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The ultimate guide to citing in APA

APA is one of the most popular citation styles, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences, but also in many other fields. APA stands for American Psychological Association. APA citation style was developed by social and behavioral scientists to standardize scientific writing and is currently in its 7th edition.

If you are not sure which citation style to use in your paper, ask your instructor. There are many different citation styles and using the style your instructor or institution has established correctly can have a positive impact on your grade.

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th edition) is the basis of this guide. It contains guidelines on paper structure and content, writing and formatting, and crediting sources in APA. This guide focuses on crediting sources and aims at answering all of your questions about citing in APA.

The APA citation rules stretch more than 50 pages in the official APA publication manual, and yes, they are complex. We have created the BibGuru citation builder to help you focus on the content of your work instead of worrying about how to get your reference list done correctly.

For general tips and tricks on writing your papers in APA, or to learn how to format your APA title page and abstract page, visit our blog. Or just use our free APA format citation generator to automatically create accurate APA citations with only a few clicks.

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APA citation basics

The APA guide recommends that you cite any works or individuals whose ideas, theories, or research have directly influenced your work. This means that you should cite only works you have read and ideas you have incorporated into your writing. If possible cite primary sources, and secondary sources sparingly.


A primary source reports original content; a secondary source refers to content first reported in another source.

APA citation style uses in-text citations and a reference list. Both can be created with just a click with BibGuru's APA citation generator.

APA in-text citations

For in-text references, APA uses the author-date citation system. This system allows readers to find the sources cited both within the text and in the reference list, where each source is listed alphabetically. Each work cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and each work in the reference list must be cited in the text.

To insert a citation in the text, include the author's last name and year of publication. For a direct quotation, include the page number or specific location of the phrase or sentence in the original work.

In-text references have two formats: parenthetical and narrative. In parenthetical citations, the author's name and publication date appear in parentheses. When a parenthetical citation is at the end of a sentence, place the period or other end punctuation after the closing parentheses. Here is an example:

EXAMPLEParenthetical citation

In the production process nowadays, skilled labor and computerized machines are used (Rode, 2012).

In narrative citations, the name and publication date is incorporated into the text as part of the sentence. The author appears in running text and the date appears in parentheses immediately after the author's name:

EXAMPLENarrative citation (with parenthesis)

Rode (2012) claims that productive activities have been part of human civilization since ancient times.

In some cases, author and date might both appear in the narrative. In this case, no parentheses are needed:

EXAMPLENarrative citation (without parenthesis)

In 2012, Rode wrote about the productive activities...

If you cite multiple works parenthetically, place the citations in alphabetical order, separating them with semicolons, like in this example:

EXAMPLEMultiple parenthetical citations

(Adams et al., 2019; Shumway & Shulman, 2015; Westinghouse, 2017)

If multiple sources are cited within a sentence, they can appear in any order:

EXAMPLEMultiple sources in a sentence

Suliman (2018), Gutiérrez (2012, 2017), and Medina and Reyes (2019) examined...

If you cite a work with more than one author or editor, additional rules apply:

  • If a work has two authors, cite both names every time the reference occurs in the text.
  • When citing a work with 3-5 authors, cite all authors the first time the reference occurs. After the first time, you only need to include the last name of the first author, followed by "et al."
  • When citing 6 or more authors, use the first author's last name followed by "et al." for all citations.

According to the 7th edition of the APA Manual, if you are citing 3 or more authors, you only need to list the first author, followed by "et al." Click here to learn more about the difference between APA 6th and 7th editions.

The BibGuru free APA 7 citation generator has incorporated all the new APA 7th edition rules, so you don’t have to worry about the differences between the versions.

Basic in-text citation styles

Author typeParenthetical citationNarrative citation
One author(Rode, 2012)Rode (2012)
Two authors(Mayer & Rilke, 2019)Mayer & Rilke (2019)
Three or more authors(Smith et al., 2000)Smith et al. (2000)
Group author with abbreviation (first citation)(National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2020)National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2020)
Group author with abbreviation (subsequent citations)(NIMH, 2020)NIMH (2020)
Group author without abbreviation(Columbia University, 2021)Columbia University (2021)

Direct quotations

When quoting directly, always provide the author, year, and page number of the quotation in the in-text citation. When citing a single page, use the abbreviation "p." (e.g., p. 26, p. S44, p. e283); for multiple pages, use the abbreviation "pp." and separate the page range with an en dash (e.g., pp. 34-36). If pages are discontinuous, use a comma between the page numbers (e.g., pp. 65, 72).

