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In-Text Citation

In-text citations let your reader know that the text, idea, or theory you're using came from another source. There are a variety of ways to format these citations depending on your writing style.

In-text citations are used to give credit to the authors whose ideas or thoughts are used within the text. These internal citations allow the reader to identify and locate the resource you used. APA uses an in-text citation method that includes the author’s last name and the year of publication.

Use the author-date method of citation by inserting the surname of the author and the year of publication at the appropriate point in the text.

Direct Quotes

When you quote from another source, you must ensure that your writing reads fluently and that the quotation fits in the new context. When you use a direct quote, (a) the quote must be relevant, (b) it should transition smoothly between what comes before and after, (c), it must fit logically and make grammatical sense, and (d) it should be no longer than absolutely necessary.

A short direct quotation (less than 40 words) is inserted directly into the text without separating it from the rest of the paragraph. The exact words of the source need opening and closing quotation marks without separating the quote from the rest of the paragraph. Last but not least, you must include the page number (or other information such as section and paragraph numbers for an electronic source that is not paginated.) Be sure to include the exact spelling and interior punctuation of the borrowed words.

There are several different ways to incorporate the author, date, and page number of the source material, but remember that the year will always stay with the author.

Students needed “parental permission” (Abbott, 2005, p. 25).

The research found that the training built “sequentially and developmentally” (Jones & Ifill, 2010, Conclusions section, para. 6).

Jonasen (2010) coined the term “frankenreference” (p. 22) to refer to scary reference citations.

When citing in text a specific part of a resource, use the page, chapter, figure, or table number at the appropriate point in your text. Note that page is abbreviated p., and multiple pages are abbreviated as pp. Other words like chapter are not abbreviated. This applies to tables, data, graphics, and images as well.

(Cresswell, 2007, Table 9.1)

Changes to Direct Quotes

You may want to make minor changes to a direct quotation. This is possible as long as you don’t change the meaning, but you must follow certain rules.

If you omit parts of the quotation in the middle, use an ellipsis (…)

The student stated that “the computer lab…was useful.”

If you want to insert your own words, or different words, into a quotation, use square brackets ([]).

“The computer lab [in the science building] was well designed.”

If you want to draw attention to an error in a quotation, for example if there is a spelling mistake or wrong date, do not correct; use [sic].

“The first president of the United States was Jorge [sic] Washington.”

If you want to emphasize something in a quotation which is particularly relevant to your point, put the emphasized word in italics, and state that the emphasis is your own.

“The writing tools in Moodle were very [emphasis added] helpful.

Block Quotes

Block quote formatting is used when a direct quotation is over 40 words. Since it is your job to synthesize the information you’ve read and learned, you shouldn’t need to use so many of someone else’s words, so use this format only if necessary.

  • Indent the quote half an inch.
  • Do not use quotation marks.
  • Double space the block quote.
  • Do not include additional lines or spaces before or after the quote.

Students at Nova Southeastern University have faced challenges in learning how to use APA formatting. When discussing the challenges, Strunk (1922) stated:

Use quotes around an article title or book chapter, but italicize the title of a book, journal, brochure, or report when used in the body of the paper. Use a short title in the parenthetical citation or complete title if the title is short. Note: Non-periodical titles like books and book titles have all the important words capitalized in the text citations, but these same book titles do not have all the important words capitalized in the reference list. (p. 342)

Paraphrased Material

When you paraphrase, you use your own words. This is usually preferable to direct quotes because you synthesize the information and use your own writing style. However, you must be careful not to change the meaning. Even when you use your own words, you need to acknowledge where you got the idea from by including an in-text citation.

Like direct quotes, there are several different ways to incorporate the required author and date information into the in-text citation. And like direct quotes, the year will always stay with the author, no matter where the information is inserted into your text. Note, when referring to multiple sources within parentheses, the authors are ordered alphabetically not by year, with semicolons in between. When not using the parenthetical approach, multiple sources can be referred to in any order in the sentence structure.

