APA citation guidelines

APA citation

APA style is one of the most common formats for citing sources Other well known citation styles include MLA and Chicago.

APA Style citations consist of two parts:

  1. In-text citation: A brief citation in parentheses when you mention a source, citing the author’s last name and the year of publication, e.g. (Smith, 2019). It identifies the full source in the reference list.
  2. Reference list entry: Full publication details listed on the reference page, which appears at the end of your paper. The reference provides all the information needed 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/

This citation guide is based on the 6th edition of the APA Manual. The latest edition, published in October 2019, is not yet supported, but we have compiled a quick guide to the most important 7th edition changes.

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. Use one every time you quote or paraphrase a source.

Include the author’s last name and the year of publication. When quoting a source, it’s also necessary to include the page number(s) of the quote.

  • 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 …

2 authors

When there are two authors, separate their last names with an ampersand (&), or with the word ‘and’ when they appear in the running text.

  • 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

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.

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

If you cite the same source again, to save space, you shorten the citation. Instead of including all the authors’ names, include only the first author, followed by “et al.” (meaning “and others”).

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

6 or more authors

If a source has six or more authors, use the shortened version from the first citation.

  • Lunott et al. (2015) discuss the …

Organization as author

When a source does not list an individual author, it can often be attributed to an organization instead.

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


When you quote a source, you also have to add the page number to the in-text citation.

  • According to the company’s business plan, “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work, but many students benefit from it” (Swan, 2014, p. 5).

Multiple sources in one citation

Sometimes, it’s necessary to cite multiple sources in one sentence. You can combine them into one set of parentheses, separated by semicolons.

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

Full in-text citation guide

Reference list

Every source cited in the text must also appear in your reference list.

The format differs depending on the source type, but every reference begins in the same way: with the author’s last name and initials, the publication year or date, and the title of the source.

Book citations

Note: Book titles should be italicized.

  • Format
    Last Name, Initials. (Year). Book title (edition). City, State/Country: Publisher.
  • Example
    Porter, M. E. (1998). Competitive strategy: Techniques for analyzing industries and competitors (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Journal article citations

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

  • Format
    Last Name, Initials., & Last Name, Initials. (Year). Article title. Journal Name, Volume(Issue), Page Number(s). https://doi.org/DoiNumber
  • Example
    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

Website citations

  • Format
    Last Name, Initials. (Year, Month Day). Page title [OptionalType]. Retrieved from http://webaddress
  • Example
    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

Report citations

Note: The title should be italicized.

  • Format
    Organization Name or Author Last Name, Initials. (Year). Report title. Retrieved from http://webaddress
  • Example
    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

More APA Style examples

Do you want to cite an image, 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 name. If you cite multiple sources by the same author, then sort them by publication year.

When you use the APA Citation Generator, your reference list is alphabetized 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:

  • Times New Roman 12 pt
  • Double line spacing
  • One-inch (2.54 cm) margins
  • Left-aligned running head with a shortened title and page number

In addition to these general rules, there are more specific requirements for formatting the title page, running head, abstract, reference page and headings and subheadings.

Frequently asked questions about APA style

Who uses APA format?

APA is a publication manual widely used by professionals, researchers and students in the social and behavioural sciences, including fields like education, psychology, and business.

Be sure to check the guidelines of your university or the journal you want to be published in before applying APA format.

How do I set up APA format in Word?

The easiest way to set up APA format in Word is to download Scribbr’s APA format Word template. This will make sure that:

  • One-inch page margins are set.
  • APA heading styles are imported.
  • A running head and page numbers are included in the header.
  • The font size and line spacing is correct.

In addition, you’ll have an easy-to-follow structure with examples and useful links to more information.

Download the APA format Word Template

How do I cite a source with no author in APA Style?

When no individual author name is listed, but the source can clearly be attributed to a specific organization—for example, a press release by a charity, a report by an agency, or a page from a company’s website—use the organization’s name as the author in your reference list and in-text citations.

When no author at all can be determined—for example, a collaboratively edited wiki or an online article published anonymously—use the title in place of the author. In the in-text citation, put the title in quotation marks and shorten it if necessary.

How do I cite a source with no page numbers in APA?

When you quote or paraphrase a specific passage from a source, you need to indicate the location of the passage in your in-text citation. If there are no page numbers (e.g. when citing a website), you can instead use section headings, paragraph numbers, or a combination of the two:

(Caulfield, 2019, “Linking” section, para. 1).

Section headings can be shortened if necessary. Kindle location numbers should not be used in ebook citations, as they are unreliable.

If you are referring to the source as a whole, it’s not necessary to include a page number or other marker.

When should I include an access date in an APA citation?

APA style usually does not require an access date. You never need to include one when citing journal articles, e-books, or other stable online sources.

However, if you are citing a website or online article that’s likely to change over time, it’s a good idea to include an access date. In this case, place the month, day, and year directly after the word “Retrieved”, and before the URL.

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 by using “et al.” (meaning “and others”) after the first author’s name.

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)
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