Here are two examples of direct quotations:

EXAMPLEDirect quotation

"For both parties to gain from trade, the price at which they trade must lie between the two opportunity costs" (Mankiw, 2015, p. 54).

EXAMPLEDirect quotation (narrative)

In his book, Bonnett asks "What is the difference between being white and being Western?" (2004, p. 14).

However, APA strongly recommends paraphrasing whenever possible instead of using a direct quotation. A paraphrase restates another's idea (or your own previously published idea) in your own words.

How to use Bibguru for APA citations

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APA reference list

The reference list at the end of your paper provides the information that a reader would need to identify and find each source that you have used. An accurate reference list helps to establish the credibility of your work and of yourself as the author. You should only include works that you have used in the research for, and preparation of, your paper.

A reference list generally has four elements: author, date, title, and source. Each of these elements answers a question:

Who is responsible for this work?
When was this work published?
What is this work called?
Where was the work published?
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When formatting the author part, follow these guidelines:

  • Invert all individual author's names, providing the last name first, followed by a comma and the initials: Author, A. A.
  • Use a comma to separate an author's initials from additional author names, even when there are only two authors. Use an ampersand (&) before the final author's name: Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.
  • For up to 20 authors, provide last names and initials. Use an ampersand before the final author's name.
  • For 21 and more authors, include the first 19 names, insert an ellipsis (...), and then add the final author's name.
  • People who contributed substantially in roles other than the author can also be credited - an example would be an editor abbreviated as "(Ed.)"

APA 7th edition allows you to include up to 20 authors' names in an individual reference.

By using an APA 7 citation generator like BibGuru you can be on the safe side with the specific rules of the new version.

When formatting the title part, follow these guidelines:

  • For works that are part of a greater whole (e.g. journal articles, edited book chapters), do not italicize the title or use quotation marks, and capitalize it using sentence cases.
  • For works that stand alone (e.g. books, reports, websites), italicize the title, and capitalize it using sentence cases.
  • Finish the title element with a period, unless it ends with a question mark or exclamation point. In that case, use that punctuation mark.

The source either has one or two parts, depending on the reference category. A source from a printed book without a DOI has one part: the book's publisher. A source from a journal article with a DOI has two parts; the periodical information (journal title, volume number, issue number, and page range or article number) and the DOI.


The publication place of printed sources is no longer required in APA 7th edition. Visit our post on the differences between APA 6th and 7th edition to learn more.

The DOI or URL is the final component of the reference list entry in the APA style. A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies content and provides a persistent link to its location on the internet. Include a DOI for all works that have a DOI, regardless of whether you used the online version or the print version. If an online work has both a DOI and a URL, include only the DOI, but if the source only has a URL, include the URL.


You no longer need to include "retrieved from" prior to listing a URL, according to APA 7th edition.

How to format the reference list in APA:

  1. Begin the reference list on a new page after the text.
  2. Name it "References", and center the section label in bold at the top of the page.
  3. Order the reference list alphabetically by author (last name of the first author followed by the initials of the author's given name(s)).
  4. Alphabetize entries by authors who have the same given name and last name with suffixes indicating birth order chronologically, oldest first.
  5. Double-space the entire list (both within and between entries).
  6. Apply a hanging indent of 0.5 in. to each entry. This means that the first line of the reference is flush left and subsequent lines are indented 0.5 in. from the left margin.

An example of an APA reference page made with BibGuru's APA citation generator.

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Citation Examples

  • Books and
    Reference Works
  • Journals and
  • Webpages
    and Websites
  • Dissertations
    and Theses
  • Media

Books and Reference Works includes authored books, edited books, translated books, anthologies, religious works, classical works, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and diagnostic manuals. This template shows you how to cite them.