Bass and Avolio (2008) disputed on the findings.

Several dissertations (Annan, 2010; Batson-George, 2008; Long, 2007) examined the issues.

Students use the Merriam Webster Dictionary (2011) to check for the accepted spelling of words in question.

The study looked at the findings of Stonebraker et al. (2009), Jones (2010), and the American Psychological Association (2010).

For example, if this is the original quotation:

Language, then, like everything else, gradually transforms itself over the centuries. There is nothing surprising in this. In a world where humans grow old, tadpoles change into frogs, and milk turns to cheese, it would be strange if language alone remained unaltered. In spite of this, large numbers of intelligent people condemn and resent language change, regarding alterations as due to unnecessary sloppiness, laziness, or ignorance (Aitchison, 1981, p. 16).

This would be part of the essay:

Many people believe that the Americanization of the media, and what is called “dumbing down,” is having a disastrous results on the English language. One answer to that is that language change is natural, so there is no reason for people to condemn it (Aitchison, 1981). Aitchison clearly sees every change in language as neither good nor bad, but as inevitable.

Secondary Sources

Citing secondary sources is not recommended. However if it is not possible to cite the primary source, for example if the primary source is in a language you don’t read or is not possible to obtain, you may need to cite the secondary source.

To do this, you would refer to the original source by directly quoting or paraphrasing it in the text of the paper, but the in-text citation would be to the secondary source, since that is what is in front of you. Remember APA’s cardinal rule: Cite what you see.


According to Freud (as cited in Skinner, 1974), the characteristics…

Reference List

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About behaviorism. New York, NY: Knopf.

Note that the text makes it clear that Freud is being cited in Skinner, so that if a reader wants to find the source material, it is clear that he is looking for Skinner in the reference list.

Author Variations

Multiple Authors

Type of citation First citation in text Subsequent citations in text Parenthetical format, first citation in text Parenthetical format, subsequent citations in text
One work by one author Smith (2007) Smith (2007) (Smith, 2007) (Smith, 2007)
One work by two authors Smith and Thomas (2007) Smith and Thomas (2007) (Smith & Thomas, 2007) (Smith & Thomas, 2007)
One work by three authors Smith, Thomas, and Jones (2007) Smith et al. (2007) (Smith, Thomas, & Jones, 2007) (Smith et al., 2007)
One work by four authors Higgins, Chow, Ito, and Kawazaki (2000) Higgins et al. (2000) (Higgins, Chow, Ito, & Kawazaki, 2000) (Higgins et al., 2000)
One work by five authors Schaefer, Ramirez, Lucio, Davidson, and Pastillo (2012) Schaefer et al. (2012) (Schaefer, Ramirez, Lucio, Davidson, & Pastillo, 2012) (Schaefer et al., 2012)
One work by six or more authors Hutchens et al. (2010) Hutchens et al. (2010) (Hutchens et al., 2010) (Hutchens et al., 2010)
Group author readily identified by abbreviation American Psychological Association (APA, 2010) APA (2010) (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010) (APA, 2010)
Group author not abbreviated Boston College (2013) Boston College (2013) (Boston College, 2013) (Boston Collge, 2013)

When et al. follows one author, there is no comma:

Ramirez et al. (2010) stated that…

However, if you need to include two or three authors before using et al. (so that the source is not confused with others with similar authors), use a comma after the last surname:

Wienhorst, Stonebraker, Schaeffer, et al. (2011) and Wienhorst, Stonebraker, Tunon, et al. (2011) looked at the issue of…

Anonymous or Unidentified Author

Only use Anonymous as the author when that is stated on the document itself. Otherwise, use the title as illustrated in this section.

If an article, book chapter, webpage, or special issue of a journal has no author, use the title or first few words of the title if it is long.

Challenges to the findings (“The Oil Spill,” 2010) were made.

“The Oil Spill” (2010) discussed challenges to the findings.

“The Oil Spill” published in 2010 discussed challenges to the findings.

