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APA in-text citations

APA documentation relies on a combination of in-text citations and a reference list at the end of the paper. In-text citations include some combination of the author’s last name, the date of publication, and (if citing a direct quote) page number, all separated by commas. The reference list is a list of complete publication information from the resources you cited in your paper, alphabetized by the author’s last name. For more information on the reference list, see the APA reference list quicktip.

In-text citations for paraphrased material always include dates, but can be formatted in two ways.

If the author’s name is included in a signal phrase, only the date needs to be placed in parentheses:

Patterson (1998) has noticed the same phenomenon.

If you simply allude to a study, both the author’s last name and the year must be listed in parentheses:

This same phenomenon has been noted elsewhere (Patterson, 1998).

Citations for direct quotes require the author’s last name, the publication date, and the location of the quote in the original source.

If the original source has page numbers, indicate the location of the quote by using the abbreviation p. or pp. followed by the page number(s):

“The likelihood that adopted children will develop normally is highly contingent on the attitude of their parents” (Patterson, 1998, p. 201).

If the original source does not have page numbers (e.g., it is a non-paginated online source), indicate the location of the quote by using the section title and the abbreviation para. followed by the paragraph number:

“Social workers act honestly and … promote ethical practices on the part of the organizations with which they are affiliated” (NASW, 1999, Ethical Principles section, para. 6).

Pay attention to variations.

Variations of in-text citations occur in situations of multiple works by the same author(s) in the same year, multiple authors, institutions or groups as authors, specific parts of a source, personal communication, etc. For more variations, see the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.), pp. 174–179.

  • If you use more than one article published by the same author(s) in the same year, differentiate with letters, which you assign in the reference list: Smith (1999a, 1999b).
  • Many research articles have multiple authors. With two to five authors, all author names are listed the first time a source is mentioned (e.g., Patterson, Stevens, Thompson, & Williams); with three to five authors, subsequent references use only the first author's last name and et al. (e.g., Patterson et al.). When there are six or more authors, the first author's last name and et al. are used throughout.
  • When a source has an institution or group as author, provide the full name of the group in your reference list entry. In-text citations also use the full name unless it is cumbersome or its abbreviation is easily understood. In that case, provide the abbreviation in brackets in the first parenthetical citation, e.g., (National Association of Social Workers [NASW], 1999); then, in subsequent parenthetical citations of the source, use only the abbreviation, e.g., (NASW, 1999).
  • Whenever you cite a specific part of a source (a table, a graph, a figure, an equation, etc.), include the page number in your parenthetical citation (e.g., Vandenberg, 1999, p. 62).
  • When you include the name of the author of one source as part of the narrative multiple times within one paragraph, do not repeat the year in subsequent nonparenthetical references, but always use the year in parenthetical citations.
  • Personal communications are the only sources cited in-text only and not included in the reference list. Each in-text citation for a personal communication includes the first initial and last name, the words personal communication, and the complete date (e.g., S. White, personal communication, August 11, 2005).

Common structures for signal phrases

Writers can use signal phrases in several ways when they introduce quoted or cited material into their texts. Below are some of the most common:

According to Vandenberg (1999),...

Smith (1998a) suggested that...

As Hacker (2003) pointed out in her introduction,...

Several scholars (Grimm, 1996, 1999; Mick, 1999; Trimbur, 1987) have noted...

Common verbs for signal phrases

When choosing from the list, be sure you are using transitive and intransitive verbs correctly. For help, check a good Learner's Dictionary like the one linked to each word below.

acknowledged | added | admitted | argued | asserted | believed | claimed | commented | compared | concluded | confirmed | contended | continued | declared | denied | described | disputed | emphasized | explained | found | granted | hypothesized | illustrated | implied | insisted | noted | noticed | observed | pointed out | proposed | reasoned | refuted | rejected | replied | reported | responded | showed | studied | suggested | wrote

List adapted from Hacker, D. (2003, p. 336.). A writer’s reference (5th ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

For more information:

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

American Psychological Association. (2012). APA style. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from

Hacker, D., & Sommers, N. (2011). A writer’s reference (7th ed.). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.