AuthorDateTitlePublisher InformationDOI or URL
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.(2020).Title of book.Publisher Name.
Name of Group.Title of book (2nd ed., Vol. 4).First Publisher Name; Second Publisher Name.
Editor, E. E. (Ed.).Title of book [Audiobook].
Editor, E. E., & Editor, F. F. (Eds.).Title of book (E.E. Editor, Ed.).
Title of book (T. Translator, Trans.; N. Narrator, Narr.).
SectionPatterns and VariationsExampleNote
AuthorAuthor, A. A.Smith, E. C.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.Smith, E. C., & Johnson, F. G.
Name of Group.Human Genome consortium.
Editor, E. E. (Ed.).Smith, E. C. (Ed.).
Editor, E. E., & Editor, F. F. (Eds.).Smith, E. C., & Johnson F. G. (Eds.).
TitleTitle of book.A Brief History of Time.
Title of book (2nd ed., Vol. 4).A Brief History of Time (2nd ed., Vol. 4).Use this template when citing one volume of a multivolume work.
Title of book (E.E. Editor, Ed.).A Brief History of Time (E. C. Smith, Ed.).Use this template when citing a book with an Editor.
Title of book (N. Narrator, Narr.).A Brief History of Time (P. Miller, Trans.).When a book was translated, indicate it with a "Trans.".
Title of book (N. Narrator, Narr.) [Audiobook].A Brief History of Time (M. Dale) [Audiobook].You only need to note that you have used an audiobook when the content is not the same as in the text version of the book. When the content has been changed or the audiobook was released in a different year than the text version, you need to note it in your citation.
Publisher InformationPublisher Name.Springer.
DOI or URL an online work has both a DOI and a URL, include only the DOI, but if the source only has a URL, include the URL.
https://xzy.com a source only has an URL, but no DOI, include the URL.

EXAMPLEAuthored book with a DOI

See, M. (2012). Greenhouse gas emissions: Global business aspects. Springer.

Parenthetical citation: (See, 2012)

Narrative citation: See (2012)

EXAMPLEAuthored book without a DOI, from most academic research databases or print version

Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Parenthetical citation: (Hattie, 2008)

Narrative citation: Hattie (2008)

EXAMPLEEdited book with a DOI, with multiple authors

Raab, M., Lobinger, B., Hoffmann, S. O., Pizzera, A., & Laborde, S. (Eds.). (2015). Performance psychology: Perception, action, cognition, and emotion. Academic Press.

Parenthetical citation: (Raab et al., 2015)

Narrative citation: Raab et al. (2015)

EXAMPLEDictionary, thesaurus, or encyclopedia

Zalta, E. N. (Ed.). (2019). The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2019 ed.). Stanford University.

Parenthetical citation: (Zalta, 2019)

Narrative citation: Zalta (2019)

EXAMPLEBook in another language

When a book is in a different language than your paper, include a translation of the book title in square brackets:

Meifert Matthias, T. (Ed.). (2010). Strategische personalentwicklung [Strategic HR Development]. Springer.

Periodicals are generally published on a continuous basis and include journals, magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and even blog posts. This template shows you how to cite them.

AuthorDateTitlePeriodical informationDOI or URL
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.(2020).Title of article.Title of Periodical, 34(2), 5-14.
Name of group.(2020, January).Title of Periodical, 2(1-2), Article 12.
Author, C. C. [username].(2020, February 16).Title of Periodical.
SectionPatterns and VariationsExampleNotes
AuthorAuthor, A. A.Smith, E. C.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.Smith, E. C., & Johnson, F. G.
Name of group.Human Genome Consortium.
Username.Luna Tech.If a blog post or comment on an online article has no real name, credit their username.
Date(Year).(2020).Date presented for a journal.
(Year, Month).(2020, March).Date presented for a magazine, newspaper article, or blog post.
(Year, Month Day).(2020, March 15).Date presented for a magazine, newspaper article, or blog post.
TitleTitle of Article.Power and inequality in the global political economy.
Periodical informationTitle of Periodical, 34(2), 5-14.International Affairs, 93(2), 429–444.In this example, 93 would be the volume number, (2) the Issue, and 429-444 the page numbers.
Title of Periodical, 2(1-2), Article 12.PLOS ONE, 14(1), Article e0209899.This is an online article without page numbers, so instead of a page number you need to list the article number.
Title of Periodical.The Atlantic.When periodical information is missing (e.g. volume number, issue, page range), omit it from the reference.
DOI or URL an online work has both a DOI and a URL, include only the DOI, but if the source only has a URL, include the URL.
https://xzy.com a source only has an URL, but no DOI, include the URL.

