APA citation guidelines (6th edition)

APA citation

APA style is one of the most common formats for citing sources Other well known citation styles include MLA and Chicago. This citation guide is based on the 6th edition APA Style. The APA Manual 7th edition , introduced in October 2019, is not yet supported.

APA Style citations consist of two parts:

  1. In-text citation: brief citation included in the sentence where the information is used. The in-text citation only contains the author’s last name and year of publication, e.g. (Smith, 2019). It identifies and helps locate the full source in the reference list.
  2. Reference list entry: full publication details listed alphabetically on the reference page, which appears right after the main body. The reference provides all information that is required to find the source, e.g. Smith, P. (2019, April 18). Citing Sources in APA Format. Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/
Scribbr APA Citation Generator

In-text citations

An in-text citation is a concise way to show the reader where the original idea came from and to give credit to the original author.

According to the APA citation guidelines, you should write down the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication. When quoting a source it is also required to include the page number(s). This can be done in multiple ways:

  • An earlier study in which X and Y were compared revealed that … (Smith, 2017).
  • Smith (2017) shows how, in the past, research into X was mainly concerned with …
  • In 1984, research was carried out by Smith that indicated that …

Multiple authors

When there are two authors, separate their last names with an ampersand.

When there are three or more authors, separate their last names using commas. The last two authors’ last names should be separated by both a comma and an ampersand (in a citation) or “and” (in the running text).

2 authors

  • Research shows that there is a great need for … (Reynolds & Thomas, 2014).
  • Reynolds and Thomas (2014) write that there is a great need for …

3-5 authors

  • Recent research suggests that there is … (McGuire, Morrison, Reynolds, & Thomas, 2014).
  • McGuire, Morrison, Reynolds, and Thomas (2014) argue that …

As you can imagine, citing a source with 3–5 authors takes up a lot of space in the text.

That is why you shorten the citation when you use the source a second, third or fourth time.

How? Instead of writing down all authors’ last names, write only the last name of the first author, followed by “et al.,” which means “and others.”

  • In this research, many participants made use of … (McGuire et al., 2014).
  • McGuire et al. (2014) noticed that …

6 or more authors

When your source has six or more authors, simply use the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” in your in-text citation:

  • Lunott et al. (2015) see the …

Organization as author

When the source is published by an organization instead of a person, cite the organization’s name as the author.

  • According to new research … (Microsoft, 2014).


When you copy an excerpt of a text from another source and place it between quotation marks, you are quoting. When you quote sources, you are required to add the page number to the in-text citation.

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Multiple sources in one citation

Sometimes, it’s necessary to cite multiple sources in one sentence. You can do this by citing multiples sources and separating them using semicolons.

  • Various studies show that … (Docker & Vagrant, 2002; Porter, 1997; Lima, Swan, & Corrieri, 2012).

Full in-text citation guide

Reference list or bibliography

Every source that is cited in the text also has to be cited in full in your reference list.

The format differs depending on the source type (e.g. a website, journal, book, etc.), but every reference starts the same:

  • Format:
    LastnameAuthor1, InitialsAuthor1, & LastnameAuthor2, InitialsAuthor2. (PublicationYear/Date). Title.
  • In reference list:
    Beswick, G., & Rothblum, E. D. (1988). Psychological antecedents of student procrastination.

Book citations

Note: Book titles should be italicized.

  • Format:
    AuthorLastName, Initials. (Year). TitleBook (edition). City, State/Country: Publisher.
  • In reference list:
    Porter, M. E. (1998). Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (3th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

See example in APA Generator

Journal article citations

Note: The journal title and volume number should be italicized.

  • Format:
    AuthorLastName, Initials., & Author LastName, Initials. (Year). TitleArticle. TitleJournal, Volume(Issue), Page Number(s). https://doi.org/DoiNumber
  • In reference list:
    Andreff, W., & Staudohar, P. D. (2000). The evolving European model of professional sports finance. Journal of Sports Economics, 1(3), 257–276. https://doi.org./10.1177/152700250000100304

See example in APA Generator

Website citations

Nothing should be italicized.

  • Format:
    AuthorLastName, Initials. (Year, Month Day). TitleArticle [OptionalType]. Retrieved from http://WebAddress
  • In reference list:
    Worland, J. (2015, July 27). U.S. flood risk could be worse than we thought. Retrieved from http://time.com/3973256/flooding-risk-coastal-cities/

See example in APA Generator

Report citations

Note: The title should be italicized.

  • Format:
    NameOrganization or AuthorLastName, Initials. (YearofPublication). Title Report. Retrieved from http://WebAddress
  • In reference list:
    Royal Bank of Scotland. (2015). Annual Report and Accounts 2014. Retrieved from http://investors.rbs.com/~/media/Files/R/RBS-IR/2014-reports/annual-report-2014.pdf

See example in APA Generator

More APA Style examples

Do you want to cite a photo, interview, YouTube video, movie or another source type that is not on this list? We have many more APA Style examples to help you cite correctly.

Sorting the reference list

Sort the references in alphabetical order based on the author’s last names of that reference. If multiple sources are written by the same author(s), then sort them by publication year.

When you use the APA Citation Generator, your list is sorted automatically.

Full reference list guide

APA formatting for papers

There are certain formatting rules you must adhere to when writing a paper in apa format.

The basic requirements are:

  • Text must be double-spaced
  • Margins must be set to one inch (or 2.54 cm)
  • You must use a left-aligned running head with a shortened title on all pages
  • It is strongly recommended to use Times New Roman in 12 pt (if your university allows it, you might be able to use a different font)

In addition to these general rules that apply for every part of an APA style paper, each section has its own requirements. Learn about the requirements by looking at the interactive formatting examples of the title page, running head, abstract, reference page and headings and subheadings.

Avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism means copying someone else’s work, without giving that author credit. This is not only unfair for the original author, but also considered cheating and can have direct consequences for you. So, always try to avoid plagiarism!

Tips for avoiding plagiarism:

  • Save your sources. This way, you can keep track of them. You don’t necessarily have to have the citation perfectly formatted from the beginning.
  • When you quote or paraphrase text, temporarily highlight it to remind yourself that you need to add the correct citations.
    Check whether you’ve cited all your sources correctly, both in the text and in the reference list.
  • Quote, paraphrase and summarize other’s work correctly.
  • Run a plagiarism checker.
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