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Citing References in Text

Learn how to cite references in the text, including how to implement the basic in-text citation formats, cite multiple works, achieve clarity, and format in-text citations with missing author and/or date information.

Academic Writer

© 2023 American Psychological Association.


Narrative: Follow the author-date method of an in-text citation when using APA Style. For a narrative citation, which is when you refer to the author(s) within the sentence, use author (year).

  • For example: Smith (2021) found...

Parenthetical: For a parenthetical citation, which is when you refer to the author(s) after the idea is presented, use (author, year).

  • For example: Citing in-text and parenthetically is necessary (Smith, 2021).

Two authors: Use both authors in-text with "and" between them and use both authors parenthetically with an ampersand "&" between them.

  • Narrative example: Jones and Smith (2022) asserted...
  • Parenthetical example: (Jones & Smith, 2022).

Three or more authors: Use the first author's name followed by et al. in-text and parenthetically.

  • Narrative example: Lee et al. (2021) asserted...
  • Parenthetical example: (Lee et al., 2021).

Unknown author: If the work does not have an author, cite the source by its title in the signal phrase or use the first word or two in the parentheses. Titles of books and reports are italicized; titles of articles, chapters, and web pages are in quotation marks.

  • Narrative example: In "How to Cite Using APA Style: A Case Study" (2021), a study was conducted about students learning to cite APA in their papers.
  • Parenthetical example: A study was conducted about students learning to cite APA in their papers ("How to Cite," 2021).

Organization or Group author (i.e., Staff Writer): If the author is writing on behalf of an organization or a government agency, mention the organization in-text and parenthetically the first time you cite the source. If the organization has a well-known abbreviation, include the abbreviation in brackets the first time the source is cited and then use only the abbreviation in later citations.  

  • Narrative example first time: According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020),...
  • Narrative example subsequent citations: According to APA (2020),...
  • Parenthetical example first time: (American Psychological Association [APA], 2020).
  • Parenthetical example subsequent citations: (APA, 2020).

Two or more works in the same parenthesis: When your parenthetical citation includes two or more works, order them alphabetically separated by a semi-colon.

  • Example: (Jones, 2021; Smith, 2023).

Authors with the same last name: To prevent confusion in a parenthetical citation, use first initials when citing two authors with the same last name (alphabetize by the first initial).

  • Example: (A. Jones, 2021; R. Jones, 2022).

Indirect or Secondary sources: Make sure you are always citing the author(s) whose work you are reading. If those authors cite a source, then that is an indirect source and would be cited as follows:

  • Davis (2015) explained the importance of properly citing indirect sources (as cited in Smith, 2021).
    • Davis (2015) is the indirect source that is found in Smith (2021).
    • This format shows that the idea originated with Davis (2015) but that you found the idea in Smith (2021).
    • Davis (2015) does not need to appear on your reference page, but you will reference Smith (2021) as that is the source you read and referenced.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but you are paraphrasing or summarizing and not directly quoting the material, then you do not need to use the page number in your in-text citation

Citing Long Paraphrases: A paraphrase may continue for several sentences in a paragraph. After citing the resource it is not necessary to repeat the citation if it is clear the information is from the same source. 


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