EXAMPLEJournal article with a DOI

Warren, R., Price, J., Graham, E., Forstenhaeusler, N., & VanDerWal, J. (2018). The projected effect on insects, vertebrates, and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. Science (New York, N.Y.), 360(6390), 791–795.

Parenthetical citation: (Warren et al., 2018)

Narrative citation: Warren et al. (2018)

EXAMPLEJournal article with a DOI, 21 or more authors

Lindblad-Toh, K., Garber, M., Zuk, O., Lin, M. F., Parker, B. J., Washietl, S., Kheradpour, P., Ernst, J., Jordan, G., Mauceli, E., Ward, L. D., Lowe, C. B., Holloway, A. K., Clamp, M., Gnerre, S., Alföldi, J., Beal, K., Chang, J., Clawson, H., … Kellis, M. (2011). A high-resolution map of human evolutionary constraint using 29 mammals. Nature, 478(7370), 476–482.

Parenthetical citation: (Lindblad-Toh et al., 2011)

Narrative citation: Lindblad-Toh et al. (2011)

EXAMPLEMagazine article version

Bruenig, E. (2021, June 9). America’s dangerous obsession with innocence. Atlantic Monthly (Boston, Mass.: 1993).

Parenthetical citation: (Bruenig, 2021)

Narrative citation: Bruenig (2021)


Darwish, F. (2014). How being a cat person can dramatically enhance your psychological health. Psych Daily, 6(4), 4-5. https://www-psychdaily-com/the-pets-cats-report/emotional-health/

Parenthetical citation: (Darwish, 2014)

Narrative citation: Darwish (2014)

If you cite a source from a website and no other reference category fits and the work has no parent or overarching publication (e.g. journal or blog), use this template for your reference.

AuthorDateTitleWebsite nameURL
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.(2020).Title of work.Site name.
Name of Group.(2020, August).Retrieved December 22, 2020, from
(2020, September 28).
SectionPatterns and VariationsExampleNotes
AuthorAuthor, A. A.James, L. C.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.Perry, C., & James, L. C.
Name of Group.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Date(Year).(2020).Provide the most specific date possible.
(Year, Month).(2020, August).
(Year, Month Day).(2020, September 28).
TitleTitle of work.Community Arts Investment Program.When a web page has no author use the title of the web page as the first element in the citation and reference.
Website nameSite name.London Arts Council.
Retrieved December 22, 2020, from https://xzy.comRetrieved August 9, 2021, from a retrieval date only when the content is designed to change over time and the page is not archived.

EXAMPLE Webpage on a news website

France-Presse, A. (2021, June 10). Child labour worldwide increases for first time in 20 years. The Guardian.

Parenthetical citation: (France-Presse, 2021)

Narrative citation: France-Presse (2021)

EXAMPLEUniversity website

Hamido, K. A., & Essam, J. A. (n.d.). Use of artificial intelligence in forensic analyses. Cairo Medical School.

Parenthetical citation: (Hamido & Essam, n.d.)

Narrative citation: Hamido and Essam (n.d.)

EXAMPLEBlog post

Priyadarshini, S. (n.d.). How outreach blends my worlds as a scientist and mom. Indigenus.

Parenthetical citation: (Priyadarshini, n.d.)

Narrative citation: Priyadarshini (n.d.)

EXAMPLEWebsite with no author

Neuroscience. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved June 6, 2007 from /wiki/Neuroscience

Parenthetical citation: ("Neuroscience", n.d.)

Narrative citation: "Neuroscience" (n.d.)

