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APA Tutorial: 2. Using In-Text Citations

Learn how to cite your sources in APA Style (7th edition).

2. Using In-Text Citations (See also chapter 8 in the APA Manual, "Works Credited in the Text")

What are in-text citations?

In-text citations are how you give credit to your sources within the body of your paper. They signal to your reader when information in your paper has been borrowed from a source. Each of your in-text citations corresponds with a more detailed reference list entry, which then enables your reader to track down your sources!

 

When should I cite?

In-text citations are an essential component of every research paper. Every time you use someone's exact words, paraphrase or summarize someone's ideas, or borrow an image, you must provide an in-text citation in your paper. Failure to cite your sources is considered plagiarism

A rare exception to the "cite everything you borrow" rule is for information that is considered "common knowledge." Students who are still learning what is considered common knowledge in their major or program of study should use caution before claiming any information is "common knowledge."  A good rule of thumb is that if you can find a piece of information in five credible sources without documentation (a citation), then it is probably considered common knowledge. Visit the common knowledge page on the BSC plagiarism guide to learn more.

 

What system of in-text citation does APA use? 

APA uses the author-date system of in-text citation. This means that every time you use an outside source in your paper, you need to provide the author AND the date of the source. You have two options for how to provide in-text citations in your paper. The author and date can be included either in the sentence itself (a narrative citation) or in parentheses at the end of the sentence (a parenthetical citation). In the coming pages, you'll see examples of both of these in-text citation options. 

 

In-text citations must include these elements: 

  • The author's last name (or the name of the organizational author).
  • The publication year (or year of most recent update).
    • Do not use a last revised or copyright date
    • If no date is available, use "n.d.".
    • Months and days are not used in in-text citations.
  • Direct quotations must include a page number, paragraph number, or section title.
    • Paraphrases do not require page numbers, but it can be helpful to your reader to include them.
  • Every in-text citation must correspond with an entry in your reference list. 
    • The only exceptions to this rule are personal communications, which are cited in the text but are not included in your reference list, and general mentions of websites. 

 

Watch this brief video on the basic rules of APA in-text citations:

Excelsior College Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). APA in-text citations: 7th edition  [Video]. https://owl.excelsior.edu/citation-and-documentation/apa-style/apa-in-text-citations/

Here are some examples of how to form in-text citations in APA. 

Author Type First Narrative Citation Subsequent Narrative Citations First Parenthetical Citation Subsequent Parenthetical Citations   
One author

Smith (2007)

Smith (2007)

(Smith, 2007) (Smith, 2007)

Two authors

*Use “and” between the two authors’ last names in narrative citations. 

*Use “&” between the two authors’ last names in parenthetical citations. 

Rupe and Smith (2019) Rupe and Smith (2019) (Rupe & Smith, 2019) (Rupe & Smith, 2019)

Three or more authors 

*Use “et al.” from the very first citation of a work by three or more authors. 

Rupe et al. (2018) Rupe et al. (2018) (Rupe et al., 2018) (Rupe et al., 2018)

Three or more authors, where one citation looks the same as another

*Write out as many names you need to distinguish the difference between them and then write "et al."

Smith, Jones, Clark, et al. (2019) Smith, Jones, Clark, et al. (2019) (Smith, Jones, Clark, et al., 2019) (Smith, Jones, Clark, et al., 2019)

Group author

(with a common abbreviation)

*Full name of organization must be spelled out on first mention. 

  • For the first citation: Write out the full name of the organization and next to the full name put its abbreviation in parentheses (for narrative citations) or brackets (for parenthetical citations). 

  • For all subsequent citations to this work, you can use the abbreviation alone. 

*If two organizations you cite in your paper have the same abbreviation, spell out both names every time!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2019)

The CDC (2019) (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2019) (CDC, 2019)

Group author

(no well-known abbreviation)

Bay State College (2019)

Bay State College (2019)

(Bay State College, 2019)

(Bay State College, 2019)

No author named

* If there is no author named in a source, use the title of the source in the in-text citation.  

  • Italicize books, reports, and webpages. 

  • Put article titles in quotation marks. 

  • Include the publication year or “n.d.”  

