In-Text Citations: The Basics
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:50:04
Reference citations in text are covered on pages 169-179 of the Publication Manual. What follows are some general guidelines for referring to the works of others in your essay.
Note: APA style requires authors to use the past tense or present perfect tense when using signal phrases to describe earlier research, for example, Jones (1998) found or Jones (1998) has found...
APA citation basics
When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.
If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.
In-text citation capitalization, quotes, and italics/underlining
- Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.
- If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source: Permanence and Change. Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs: Writing New Media, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
(Note: in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized: Writing new media.)
- When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word: Natural-Born Cyborgs.
- Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's Vertigo."
- Italicize the titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums: The Closing of the American Mind; The Wizard of Oz; Friends.
- Put quotation marks around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles, articles from edited collections, television series episodes, and song titles: "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds;" "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."
If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference (preceded by "p."). Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.
According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time" (p. 199).
Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199); what implications does this have for teachers?
If the author is not named in a signal phrase, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.
She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style" (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.
Place direct quotations that are 40 words or longer in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.
Jones's (1998) study found the following:
Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citingsources. This difficulty could be attributed to thefact that many students failed to purchase astyle manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)
Summary or paraphrase
If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference, but APA guidelines encourage you to also provide the page number (although it is not required.)
According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners.
APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).
Why we include parenthetical / in-text citations:
Researchers include brief parenthetical citations in their writing to acknowledge references to other people’s work. Generally, APA parenthetical citations include the last name of the author and year of publication. Page numbers are also included when citing a direct quote.
If some of this information is included in the body of the sentence, exclude it from the parenthetical citation. In-text citations typically appear at the end of the sentence, between the last word and the period.
Parenthetical citation without author’s name in the text:
Harlem had many artists and musicians in the late 1920s (Belafonte, 2008).
Parenthetical citation when author is mentioned in the text:
According to Belafonte, Harlem was full of artists and musicians in the late 1920s (2008).
Parenthetical citations with multiple authors:
Works with two authors
Include both names, separated by an ampersand (&).
Rallying to restore sanity was a revolutionary undertaking (Stewart & Colbert, 2010).
Works with three to five authors
- Include all names in the first in-text parenthetical citation, separated by commas and then an ampersand (&).
- For all subsequent in-text parenthetical citations, include only the first author, followed by “et al.” and publication year if it is the first citation in a paragraph.
First in-text parenthetical citation:
Rallying to restore sanity was a revolutionary undertaking (Stewart, Colbert, & Oliver, 2010).
All subsequent in-text parenthetical citations:
The event resulted in thousands of participants flocking to the National Mall in support of the cause (Stewart et al., 2010).
Works with six or more authors
Include only the last name of the first author, followed by “et al.” and publication year in all parenthetical citations.
The study did not come to any definitive conclusions (Rothschild et al., 2013).
Citing sources without an author:
If a work has no author, include the first few words of the bibliography entry (in many cases, the title) and the year.
- Use double quotations around the titles of articles, chapters and/or websites.
Statistics confirm that the trend is rising (“New Data,” 2013).
*Note: Unlike in your reference list, parenthetical citations of articles, chapters and/or website should have all major words capitalized.
- Italicize the titles of periodicals, books, brochures or reports
The report includes some bleak results (Information Illiteracy in Academia, 2009).
Citing part of a work:
When citing a specific part of a work, provide the relevant page number or section identifier, such as chapters, tables or equations. Direct quotes should always have page numbers.
One of the most memorable quotes is when he says, “You are going to live a good and long life filled with great and terrible moments that you cannot even imagine yet!” to Augustus (Green, 2012, p. 272).
If the source does not include page numbers (such as online sources), you can reference specific parts of the work by referencing the:
Paragraph number (if given) with the abbreviation “para. xx”
He quickly learned that pandas were not considered good pets (Chan, 2011, para. 3).
- Section or heading and the number of the paragraph in which the information is found. For lengthy headings, use the first few words of the title in the parenthetical citation
The sample population included both red and giant pandas (Chan, 2011, Methodology section, para. 1).
Citing groups or corporate authors:
Corporations, government agencies and associations can be considered the author of a source when no specific author is given.
Write out the full name of the group in all parenthetical citations:
The May 2011 study focused on percentages of tax money that goes to imprisonment over education funding (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2011).
However, you may abbreviate the group name if the group’s name is lengthy and it is a commonly recognized abbreviation in all subsequent parenthetical citations.
The report found that over a half billion of taxpayer dollars went to imprison residents “from 24 of New York City’s approximately 200 neighborhoods” (NAACP, 2011, pp. 2).
Citing classical works
For classical sources, such as ancient Greek works, cite the year of the translation or version used. Precede this information with “trans.” or “version,” respectively.
(Homer, trans. 1998).
When citing specific content from these sources, include the paragraph/line numbers that are used in classical works. This information is consistent across versions/editions, and is the easiest way to locate direct quotes from classical works.
The Bible extols the virtues of love; “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Cor. 13:4 New International Version).
Note: Remember, you do not need to create formal citations in your reference list for classical works.
Citing and formatting block quotes:
When directly quoting information from sources in your writing, you may need to format it differently depending on how many words are used.
If a quote runs on for more than 40 words:
- Start the direct quotation on a new line
- Indent the text roughly half an inch from the left margin
- If there are multiple paragraphs in the quotation, indent them an extra half inch
- Remove any quotation marks
- Double-space the text
- Add the parenthetical citation after the final sentence
…here is some text from the book that clearly defines early on in the novel:
He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.