APA 7th edition citation quick guide

APA 7th edition publication manualAPA Style is widely used by students, researchers, and professionals in the social and behavioral sciences. The Scribbr APA Citation Generator automatically generates accurate references and in-text citations for free.

This citation guide outlines the most important citation guidelines from the 7th edition APA Publication Manual (2020). Scribbr also offers free guides for the older APA 6th edition, MLA Style, and Chicago Style.

APA in-text citations

The basics

In-text citations are brief references in the running text that direct readers to the reference entry at the end of the paper. You include them every time you quote or paraphrase someone else’s ideas or words.

An APA in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and the year of publication (also known as the author-date system). If you’re citing a specific part of a source, you should also include a locator such as a page number or timestamp. For example: (Smith, 2020, p. 170).

Parenthetical vs. narrative citation

The in-text citation can take two forms: parenthetical and narrative. Both types are generated automatically when citing a source with Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator.

  • Parenthetical citation: According to new research … (Smith, 2020).
  • Narrative citation: Smith (2020) notes that …

Multiple authors and corporate authors

The in-text citation changes slightly when a source has multiple authors or an organization as an author. Pay attention to punctuation and the use of the ampersand (&) symbol.

Author type Parenthetical citation Narrative citation
One author (Smith, 2020) Smith (2020)
Two authors (Smith & Jones, 2020) Smith and Jones (2020)
Three or more authors (Smith et al., 2020) Smith et al. (2020)
Organization (Scribbr, 2020) Scribbr (2020)

Missing information

When the author, publication date or locator is unknown, take the steps outlined below.

Missing element What to do Parenthetical citation
Author Use the source title.* (Source Title, 2020)
Date Write “n.d.” for “no date”. (Smith, n.d.)
Page number Either use an alternative locator or
omit the page number.
(Smith, 2020, Chapter 3) or
(Smith, 2020)
*Format the title in the same way as in the corresponding reference entry (either italicized or, if the title in the reference entry is not italicized, placed in quotation marks). Use title case capitalization.

APA references

The basics

APA references generally include information about the author, publication date, title, and source. Depending on the type of source, you may have to include extra information that helps your reader locate the source.

Reference examples

Citing a source starts with choosing the correct reference format. Use Scribbr’s Citation Example Generator to learn more about the format for the most common source types. Pay close attention to punctuation, capitalization, and italicization.

Generate APA citations for free

Missing information

It is not uncommon for certain information to be unknown or missing, especially with sources found online. In these cases, the reference is slightly adjusted.

Missing element What to do Reference format
Author Start the reference entry with the source title. Title. (Date). Source.
Date Write “n.d.” for “no date”. Author. (n.d.). Title. Source.
Title Describe the work in square brackets. Author. (Date). [Description]. Source.

Formatting the APA reference page

The basics

APA Reference Page (7th edition)On the reference page, you list all the sources that you’ve cited throughout your paper. Place the page, right after the main body and before any appendices.

On the first line of the page, write the section label “References” (in bold and centered). On the second line, start listing your references in alphabetical order.

Apply these formatting guidelines to the APA reference page:

  • Double spacing (within and between references)
  • Hanging indent of ½ inch
  • Legible font (e.g. Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11)
  • Page number in the top right header

Which sources to include

On the reference page, you only include sources that you have cited in the text (with an in-text citation). You should not include references to personal communications that your reader can’t access (e.g. emails, phone conversations or private online material).

Frequently asked questions

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—e.g. 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 the reference entry and in-text citations.

When no author at all can be determined—e.g. 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 if it appears in plain text in the reference list, and in italics if it appears in italics in the reference list. Shorten it if necessary.

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

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) but the text is long, 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 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 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 designed to change over time, it’s a good idea to include an access date. In this case, write it in the following format at the end of the reference: Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.uva.nl/en/about-the-uva/about-the-university/about-the-university.html

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