Book, Report or Webpage Title (2016)

"Article Title" (2017)

Book, Report, or Webpage Title (2016)

"Article Title" (2017)

(Book, Report, or Webpage Title, 2016)

("Article Title," 2017)

(Book, Report, or Webpage Title, 2016)

("Article Title," 2017)

No date provided Johnson (n.d.) Johnson (n.d.) (Johnson, n.d.) (Johnson, n.d.)

Personal communications

*Can include emails, chats, texts, letters, etc. that are not retrievable by your reader

*Include the month and day in your in-text citations

*Personal communications are not included in your reference list.

N. Ortiz (personal communication, January 5, 2019)

 

N. Ortiz (personal communication, January 5, 2019) (N. Ortiz, personal communication, January 5, 2019) (N. Ortiz, personal communication, January 5, 2019)

Secondary sources

*Use sparingly; find and cite the direct source of the information whenever possible.

*Cite a secondary source only if the source is in a language you can't read, out of print, or unavailable.

* First, provide the author and date of the original source of the quote. 

  • The original author and date can also be given in the parenthesis.  

  • Then write (as cited in Author Last Name, Year, p. x). 

*The source that you actually accessed is the one that appears in the reference list.

Jones (1999; as cited in Smith, 2019)

Jones (1999; as cited in Smith, 2019) (Jones, 1999, as cited in Smith, 2018) (Jones, 1999, as cited in Smith, 2018)

Multiple works by the same author with the same date 

*Put a letter after the date (a, b, c, etc.) to distinguish between the sources with the same name and date

*Include the letter in your reference entry as well!

Smith (2018a)

Smith (2018b)

Smith (2018a)

Smith (2018b)

(Smith, 2018a)

(Smith, 2018b)

(Smith, 2018a)

(Smith, 2018b)

Multiple works by the same author with different dates in one citation

*Order chronologically

Jones (n.d., 2005, 2016, 2019) Jones (n.d., 2005, 2016, 2019) (Jones, n.d., 2005, 2016, 2019) (Jones, n.d., 2005, 2016, 2019)

Authors with same last name, different first initials

*Provide the first initials even if the dates differ. 

J. Smith (2018)

K.S. Smith (2020)

J. Smith (2018)

K.S. Smith (2020)

(J. Smith, 2018)

(K.S. Smith, 2020)

(J. Smith, 2018)

(K.S. Smith, 2020)

Multiple works by different authors in one citation

*Narrative citations can be put in any order

*Put parenthetical citations in alphabetical order, separated by a semicolon

Alexis (2018), Zamboni (2017), and Brooks (2019) Alexis (2018), Zamboni (2017), and Brooks (2019)

(Alexis, 2018; Brooks, 2019; Zamboni, 2017)


 

(Alexis, 2018; Brooks, 2019; Zamboni, 2017)

Multiple works in one citation, highlighting key source(s)

*Use if you want to emphasize an important work in your parenthetical citation

*After "see also", put citations in alphabetical order

 

N/A N/A

(Brooks, 2019; see also Alexis, 2018; Zamboni, 2017).

 

(Brooks 2019; see also Alexis, 2018; Zamboni, 2017)

Translated, reissued, or republished works

*The earlier year should go first

Nietzsche (1881/1996) Nietzsche (1881/1996) (Nietzsche, 1881/1996) (Nietzsche, 1881/1996)

Note. Adapted from Author-Date Citation System, by the American Psychological Association, 2020, https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations/basic-principles/author-date. Copyright 2020 by the American Psychological Association.

 

NOTE: DIRECT QUOTATIONS also require a page number, paragraph number, or section title. You are encouraged to provide this information for paraphrases, but it is not required. 

Incorporating sources in the text of your paper

In addition to providing in-text citations for all of your sources, you will also be expected to incorporate your sources into your own writing by either quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing your sources. Review the following chart to get a sense of what each incorporation method is intended to do, and how they work with in-text citations. You can find more information on the Incorporating Sources Ethically guide. 

 

Source Incorporation Method Definition Purpose Example
Quotations Provide exact language from a source.

Used when the author's words are especially powerful or you can't effectively make the point without the source's exact wording. 

 

The majority of your paper should be in your own words, so use quotations sparingly. 

Quotation with a narrative in-text citation:

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2020) emphasized that "during stressful times, it's important to remember that some physical activity is better than none" (para. 3).