In parenthetical citations, use double quotes around the title, ensuring the comma before the year goes inside of the quotation marks. Use title case in-text, however you’ll use sentence case when you cite the source in the reference list.

If the source is a periodical, book, report, or brochure, you can use a similar format to articles or book chapters.

The report (Remediation in Higher Education, 2005) stated…

Remediation in Higher Education (2005) stated…

In 2005, Remediation in Higher Education stated…

In this case, you will not use quotation marks around the title, but will italicize it. Use title case in-text, however you’ll use sentence case for the title in the reference list.

Group Authors and Acronyms

Groups including corporations, associations, and government agencies can serve as authors. The name should be spelled out every time it is cited in the text of the document. However, for names of groups that can be easily identified by an abbreviation such as APA for the American Psychological Association, NSU for Nova Southeastern University, or FBI for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, then it is acceptable to spell out the group name the first time and use an abbreviation thereafter. The abbreviation would be used in the second and all subsequent abbreviations. In other words, you cannot switch back and forth between the full name and the abbreviation. If the name is short or if the abbreviated name would not be easily understood, then write out the name each time it occurs.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2013) is widely accepted by the psychiatric profession for classifying mental disorders.

Now that the acronyms have been introduced, you must use them in subsequent citations:

The DSM-5 uses a classification system that has shifted from a traditional categorical approach to a dimensional approach (APA, 2013).

Citing Two Authors with the Same Last Name and First Initial


(Kellie Justice, 2014; Kim Justice, 1998)

Reference List

Justice, K. [Kellie]. (2014)…

Justice, K. [Kim]. (1998)…

Citation Variations

Citing the Same Source Multiple Times in the Same Paragraph

There are several ways to refer to the same source several times in the same paragraph and will depend on your writing style.

When the author’s name is in the narrative, include the date in parentheses the first time a reference appears in the paragraph. You do not need to include the year in subsequent nonparenthetical references as long as the cannot confuse the source with another also being cited:

Johnson (2011) found several issues that had not been uncovered previously. Johnson stated that his findings were unusual.

When the author’s name is included with the publication date in a parenthetical citation, include both the name and the date every time you cite the source in the paragraph:

Several studies (Johnson, 2011; Zeigler, 2010) found similar findings. The first study (Johnson, 2011) explored the use of constructivist theory in the context of online classes.

When both the year and author are provided in the narrative, you do not need to repeat the information in parentheses:

In 2011, Johnson found that…

Citing One Important and Several Additional Citations

When one source is particularly important, you can emphasize that source using the following format, rather than just listing all of the sources alphabetically:

(Cresswell, 2014; see also Fink, 2008; Gibson, 2007; Sue & Ritter, 2004)

Personal Communication

Personal communications including conversations, phone calls, email messages, class lectures, interviews, and online chats should be paraphrased. Cite personal communications only in the text, give the initials as well as the surname of the communicator, and provide the exact date if possible. Contextual information can be included in the sentence structure to add clarity.

According to Professor S. Spahn (personal communication, December 1, 2011), the ACRL standards for information literacy provide good guidelines.

The book is ready (S. Ramdial, personal communication, July 20, 2011).

The first Moog electronic composition by R. Wienhorst (personal communication, March 8, 1969) was performed at the VU Chapel.

Notice that “personal communication” is not capitalized.

Other types of resources that could be considered personal communications are performance art, social media limited to friends or approved followers, and research interviews. Note that when citing personal communication, an individual’s name is included, but in the case of research interviews where the participant’s identity needs to be protected, use other identifiers, nicknames, or roles.

I do not see how things could have been handled differently (female patient, 61 years of age).”

I use my laptop in class so I can take notes and use Lexis Nexis (Student D).”

This is a very small selection of examples of legal citations in APA format. For more information, see the APA manual (6th ed.), Appendix 7.1: References to Legal Materials, APA Style Blog entries tagged legal, or the Bluebook (18th ed.), on which APA bases legal citation. The APA Style Blog also has an introduction to legal references. Additionally the Alvin Sherman Library has a presentation that can be downloaded and a recorded workshop available for online viewing — Citing Legal Materials in APA Style.

