How To Cite An Essay Apa Style

In-Text Citations: The Basics

Summary:

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).

Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:50:04

Reference citations in text are covered on pages 169-179 of the Publication Manual. What follows are some general guidelines for referring to the works of others in your essay.

Note: APA style requires authors to use the past tense or present perfect tense when using signal phrases to describe earlier research, for example, Jones (1998) found or Jones (1998) has found...

APA citation basics

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

In-text citation capitalization, quotes, and italics/underlining

  • Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.
  • If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source: Permanence and Change. Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs: Writing New Media, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.

    (Note: in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized: Writing new media.)

  • When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word: Natural-Born Cyborgs.
  • Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's Vertigo."
  • Italicize the titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums: The Closing of the American Mind; The Wizard of Oz; Friends.
  • Put quotation marks around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles, articles from edited collections, television series episodes, and song titles: "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds;" "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."

Short quotations

If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference (preceded by "p."). Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.

According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time" (p. 199).

Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199); what implications does this have for teachers?

If the author is not named in a signal phrase, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.

She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style" (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.

Long quotations

Place direct quotations that are 40 words or longer in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Jones's (1998) study found the following:

Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citingsources. This difficulty could be attributed to thefact that many students failed to purchase astyle manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)

Summary or paraphrase

If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference, but APA guidelines encourage you to also provide the page number (although it is not required.)

According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners.
APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).

by Chelsea Lee

When you use others' ideas in your paper, you should credit them with an in-text citation. Several different systems of citation are in use in various academic communities (such as footnotes and endnotes), but APA Style uses a kind of parenthetical referencing called the author–date system.

Basic In-Text Citation Style

As the name authordate system implies, APA Style in-text citations include the author and date, either both inside parentheses or with the author names in running text and the date in parentheses. Here are two examples: 

  • After the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week (Smith & Wexwood, 2010). 
  • Smith and Wexwood (2010) reported that after the intervention, children increased in the number of books read per week. 

The "and" in Smith and Wexwood is written as an ampersand (&) inside parentheses and as the word and outside of parentheses, as shown in the examples above.

Multiple In-Text Citations

When multiple studies support what you have to say, you can include multiple citations inside the same set of parentheses. Within parentheses, alphabetize the studies as they would appear in the reference list and separate them by semicolons. In running text, you can address studies in whatever order you wish. Here are two examples: 

  • Studies of reading in childhood have produced mixed results (Albright, Wayne, & Fortinbras, 2004; Gibson, 2011; Smith & Wexwood, 2010). 
  • Smith and Wexwood (2010) reported an increase in the number of books read, whereas Gibson (2011) reported a decrease. Albright, Wayne, and Fortinbras (2004) found no significant results. 

Dealing With Missing Information

Sometimes the author and/or date are not immediately obvious, but a bit of citation sleuthing will bring them to light. Here are some tips on determining authorship and on figuring out dates.

However, sometimes one or both of these elements are truly missing. The table below shows what substitutions to make for in-text citations if that happens. 

What information do you have?SolutionPosition APosition B
I have both author and daten/aAuthor surname(s)year
Author is missingSubstitute the title for the author nameTitle of Book or "Title of Article"year
Date is missingUse "n.d." for "no date"Author surname(s)n.d.
Author and date are both missingCombine solutions for author and date being missingTitle of Book or "Title of Article"n.d.

Note. Titles of books and reports are italicized in in-text citations, and titles of articles and other documents are put in quotation marks. Capitalize the important words (see section 4.15 in the 6th ed. Publication Manual, pp. 101102) in titles in the text.

Important Tips and Further Reading

Don’t forget that when you cite a direct quotation you should include a page number (here is what to do if there are no page numbers). You may include page numbers for paraphrases if you think it would aid the reader (such as when you use only a portion of a large book), but this is not required.

Note that the only types of citations that do not follow the authordate system are legal references, references to classical works like the Bible and the Qur'an, and personal communications. 

For further reading on this topic, see the sixth edition Publication Manual section “Citing References in Text” (pp. 174179). The table “Basic Citation Styles” (Table 6.1 on p. 177) offers many examples of how to cite various numbers and types of authors. 

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