Skip to main content

MSVU logo

Find Resources
Library Services
About the Library

APA Citation Style

Formatting & Placement of References in Text

  • A citation must appear in two places in your essay:
    • in the body of your text (“in-text citations”).
    • in the reference list (at the end of your paper).
  • To introduce other people's ideas in text, use the following examples:
    • Richardson argues, refers to, explains, hypothesizes, compares, concludes;
    • As Littlewood and Sherwin demonstrated, proved… etc.
  • If there is no date of publication, use the abbreviation (n.d.).
  • List two or more works by different authors who are cited within the same parentheses in alphabetical order by the first author's surname and put semicolons between them, e.g. (Anderson, 1980; Fowers & Powell, 1993; Simonetti, 1998) (Rule 6.16 p. 177).


  • Capitalize all major words in titles of books and articles within the body of the paper (Rule 4.15, p.101).
    • NOTE: In reference lists, however, capitalize only the first word of the title and of the subtitle (after a colon or em dash) and proper nouns.
  • Italicize names of books, journals etc.
    • In his book Greek Political Thought (2006), Balot argues that ...
  • Titles of article, web page, book chapters must be in quotation marks
    • The criticism of the article, "The Politics of Paraliterary Criticism" ...
  • When citing a work with multiple authors
    • If using the authors names in the body of your text (the citation is non-parenthetical) the word and is written out in full:
      • Smith and Jones (2008) found that....
    • If using the authors names are in the in-text citation (parenthetical) citation uses the ampersand (&) sign:
      • In a 2008 study it was shown that consumers were unmoved by the advertisement (Smith & Jones).

Where to place an In-text citation

  • At an appropriate point in your text, simply insert between parentheses the last name of the author of the source to which you are referring and the date of its publication, separating the two by a comma and a space: 
    • A study of reaction times (Rogers, 1994) found that....
  • If the author's name has been worked into your text, only the date is needed in the parentheses:
    • Rogers (1994) compared reaction times....
  • If the author's name and date appear within your text, no parenthetical information is needed:
    • In 1994, Rogers compared reaction times....

Subsequent reference

  • If you refer to an author more than once within a single paragraph (and as long as the study cannot be confused with another) it is not necessary to include the year in a subsequent reference:
    • In a study of reaction times, Rogers (1994) described the method.... Rogers also found....

Quotation and Paraphrase

  • When quoting from a source, give the author, year, and page number in parentheses (Rules 6.03, pp.170-171). For example:
    • Mooney (2000) found that "direct_quotation" (p. 276).
    • "Direct_quotation" (Walker, 2000, p. 135).
  • Block quotation: If the quotation is over 40 words, you must start the quotation on a new line, indent the quotation about ½ an inch, and omit the quotation marks (Rule 6.03, p. 171).
  • If you paraphrase or refer to an author's work indirectly, you must briefly identify your source.
  • When paraphrasing from a source, or when referring to an idea contained in another work, you are encouraged to provide a page number (Rule 6.04 p. 171).
  • If necessary, indicate a specific page, chapter, figure and/or table in addition to author and date. Page numbers should always be given for direct quotations.
    • Specific page: (Cheek & Buss, 1981, p. 332)
    • More than one page:  (Smith, 2011, pp. 9-10)
    • Specific chapter: (Shimamura, 1989, Chapter 3)
  • Note: in an APA in-text citation, the page number is abbreviated, but not the chapter.

Citing Works with No Author

  • When a work has no author, cite a few words of the reference list entry (usually the title and the year).
  • Put double quotation marks around the title of an article, chapter or web page. Use italics for the title name of a journal, a book, a brochure or a report.
    • The book College Bound Seniors (2008) shows that many first-year students...
    • (College Bound Seniors, 2008)
  • Use the term "Anonymous" only when a work designates the author as Anonymous:
    • (Anonymous, 2008)

Online Sources without Pages

Paragraph Numbers

use when page numbers are unavailable. Use in place of page number, preceded by the abbreviation para.

  • As Myers (2000) aptly phrased it, "positive emotions are both an end-better to live fulfilled, with joy [and other positive emotions]-and a means to a more caring and healthy society" (para. 5).
  • (Myers, 2000, para. 5)


use when neither page nor paragraph numbers are available. In order to direct the reader, cite heading and paragraph that follows.

  • Beutler (2000) concludes that our existing managed care organizations, and the ways in which we approach treatments, are shortsighted (Conclusion section, para. 1).
  • (Beutler, 2000, Conclusion section, para. 1).

Short Headings

use when neither page nor paragraph numbers are available, and full headings are too long. Use a short portion of the heading enclosed in quotation marks.

  • In 2007, Golan, Kuchler, & Krissof pointed out that "Empirical studies have found mixed results on the efficacy of labels in education consumers" ("Mandatory Labeling Has Targeted," para. 4).
  • (Golan, Kuchler, & Krissof, 2007, "Mandatory Labeling Has Targeted," para. 4)
    • Note The full title was "Mandatory Labeling Has Targeted Information Gaps and Social Objectives.")

Table of In-text Citations by Number of Authors

  First Citation in Text Subsequent Citations in Text Parenthetical Format, First Citation in Text Parenthetical Format, Subsequent Citations in Text
One work by one author Walker (2007) Walker (2007) (Walker, 2007) (Walker, 2007)
One work by two authors Walker and Allen (2004) Walker and Allen (2004) (Walker & Allen, 2004) (Walker & Allen, 2004)
One work by three to five authors Bradley, Ramirez, and Soo (1999) Bradley et al. (1999) (Bradley, Ramirez, & Soo, 1999) (Bradley et al., 1999)
One work by six or more authors Wasserstein et al. (2005) Wasserstein et al. (2005) (Wasserstein et al., 2005) (Wasserstein et al., 2005)
Groups as authors (readily identified through abbreviation) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2003) NIMH (2003) (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2003) (NIMH, 2003)
Groups as authors (no abbreviation) University of Pittsburgh (2005) University of Pittsburgh (2005) (University of Pittsburgh, 2005) (University of Pittsburgh, 2005)

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. p. 177.

Personal Communication

Personal Communications (e.g., e-mail, letters, memos, conversations, interviews)

  • Many types of personal communication (i.e., conversations) provide no recoverable data. Do not include these sources in your list of references. Cite in the body of the text only.
    • T.K. Lutes (personal communication, April 18, 2001)
    • (V.G. Nguyen, personal communication, September 28, 1998)

Note: personal communication that is recorded or recoverable should be referenced like archival material.

Indirect citations

APA (see APA, section 6.17, p.178) recommends that secondary sources should be used sparingly unless when the original work is out of print, unavailable through usual sources, or not available in English.

In case you used a secondary source, list the secondary source in your reference list, name the original work and use an in-text citation for the secondary source.

For example:

According to Axelrod (as cited in Moore, 2009), it is important to…

Then you would cite the source that you have read in your reference list located at the end of the paper.

Moore, C. (2009). Fairness in children's resource allocation depends on the recipient. Psychological Science, 20(8), 944-8.

This guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial License.
Creative Commons License

You may copy the guide for noncommercial purposes as long as credit is included. Please be aware that the guide may contain links to subscription based services for which access is restricted. We encourage you to license your derivative works under Creative Commons as well to encourage sharing and reuse of educational materials.