Abbreviations you may use in legal citations include:

U.S. Congress Cong.
House of Representatives H.R.
Senate S.
Regulation Reg.
Resolution Res.
Federal Reporter F.
Federal Reporter, Second Series F.2d
Federal Reporter, Third Series F.3d
Federal Supplement F. Supp.
United States Code U.S.C.
Congressional Record Cong. Reg.
Federal Register Fed. Reg.

Court Decisions

In-text, cite the name of the case in italics and the year of the decision. If more than one is given, cite all years.

Name v. Name (Year)

Lessard v. Schmidt (1972)

(Brown v. Board of Educ., 1945)

You’ll also need the source reporting the decision and the court making the decision for your reference list entry.

Executive Order

Use the order number and year in your in-text citation:

Executive Order No. 11,609 (1994)

Executive orders are reported in Title 3 (The President) of the Code of Federal Regulations, so you’ll need to include that, as well as the page in your reference list citation:

Exec. Order No. 11,609, 3 C.F.R. 586 (1971-1975), reprinted as amended in 3 U.S.C. 301 app. at 404-07 (1994).

In this example, the order number is 11,609 which appears in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations on page 586. The parallel citation is to the United States Code (U.S.C.).


In the body of the paper, use the popular or official name of an act. However, in the reference list, provide the source and section number of the statute. The date used should be the publication date of the statutory compilation, even if if it is different from a year in the name of the act.

The legislation (No Child Left Behind Act, 2002) stated that…

You’ll also need the title number, source, and section number for your reference list entry.

No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 20 U.S.C. § 63001 (2002).

See the APA manual or blog for information about other forms of legislation such as enacted bills and joint, simple, or concurrent resolutions.

Testimony and Hearings

The reference list format for testimony, hearings, bills, resolutions and reports is:

Title, xxx Cong. (date).

RU486: The import ban and its effect on medical research: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Small Business, 101st Cong. 35 (1990) (testimony of Ronald Chesemore).

So your in-text citation would look like this:

(RU486: The Import Ban, 1990)

Treaties and International Agreements

Use the name of the treaty or agreement in your in-text citation.


(Treaty of Neutrality, 1929)

Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion With Respect to Taxes on Estates, Inheritances, and Gifts (1978)

For bilateral (between two parties) treaties and agreements, include the names of the parties involved, separated by a hyphen (-). You can abbreviate the names of countries as specified in the Bluebook. If the United States is one of the parties, it is listed first; other countries are listed alphabetically.

Reference List

Treaty of Neutrality, Hung.-Turk., Jan. 5, 1929, 100 L.N.T.S. 137.

Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion With Respect to Taxes on Estates, Inheritances, and Gifts, U.S.-Fr., Nov. 24, 1978, 32 U.S.T. 1935.

Remember to include the parties, date of signing, and source in your reference list citation.

For more information on citing treaties, refer to the APA Style Blog post on treaties or the Bluebook. Refer to the U.S. State Department’s treaty website for FAQs about treaties.

U.S. Constitution

If you are simply referring to the U.S. Constitution in the text of your paper, you can mention it in the text without a reference list entry.

James Madison is considered the father of the U.S. Constitution in part because of his role in drafting the document.

However, if you are using or paraphrasing any part of the U.S. Constitution, you need to cite it.

Abbreviations used when citing constitutions, federal and state, include:

Article art.
Amendment amend.
Section §
Clause cl.
Preamble pmbl.

Article and amendment numbers should use Roman numerals, however section and clause number use Arabic numerals. If the part of the Constitution you are citing is currently in force, you do not need to include a date. If the part has been repealed or amended, include that date in parentheses.

When the United States of America was founded, a procedure for adding new states was devised (U.S. Const. art. I, § 3).

Prohibition is the period in U.S. history when the sale of liquor was made illegal (U.S. Const. amed. XVIII, repealed 1933).