APA In-Text Citation Style

Robert Harris
Version Date: April 27, 2011



This article provides guidelines for creating APA-style in-text citations for your paper. The examples here are based on the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2010). The information here covers the most common kinds of sources and citations you will encounter, but it is not a substitute for the Manual itself.
Following are the guidelines for in-text APA citation, together with examples.

The goal of the entire in-text citation and References page apparatus is to provide your reader with an easy, clear way to locate the sources you have drawn upon when writing your paper. Each in-text citation serves as a key to a specific entry in the list of References at the end of the paper. It is therefore crucial that each key matches the appropriate reference work. The references are alphabetized to make matching the citation to the work quick and easy. As a last measure of quality control, then, double check to be sure that each citation in your paper matches a work in the References. 

Guideline 1: Basic Citation.
The APA uses an Author-and-Date system as the basic citation. The author’s last name and the year of the publication (whether periodical, book, or other source) is listed. Many writers using APA style include citations that refer to an entire article or book, so page numbers are often absent. Thus, (Jones, 2009) refers to the entire work, while (Jones, 2009, p. 123) refers to a page in the Jones book or article.

Note by these examples that you have some variety and flexibility in presenting the required elements.

Example 1
After the crash, Doe (2005) reported that many victims were unable to explain what had happened.

Jones (2010) produced the most recent study.

The most recent study was completed in 2010 in Australia (Jones).

There has been a recent study (Jones, 2010).


Guideline 2: Short Quotations.
When quoting fewer than forty words (or fewer than four lines) from a source, enclose the quotation in quotation marks and include
•    the author’s last name
•    year of publication
•    and page number, preceded by the letter p, outside the quotation marks.

Example 2
Jones (2009) discovered that “some respondents were not entirely truthful” (p. 245).

A new analysis of the data revealed, “The number of outliers was unusually high” (Jones & Smith, 2008, p. 321).

In early 2007, Smith found that “reports of Munchausen-by-proxy were on the increase” (p. 123).

Guideline 3: Long Quotations.
When quoting more than forty words (or more than four lines) from a source, create a block quotation that
•    includes an introductory lead-in
•    begins on a new line
•    is indented one-half inch from the left margin
•    does not use quotation marks
•    includes the page number(s) preceded by p. or pp. after the period at the end of the quotation

Example 3
Unfortunately, Doe (2010) not only fails to meet Jones’ arguments head on, countering them with better data or research, but he instead takes up the cudgels of ad hominem and merely attacks the messenger:
Except for a complete lack of data, the work of Jones (2008) is very scientific. It’s real value, however, lies not in a report of what’s new, but in revealing to us that his own knowledge base consists of an excellent compendium of half truths, misinformation, urban legends, propaganda, hyperbole, advertising claims (am I being redundant here?), tall tales, and factoids. His reasoning process is indeed staggering. (pp. 223-224)


Guideline 4: Two Authors.
When a source has two authors, always
•    cite both last names each time
•    connect them with the word and for in-text citation (Example 4)
•    connect them with an ampersand (&) for parenthetical citation (Example 5)

Example 4
An experiment by Doe and Smith (2001) produced “an unusually high proportion of outliers” (p. 123).

Example 5
An experiment to test these effects produced “an unusually high proportion of outliers” (Doe & Smith, 2001, p. 123).


Guideline 5: Three or More Authors.
When a source has three, four, or five authors, include all last names in the first citation, and then use the first author’s last name followed by the Latin abbreviation et al. for subsequent citations. The et al. is not italicized and includes a period as Examples 6 and 7 show.

Example 6
A ten-year study by Jones, Doe, Smith, Brown, and Doax (2003) revealed that “linguistic changes can complicate longitudinal investigations” (p. 432).

Further, Jones et al. concluded that “future research must be more sensitive to the question of linguistic variability” (p. 444).

Example 7
A ten-year study published in 2003 revealed that “linguistic changes can complicate longitudinal investigations” (Jones, Doe, Smith, Brown, & Doax, p. 432).

Further, the study concluded that “future research must be more sensitive to the question of linguistic variability” (Jones et al., p. 444).

For more than five authors, cite only the first author’s last name followed by et al.

Guideline  6: No Author
When a source such as a newspaper article or Web page does not list an author, the References page will enter it by title. For the in-text citation, then, reference it by the first few words of the title. Remember that the purpose of the in-text citation is to allow your reader to turn to the References page and locate the full bibliographic entry quickly and easily.

Example 8
In-text citation:
A new report on the industry reveals that many training departments are taking their materials far beyond traditional instructional design principles (“New Focus,” 2009).

References page entry:
New focus on information design takes training materials to the next level. (2009, Winter). Instructional Design Quarterly, 34, 1-2.




See Also
APA References Pages Style
MLA In-Text Citation Style
MLA Works Cited Page Style

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com