APA Citation Guide

When writing an academic paper or otherwise conducting research, you are required to provide proper credit whenever you include any outside sources whether it is a book, website, magazine article, film or academic journal. The APA style is the most common method recommended within the social sciences. The Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association serves as the official APA citation guide and offers more thorough advice on proper usage of the APA style. While no online guide currently exists, a librarian at your library, school or academic institution may provide you with a copy or at least set you on the right track. Free in-text citation generators are also easy to find online such as Easy Bib and kingcitation.

APA Style Citation

APA style citation, along with other styles including MLA, Harvard and Chicago, is widely recognized in academia. While it is sometimes up to the student or researcher to choose the citation style as he/she sees fit, professors or even the entire academic institution often selects a style that they expect all of their writers to follow. Always include an in-text citation whenever your paper is summarizing, paraphrasing or directly quoting an outside source. Furthermore, the sources that you cite within the paper must also be included in the bibliography page. Note that the guidelines for APA citation often differ from other styles, so it is important to ensure that your paper is consistent in following the proper rules.

APA Citation Example

When using the APA in-text citation style, always use the last name of the author and the year the source was published, for instance: (Walker, 2016). If your paper includes direct quotes, also include the page number, for instance: (Walker, 2016, p. 29). When using a website or e-book lacking page numbers, cite the paragraph numbers. The following is an APA citation example passage, including both in-text citations and the references page:

Several researchers have found a strong link between aggression and the number of hours spent watching violent programming (Williams, Hoth, & D’Souza, 1992; Rushman, 2003). In order to reach these findings, Williams et al. (2002) conducted a longitudinal study involving 200 participants, recording the amount of violent content they watched and following up to determine whether they had behavioral problems once they reached adulthood.


Rushman, B. D. (2003). The Myth of Catharsis. Journal of Psychology, 18(6), 140-146.

Williams, R.E., Hoth, E.J., & D’Souza, G.D. (1992). The Role of Violent Television Content in Aggression in Pre-adolescent Children. Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 20(3), 239-245.

Here are further examples of APA citation:

Sources containing two authors: If you are citing the authors within the text of your work, write the last names of the authors followed by the year. However, if the citation is in parenthesis, use an ampersand.

Research by Bunsen and Beaker (2007) suggests…

(Bunsen & Beaker, 2007)

Sources containing three to five authors: Use all of the authors’ names during the initial citation.

(Baez, Bryant, Russell, & Arrieta, 2013)

Use the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” in subsequent citations.

(Baez et at., 2013)

Sources containing six or more authors: Use the first author’s name followed by “et al.” even in the initial citation.

(Gerhardt et al, 1999)

When the author is not known: If no authors are identified in the work, cite the source based on its title when used in the narrative or use a couple of words when cited in parenthesis. Titles for books and reports should be italicized or underlined whereas titles for articles, chapters and web pages should be placed in quotation marks.

When the author is listed as anonymous: If “Anonymous” is used in place of an author, regard it as you would the author’s name (Anonymous, 2013). In the reference list, treat Anonymous as the author.

When the work is written by an organization: If the work is authored by an organization, make reference to the organization as part of the narrative or in parentheses during the initial citation.

Based on statistics collected by the World Wildlife Fund (2017)…

Note that if the organization is commonly known, you should include its abbreviation in the initial citation and then just use the abbreviation during subsequent citations.

First citation: (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP], 2010)

Second citation: (NAACP, 2010)

When citing multiple sources in the same parentheses: When including two or more works within one parenthetical citation, they should be alphabetized, as they would be on the reference list. Also insert the semi-colon that separates the authors.

(Smith, 1998; Haines, 2001)

When citing authors with identical last names: To avoid confusion, include the first initials with the last names.

(S. Jackson, 2009; W. Jackson, 1995)

When citing multiple sources by the same author in the same year: If you are using several works of the same author in the same year, include lower-case letters (a, b, c) following the year.

According to Moore (2011a)

Introductions, Prefaces, Forewords, and Afterwords: In-text citations for any of these should include the author and year as it would be in the body of the paper.

(Collins & DeClerk, 2015)

Personal Communication: If the citation involves personal interviews, letters, emails, or any other type of correspondence, include the name of the subject you have communicated with, note that it was personal communication, and include the date. However, do not include this in the reference list.

(F. Vickers, personal communication, March 8, 2015).

A. J. Greene further pointed out that Burlington had been the first capital of Iowa (personal communication, October 14, 2000).

Indirect Sources: If you include a source that was cited in another work, identify the original source in the narrative of your work. Include the secondary source in your reference list and place it in parentheses.

Electronic Sources: Include the name and date, just as you would in hard copy format.

Rogers (2012) added…

If the author and/or date are unknown, include a couple of words from the title and use the abbreviation “n.d” (for “no date”).

Electronic sources without page numbers: If page numbers are absent, include the paragraph number (writing “para”) if the article itself has numbered paragraphs or, if it is separated by headings, provide a corresponding heading.

According to Dodge (2012), (It takes Two section, para. 2).