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APA Help: In-text citations

Need help with APA formatting? Start here!

In-text citation basics

In-text citations are citations that happen within the body or text of your paper, hence the name "in-text". These citations are in addition to the list of references that comes at the end of your paper. The idea is to include just enough information in your in-text citation that a person reading your paper would be able to easily find the full citation on your references list, where they can find all the necessary information. There are two types of in-text citations: parenthetical citations and narrative citations. Both types include information about the author of the item, the date it was published, and, if relevant, a page number, but they appear in your paper slightly differently.

Parenthetical citations come at the end of your paraphrase or quotation. They are called parenthetical because all of the information in the citation is contained within parentheses.

They look like this: (Alexander, 2018) or (Armstrong, 2015, pp. 3-17).

Narrative citations incorporate one or more parts of the citation into the text itself instead of keeping it all in the parentheses. For example, the previous citations might look like this:

Alexander (2018) performed an experiment that...

or

In 2015, Armstrong wrote... (pp. 3-17)


How do you know what to include in your in-text citation?

You will draw the information from your reference list entry. 

Below you will see a reference list entry with the different parts highlighted in different colors. The author is in pink, the date is in blue, the title is in yellow, and the source is in green.

Alexander, P. A. (2018). Past as prologue: Educational psychology's legacy and progenyJournal of Educational Psychology110(2), 147-162. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000200

Now look at these parenthetical and narrative citations, and see how the information lines up by color.

Parenthetical: (Alexander, 2018)

Narrative: Alexander (2018)


What if your source has an unknown author?

You'll use the title in the place of the author. If that title is italicized in your reference list, italicize it in your in-text citation as well. If it is not italicized in your reference list, use quotation marks around the title in your in-text citation. You will capitalize these titles in your in-text citations, even if they aren't capitalized in your reference list! If the title is long, you can shorten it for your in-text citation. Here's an example of a citation in a reference list with no author.

Sensory memory. (2019). The Human Memory. https://www.human-memory.net/sensory-memory

This is corresponding parenthetical citation:

(Sensory memory, 2019). 

What if your source has more than one author?

If your source has two authors, you'll include them both. In a parenthetical citation you'll use the & symbol between them, as follows:

(Salas & D'Agostino, 2020)

In a narrative citation, you'll use the word "and":

Salas and D'Agostino (2020) write that...

If your source has three or more authors, you'll include only the first one, and then the abbreviation "et al.", which means "and the rest", as follows:

(Martin et al., 2020)

What if your source has a month and day included in its date?

Even if your reference list has a more specific date, include only the year in your in-text citation.

What if your source has no date?

Use n.d. for the date, just as you did in your reference list:

(Montgomery & Smith, n.d.)


When do you need to include a page number, and how do you do that?

If the work you're quoting or paraphrasing is longer than a couple of pages, you should include a page number or similar, so that your reader can easily find the particular quote or idea in the original work. If you're citing a very short article or webpage, you do not need to include anything.

Sometimes a work (like a website) will not have any page numbers listed. In that case, you can either count the pages and assign it a number yourself, or use a different metric, like chapter number, paragraph number, or slide number. If you're citing a video or audio recording, you can cite a time stamp. 

Generally, the page number is the easiest thing to cite. Just use the abbreviation "p." for "page". A parenthetical citation citing one page would look like this:

(Alexander, 2018, p. 27). 

What if you need to cite multiple pages, because your quote or the idea you're paraphrasing crosses page lines? You can do that by using the abbreviation pp. for pages, like this:

(Alexander, 2018, pp. 14-15).

Paragraphs get the abbreviation para. for paragraph, as follows:

(Alexander, 2018, para. 4).

Sometimes, on a website, it's easier to use a section header, as follows:

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017, "What Can You Do" section).

More examples of parenthetical citations

The following are some reference list entries followed by a corresponding parenthetical citation.

McCauley, S. M., & Christiansen, M. H. (2019). Language learning as language use: A cross-linguistic model of child language development. Psychological Review126(1), 1-51. https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000126

(McCauley & Christiansen, 2019, p. 47).

 

Brown, L. S. (2018). Feminist therapy (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.10370000092-000

(Brown, 2018, p. 122).

 

Aramova, N. (2019, January 3). The secret to a long, happy, healthy life? Think age-positive. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/03/health/respect-toward-elderly-leads-to-long-life-intl/index.html

(Aramova, 2019, para. 2)

More examples of narrative citations

The following are some reference list entries followed by a corresponding narrative citation.

McCauley, S. M., & Christiansen, M. H. (2019). Language learning as language use: A cross-linguistic model of child language development. Psychological Review126(1), 1-51. https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000126

McCauley and Christiansen (2020) propose that... (p. 47).

 

Brown, L. S. (2018). Feminist therapy (2nd ed.). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.10370000092-000

Brown (2020) suggests... (p. 122).

 

Aramova, N. (2019, January 3). The secret to a long, happy, healthy life? Think age-positive. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/03/health/respect-toward-elderly-leads-to-long-life-intl/index.html

As Aramova (2019) writes, ... (para. 2).