (no date) in the in-text citation.
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:
Note that Bible citations always use chapter and verse numbers, even when page numbers are available:
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.
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.
|Multiple works by the same author in the same year.||Add a lowercase letter after the year.||(Cooper, 2018a)
|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”.
If the publication date of the primary source is unknown, include only the year of publication of the secondary source.
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.
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.
Example paragraph with in-text citations
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)
- When should I use “et al.” in APA in-text citations?
- When should I include a page number in an APA in-text citation?
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).