How to Cite Sources in APA Citation Format

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When writing an APA paper, you will often need to refer to works by others. This may involve describing research conducted by psychologists, paraphrasing another writer, or including a direct quotation from another work.

Using the correct APA citation format demonstrates that you are familiar with the research on your topic, that your sources have been accurately documented, and that your conclusions are backed up by solid evidence.

Your in-text citations are just as important as your reference section. APA format establishes clear rules for how to cite works using author information. The specific APA citation format you use will vary depending upon the source and the number of authors to whom the source is attributed.

APA Citation Format For Sources

All of the sources that you use in your paper should be cited in two ways. First, an in-text citation should be used wherever you refer to another source in the body of your paper. This is often accomplished by including the name of the source’s author and the publication year.

The second way that sources should be cited in APA format is to include a reference section at the end of your paper that provides the full reference for any and every source cited in your paper's body.

Always remember, if you cited a source in your paper, then it must also be included in the reference section. Personal communications are the one exception to this rule.

APA Citation Format for Authors

If you are citing information with one or more authors, there are guidelines you should follow depending on how many authors are listed.

No Author

While most articles, books, and other reference materials will include author attribution, some sources lack information on authorship. How do you cite these resources in APA format?

In-text citations for journal or newspaper articles should use a short article title enclosed in parentheses and the date. When article titles are long, simply use the first word or two of the title. Book titles should be in italics.

Example

The study revealed a strong positive correlation between the two variables ("Learn APA," 2006).

One Author

When a book, article or other source lists only one author, simply provide the author's last name followed by the publication date.

Examples

...students demonstrated solid understanding of the concepts and information (Jones, 2001).

or

Jones (2001) found that students demonstrated a solid understanding of the concepts and information.

Two Authors

When a source lists two authors, your in-text citations should provide the last names of both authors and the publication date.

Examples

...later studies demonstrated a similar effect (Ross & Hudson, 2004).

or

Ross and Hudson (2004) found a similar effect in later studies.

Three or More Authors

Proper APA format for sources with three or more authors requires listing the last name of the first author as well as the publication date.

Examples

...students demonstrated competence after reading about APA format (Smith et al., 2005).

or

Smith et al., (2005) found that...

Note that this is a change from earlier versions APA citation formatting.

Organizations as Authors

To create an in-text citation in APA format when the author is an organization or entity, always include the full name of the organization the first time you cite the source in-text.

The citation should also include the acronym of the organization if one is available. Subsequent citations can simply list the acronym and the publication date.

Examples

The American Psychological Association (APA, 2000) reported that...

or

...found that students responded positively (American Psychological Association [APA], 2000).

and subsequent citations

APA (2000)...

or

(APA, 2000).

Be sure to check your references and citations using the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

APA Citation Format for Books

The APA citing format you use for books can vary depending upon the number of authors that are listed.

If a book has just one author, simply provide the author’s last name followed by the publication date. In cases where there are more than six authors, the last name and first initial of the first listed author should be used, followed by "et al.".

Examples

...students demonstrated competence after reading about APA format (Smith et al., 2005).

or

Smith et al., (2005) found that...

APA Citation Format for Articles in Journals, Magazines, and Other Periodicals

When you are citing articles in an academic journal, magazine, newspapers or other periodicals, you should follow the author-date format. APA citing should include the author's last name, followed by the date of publication.

Examples

...as Smith and Jones (2005) described...

or

...the study found a statistically significant relationship between the two variables (Smith & Jones, 2005).

In some instances, a publication might not have a listed author. Include the short title of the article followed by the date of publication.

For example:

...the findings were contradicted previous research on the subject ("New Research," 2009).

Citing Articles with No Author

In cases where no author is listed, include the short title of the article followed by the date of publication.

Example

...the findings were consistent with previous research ("New Study," 2003).

If you use a direct quotation, your APA citing should always include the page number where the source can be found. In cases where you are citing an organization such as the American Psychological Association (APA), spell out the entire name the first time you cite the source. All further citations should use the appropriate acronym.

APA Citation Format for Electronic Sources

The exact format you use for APA citing of electronic media depends on the type of source that is used. In many cases, the format will be very similar to that of books or journal articles, but you should also include the URL of the source and the date it was accessed in the reference section.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When do I have to cite a source in an APA paper?

    You should include an APA format in-text citation whenever you summarize, paraphrase, quote, or refer to information from another source. And any time you include a citation in the text of your paper, there should be a corresponding reference included in the reference section at the end of your paper. Personal communications, such as email or personal interviews, should only be cited parenthetically in text and not included in the reference list.

  • How do I make an APA style citation for a website?

    In-text website citations look similar to a book citation and usually include the last name of the author followed by a comma and the year of publication.

  • How do I insert a study into a text citation in APA style?

    If the author is unknown, include the first word or two of the article title in quotation marks. If you are citing an organization, mention the source in-text and include a parenthetical citation with the year of publication. For example: According to the American Psychological Association (2019),...

2 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nicoll LH, Oermann MH, Chinn PL, Conklin JL, Amarasekara S, Mccarty M. Guidance provided to authors on citing and formatting references in nursing journalsJ Nurses Prof Dev. 2018;34(2):54-59. doi:10.1097/NND.0000000000000430

  2. American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.

By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is an author and educational consultant focused on helping students learn about psychology.