A quick guide to APA referencing

0APA 7th edition publication manualAPA Style is widely used by students, researchers, and professionals in the social and behavioural sciences. The Scribbr APA Reference Generator automatically generates accurate references and in-text citations for free.

This citation guide outlines the most important citation guidelines from the 7th edition APA Publication Manual (2020). Scribbr also offers free guides for the older APA 6th edition, MLA Style, and Chicago Style.

APA in-text citations

The basics

In-text citations are brief references in the running text that direct readers to the reference entry at the end of the paper. You include them every time you quote or paraphrase someone else’s ideas or words.

An APA in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and the year of publication (also known as the author-date system). If you’re citing a specific part of a source, you should also include a locator such as a page number or timestamp. For example: (Smith, 2020, p. 170).

Parenthetical vs. narrative citation

The in-text citation can take two forms: parenthetical and narrative. Both types are generated automatically when citing a source with Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator.

  • Parenthetical citation: According to new research … (Smith, 2020).
  • Narrative citation: Smith (2020) notes that …

Multiple authors and corporate authors

The in-text citation changes slightly when a source has multiple authors or an organization as an author. Pay attention to punctuation and the use of the ampersand (&) symbol.

Author type Parenthetical citation Narrative citation
One author (Smith, 2020) Smith (2020)
Two authors (Smith & Jones, 2020) Smith and Jones (2020)
Three or more authors (Smith et al., 2020) Smith et al. (2020)
Organization (Scribbr, 2020) Scribbr (2020)

Missing information

When the author, publication date or locator is unknown, take the steps outlined below.

Missing element What to do Parenthetical citation
Author Use the source title.* (Source Title, 2020)
Date Write “n.d.” for “no date”. (Smith, n.d.)
Page number Either use an alternative locator or
omit the page number.
(Smith, 2020, Chapter 3) or
(Smith, 2020)
*Format the title in the same way as in the corresponding reference entry (either italicized or, if the title in the reference entry is not italicized, placed in quotation marks). Use title case capitalization.

APA references

The basics

APA references generally include information about the author, publication date, title, and source. Depending on the type of source, you may have to include extra information that helps your reader locate the source.

Reference examples

Citing a source starts with choosing the correct reference format. Use Scribbr’s Citation Example Generator to learn more about the format for the most common source types. Pay close attention to punctuation, capitalization, and italicization.

Generate APA citations for free

Missing information

It is not uncommon for certain information to be unknown or missing, especially with sources found online. In these cases, the reference is slightly adjusted.

Missing element What to do Reference format
Author Start the reference entry with the source title. Title. (Date). Source.
Date Write “n.d.” for “no date”. Author. (n.d.). Title. Source.
Title Describe the work in square brackets. Author. (Date). [Description]. Source.

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Formatting the APA reference page

The basics

APA Reference Page (7th edition)On the reference page, you list all the sources that you’ve cited throughout your paper. Place the page, right after the main body and before any appendices.

On the first line of the page, write the section label “References” (in bold and centred). On the second line, start listing your references in alphabetical order.

Apply these formatting guidelines to the APA reference page:

  • Double spacing (within and between references)
  • Hanging indent of ½ inch
  • Legible font (e.g. Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11)
  • Page number in the top-right header

Which sources to include

On the reference page, you only include sources that you have cited in the text (with an in-text citation). You should not include references to personal communications that your reader can’t access (e.g. emails, phone conversations or private online material).

Free lecture slides

Are you a teacher or professor looking to introduce your students to APA Style? Download our free introductory lecture slides, available for Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint.

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Is this article helpful?
Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo is an expert in explaining plagiarism and citing sources. He has been writing helpful articles since 2017 and is continuously improving Scribbr's Citation Generators.

2 comments

Hannah
17 May 2021 at 15:55

Hi, I'm just wondering what to do when you have to give a secondary reference. In my reference list I realise I only reference sources I have read but, If I have used a secondary reference from that source, do I have to give the page number on which they cited that other source as well as the page numbers of which the source ranges from. For example, I'm using a reference of Forbes (2001). I have used other information from this source and so I will still keep the automated reference page range of p.774-786. However, this sourced referenced someone else on page 776. In my in-text citation I have already put "Lippa (1991, cited by Forbes, 2001, p.776)" but I am unsure whether in my references I have to put this page number, in addition to the page range? Would it just be Forbes...p.774-786 OR should I put p.774-786, p.776 to indicate the specific page that they used a secondary reference of mine?

Thank you in advance, I hope that makes sense!

Reply

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
17 May 2021 at 22:59

Hi Hannah,

Good question! The source you read should be cited as a whole, rather than indicating the specific location of the secondary quote you used within it. So you would omit the specific page number and just use the general page range for the whole source.

Hope that clarifies things!

Reply

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