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APA Guide: In-Text Citations

A guide to writing papers and citing sources in American Psychological Association style.

Signal Phrases

Signal phrases are phrases in your paper that provide attribution outside of the parenthetical citation. Typically this consists of the author's name- "Wordsworth says...", "According to Gordon...", et cetera. Using a signal phrase allows you to shorten or eliminate the parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Because the idea is already attributed to the author, you no longer have to include their name in the citation. However, you should still include the year of publication directly following the author's name. If directly citing, include the page number immediately following the quote.

Author Name Rules

Two Authors: Name both authors in the signal phrase or in parentheses when you cite the work. Use the word "and" in the text and an ampersand (&) in parenthetical citations.

Three to Five Authors: List all authors the first time you cite the source. In subsequent citations, list the primary author's last name followed by "et al." in either signal phrase or citation.

Six or More Authors: Use the first author's name followed by "et al." in signal phrase or citation.

Unknown Author: Use the full title in a signal phrase or the first word or two (enough to identify the source) in parentheses. If "Anonymous" is listed as the author of the work, treat it as the author's name.

Organization as Author: Mention the organization's full name in the signal phrase or parenthetical citation the first time you cite it. If it has a well-known abbreviation, include the abbreviation in brackets the first time the source is cited and then use the abbreviation throughout the rest of the paper.

Authors with the Same Last Name: Include first initials to prevent confusion.

General Rules

In APA format, use the author-date-page number format for parenthetical citations. Separate these details with commas and preface page numbers with "p.". If you are referring to an idea from a work but not directly quoting, page numbers are not required. Make sure your in-text citations can direct your readers to the proper citation in your references list.

Formatting rules:

  • Capitalize proper nouns
  • Capitalize all words in a cited title that are at least four letters long
  • Capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word: Natural-Born Cyborgs
  • Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon, even if it is shorter than four letters long
  • Italicize the titles of longer works (books, journals, movies, TV series,albums)
  • Put quotes around the titles of shorter works (articles, TV episodes, song titles)

Sources With Page Numbers

If you quote directly from a source, you need to indicate the author, year of publication, and page(s) for the reference. Precede page numbers with "p.". Use of signal phrases (see sidebar) is strongly encouraged.

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

If the author is not named in the signal phrase, or no signal phrase is used, include all information at the end of the quote.

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

Longer quotations require an additional step. If your quote is longer than 40 words, it becomes a block quote. Omit quotation marks, start the quotation on a new line, and indent 1/2 inch from the left margin. Type your entire quotation on this margin. Note that the page citation in this case comes at the very end of the quote, 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 citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many students failed to purchase a style manual or ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)

When summarizing or paraphrasing from a source, reference the author and year. A page number is not required, but APA guidelines encourage its inclusion.

Electronic Sources

For electronic sources, follow the same formula as a print source if possible. Signal phrases are still encouraged, and still include the year of publication. If no author or date is given, use the title in your signal phrase or the first word or two of the title in parentheses and add the abbreviation "n.d." for "no date".

If page numbers are available, cite the page as well. If not, include other information to help your reader find the cited information. If the paragraphs of the source are numbered, use the abbreviation "para." followed by the paragraph number. If the paragraphs are not numbered but the source has headings, provide the heading in your parenthetical citation and specify the paragraph under that heading.

Do NOT print out the source and number the printed pages to provide page numbers- different computers and printers will create different pagination.