Quotation with a parenthetical in-text citation:

In order to address the effects of climate change on mental health, it has become necessary to seek out "transformative action-where inequities are addressed, active hope is demonstrated, and communities are mobilized" (Hayes et al., 2018, p. 10).

Paraphrases Put someone else's ideas into your own words.

The most common way of using sources in a paper. A point from a source is completely rewritten in your own words and phrasing. 

 

To ensure that you paraphrase your sources without accidentally plagiarizing, cover up your source and rewrite the author's point in your own words and sentence structure. After you finish, double-check the original source to make sure you have completely rewritten the sentence in your own words and phrasing. 

Paraphrase with a narrative in-text citation:

According to Browne et al. (2014), exercise can be an effective coping technique if you have a severe mental illness.

Paraphrase with a parenthetical in-text citation:

Exercise has been found to mitigate many of depression's symptoms (CDC, 2018).

Summaries Summarize the main ideas from a source. Used when want to provide background from a source, not specific details or points. 

Summary with a narrative in-text citation:

The CDC (n.d.) reported that there are a variety of benefits to being physically active, including reducing your risk for certain illnesses, improving your life expectancy, and helping your mental health and cognitive function.

Summary with a parenthetical in-text citation:

The Affordable Care Act succeeded in helping more Americans gain health insurance and access to affordable care, yet it has not addressed the fact that health care costs continue to rise (Collins, 2019).

 

REMINDER: Page or paragraph numbers are REQUIRED for all quotations. For paraphrases or summaries, page or paragraph numbers are optional. However, APA encourages the use of page numbers even when paraphrasing in order to help your reader locate the original source material. 

Is it possible to cite too much? 

As a general rule, you need to include an in-text citation every time you paraphrase, summarize, or directly quote a source. However, there is such a thing as over-citing within paragraphs. Overciting can happen when the same author-date narrative citation is repeated over and over within a paragraph, even when it is clear that the writer is still talking about the same source. 

 

How to cite the same source multiple times within a single paragraph:

1. The first time you use the source in a paragraph, introduce your source using a narrative citation, such as Smith (2019) reported that...

2. For the duration of that paragraph, you can subsequently leave out the date, as long as you do one of the following:

  • Name the authors in the sentence (Smith also argued that...)
  •  Refer to the author in the sentence as “The researcher” (The researcher concluded...)
  •  Use the appropriate pronouns to indicate that you are still talking about the same source (She also noted that...).

3. If you choose to use parenthetical citations, the author AND date must be included every time, throughout the paragraph. 

4. Once you begin a new paragraph, you need to reintroduce the source with the full in-text citation again (name and date).

5. These steps are not recommended if you are citing multiple sources in the same paragraph. If you are using multiple sources within the same paragraph, repeat the full citation for each source throughout the paragraph to avoid confusing your reader. 

 

Examples of correctly citing a source multiple times within a single paragraph:

Example #1: Author and date used in the first narrative citation; date left out of the subsequent narrative citations. 

Exercise and mental health have long been associated, although the research suggests that men and women benefit from different types of exercise. For example, Asztalos et al. (2010) found that women were more likely to benefit from milder forms of exercise such as walking while men preferred more vigorous types of exercise. Asztalos et al. also suggested that the milder forms of exercise were more accessible to women and gave “opportunities to observe things and reflect on matters” (p. 1212).

 

Example #2: Author and date used in the first narrative citation; "The researchers" without date used in the subsequent narrative citation. 

Exercise and mental health have long been associated, although research indicates that men and women benefit from different types of exercise. Asztalos et al. (2010) suggested that women are more likely to benefit from milder forms of exercise, such as walking. The researchers also found that women preferred walking because it was more accessible and provided opportunities for reflection.

 

Example #3: Author not introduced in a narrative citation, so the date is included with every citation in the paragraph. 

Exercise and mental health have long been associated, although research suggests that men and women benefit from different types of exercise. While men have been found to prefer more vigorous exercise, women have been found to prefer milder forms, such as walking (Asztalos et al., 2010).  Astalos et al. (2010) stated that women find walking more accessible and that it provides “opportunities to observe things and reflect on matters” (p. 212).

 

American Psychological Association. (2020). Appropriate level of citation. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations/appropriate-citation

American Psychological Association. (2020). Author-date citation system. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations/basic-principles/author-date#parenthetical-narrative