How to Cite Sources in APA Format

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When you are writing an APA paper, you will often need to refer to works by other people. This may involve describing research conducted by psychologists, paraphrasing another writer, or including a direct quotation from another work. Proper APA citing demonstrates that you are familiar with the research on your topic, that your sources have been accurately documented, and that you own conclusions are backed up by solid evidence.

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

Citing Your Sources in APA Format

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 that was cited in the body of your paper. Always remember, if you cited a source in your paper, it must also be included in the reference section.

How to Cite Authors In APA Format

No Author

While most articles, books, and other reference materials will include an 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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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

and subsequent citations

APA (2000)...


(APA, 2000).

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

How to Cite Books in APA Format

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.".


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


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

APA Citing 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 Smith and Jones (2005) described...


...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.


...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 Citing 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.

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