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APA Citation Guide: In-Text Citations

The APA (2020) manual instructs you to cite every source whose ideas influenced your work. Regardless of whether you directly quote, paraphrase, summarize, adapt a chart, table or image, theory or model, or just refer to an author's idea, make sure you provide appropriate documentation. This begins by inserting a short citation in the text to indicate where you used another's work. The information on this page will help you write your in-text citations.

Anatomy of an In-Text Citation: (Authors, Year, Locator)

An in-text citation in APA style requires 2-3 parts. The first is the name of the author(s), the second is the year of publication, and the third (required only if directly quoting) is a locator--often a page, page range, or paragraph number. You may include this information parenthetically at the end of a sentence, write the information into your text, or employ a combination of both methods. For example:

  • Parenthetical. APA style citation did not come naturally to students in the study (Jones, 1998).
  • Narrative. A 1998 study by Jones showed APA citation did not come naturally to students.
  • Combination (with direct quote). According to Jones (1998), "Most students polled struggled to learn APA style" (p. 50).

*Note on punctuation. The period to end the sentence goes after and outside the parenthetical citation. The citation, however, is not a part of a direct quote, so an ending double quotation mark will go before the parenthetical citation.

The format differs depending on the number and type of authors. The chart below serves as a quick reference for how to format various in-text citations.


One author

(Qubein, 2020) Qubein (2020)
Two authors (Qubein & Carroll, 2020) Qubein and Carroll (2020)
Three or more authors (Qubein et al., 2020) Qubein et al. (2020)

Group author (with abbreviation)

First citation:

Subsequent citations:


(High Point University [HPU], 2020)

(HPU, 2020)


High Point University (HPU, 2020)

HPU (2020)

Group author (no abbreviation) (Bonner Foundation, 2020) Bonner Foundation (2020)

No author listed (use first few words of title instead of author)

Book: (Leading Schools, 2020)

Article: ("Leading Schools," 2020)

Book: Leading Schools (2020)

Article: "Leading Schools" (2020)

Personal communications (cite in the text only--no reference in list)

(N. Qubein, personal communication, May 5, 2013) In a personal communication with N. Qubein (May 5, 2013)

Adapted from Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.), by American Psychological Association (APA), 2020, p. 266.

Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing...

Use direct quotes sparingly and justify their inclusion by following with a thorough analysis of the author's thoughts. If the quote spans less than four lines, enclose it in quotation marks and include the page number in the parenthetical citation. If the quote spans more than four lines, omit the quotation marks and offset it as a block quotation (indented). Only do so if quoting this amount of material is central to understanding your argument.

Short quotation example:

Guided imagery and relaxation techniques have even been found to “reduce distress and allow the immune system to function more effectively” (Trakhtenberg, 2008, p. 850).

Long (block quotation) example:

Rausch et al. (2006) concluded the following:

A mere 20 min of these group interventions was effective in reducing anxiety to normal levels

 . . . merely 10 min of the interventions allowed [the high-anxiety group] to recover from the stressor.

Thus, brief interventions of meditation and progressive muscle relaxation may be effective for those

with clinical levels of anxiety and for stress recovery when exposed to brief, transitory stressors. (p. 287)

Again, only quote to this length if the material is absolutely necessary, and ensure that you analyze it thoroughly in your own words. Most professors prefer that you summarize or paraphrase wherever possible, analyzing individual works and synthesizing multiple works in your own words.

Even if you summarize or paraphrase an author's ideas (i.e., put the main idea or a passage in your own words or "rephrase" it) you still must cite the source. For example:

Guided imagery was first examined in a psychological context in the 1960s, when the behavior theorist Joseph Wolpe helped pioneer the use of relaxation techniques such as aversive imagery, exposure, and imaginal flooding in behavior therapy (Achterberg, 1985; Utay & Miller, 2006).

Although the student wrote the sentence, they cited two sources from which they gathered this information.

Year of Publication:

Although the full reference in the list may require a full date, only publication years are used for the corresponding in-text citation. If no specific date is listed on a web page, use the copyright or "last updated" date, if given, at the bottom of the page.

  • (HPU, 2020)

No Date

If there is no date whatsoever listed on a source and you are sure the source is current or useful, you may substitute the abbreviation "n.d." for the publication year:

  • (HPU, n.d., para.5)


In addition to the author and publication date, you may also need to provide direction to the specific part of the source where you got the information (always do so for direct quotes). Parts can include:

  • pages: (Jones, 1998, p. 50)
  • page ranges: pp. 55-60
  • paragraph numbers: para. 4
  • chapters or sections: (Jones & Smith, 2009, Chapter 3)
  • tables or figures: Table 1
  • presentation slides: Slide 7
  • time stamps for video or audio sources: (CBS, 2019, 4:35)

Think of the in-text citation itself as a pointer--it must point to a corresponding full reference in the list at the end of your paper, which contains all the information your reader will need to track down your source. Once retrieved, the reader may need to know from which part of the source you derived your information. In those cases, include a locator.

Citing Multiple Works:

When citing more than one work by the same author(s), arrange the years in chronological order separated by commas.

(Adams, 2003, 2005, 2010)

When citing more than one work parenthetically, alphabetize the citations and separate them with a semicolon (";").

(Adams et al., 2003; Smith & Jones, 2020)

When citing a secondary source, you may provide the original citation the author gives to the primary source followed by "as cited in" and the source you used. Only your source (not the original) needs to be referenced in the list.

(Jones, 2020, as cited in Adams, 2005)