EXAMPLEGovernment website

Egyptian Center for Nuclear Energy. (n.d.). Becoming a research volunteer. brochures/3panelfinal.pdf

Parenthetical citation: (Egyptian Center for Nuclear Energy, n.d.)

Narrative citation: Egyptian Center for Nuclear Energy (n.d.)

EXAMPLEEntry in an online reference work

Sameer, G. (2005). Behaviorism. In E. N. Rashed (Ed.), The encyclopedia of psychology (Fall 2014 ed.).

Parenthetical citation: (Sameer, 2005)

Narrative citation: Sameer (2005)

References for dissertations and theses are divided by whether they are unpublished or published. Unpublished works must be retrieved directly from the university in print form. Published works are available from a database, a university archive, or a personal website. This is how you cite them:

AuthorDateTitleDatabase or Archive nameURL
Author, A. A.(2020).Title of dissertation [Unpublished doctoral dissertation].Name of Institution Awarding the Degree.
Author, A. A.(2020).Title of dissertation [Doctoral dissertation, Name of Institution Awarding the Degree]Database Name.
Title of thesis [Master's thesis, Name of Institution Awarding the degree]Archive Name.

Unpublished works (only available at the college or univeristy in print):

SectionPatterns and VariationsExampleNotes
AuthorAuthor, A. A.Leone, A.
TitleTitle of dissertation [Unpublished doctoral dissertation].Evolution and Change: Town and Country in Late Antique North Africa [Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation].
Database or Archive nameName of Institution Awarding the Degree.University of Leicester.


SectionPatterns and VariationsExampleNotes
AuthorAuthor, A. A.Anthony, H.
TitleTitle of dissertation [Doctoral dissertation, Name of Institution Awarding the Degree]Link between childhood trauma and alcoholism [Doctoral Dissertation, University of Florida]
Title of thesis [Master's thesis, Name of Institution Awarding the degree]Link between childhood trauma and alcoholism [Master's thesis, University of Florida]
Database or Archive nameDatabase Name.FloridaLink.
Archive Name.UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

EXAMPLEUnpublished dissertation or thesis

Eid, H. (2017). The anti-cancer effect of scorpion venom (Unpublished master’s thesis). Modern Sciences and Arts University.

Parenthetical citation: (Eid, 2017)

Narrative citation: Eid (2017)

EXAMPLEPublished dissertation or thesis from a database

Mccarthy, M. D. (2014). The relationship between sleep deprivation and student performance (Order No. 3682837) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Parenthetical citation: (Mccarthy, 2014)

Narrative citation: Mccarthy (2014)

EXAMPLEPublished dissertation or thesis from a database-no publication number

Brown, S. (2010). Impacts of jellyfish invasion in the red sea [Master’s thesis, American University in Cairo]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.

Parenthetical citation: (Brown, 2010)

Narrative citation: Brown (2010)

EXAMPLEPublished dissertation or thesis from an online platform

Anthony, H. (2014). Link between childhood trauma and alcoholism (Doctoral dissertation). FloridaLink. Retrieved from

Parenthetical citation: (Anthony, 2014)

Narrative citation: Anthony (2014)

EXAMPLEDissertation or thesis in print

Hawk, E. J. (2017). Using artificial intelligence to prioritize covid-19 vaccine delivery (Master's thesis). Cairo University.

Parenthetical citation: (Hawk, 2017)

Narrative citation: Hawk (2017)


Azab, A. (2012, June). Why are people so rude? [Video]. TED Conferences.

Parenthetical citation: (Azab, 2012)

Narrative citation: Azab (2012)

EXAMPLEYouTube video

Bomer, M. (2013, June 13). Does it puree? [Video]. YouTube.

Parenthetical citation: (Bomer, 2013)

Narrative citation: Bomer (2013)


Abdelaal, D. R (Host). (2017–2018). What should you be doing in your twenties? [Audio podcast]. The millennial.

Parenthetical citation: (Abdelaal, 2017–2018)

Narrative citation: Abdelaal (2017–2018)


Hassan, A. (1908). The Nile River [Photograph]. Time.

Parenthetical citation: (Hassan, 1908)

Narrative citation: Hassan (1908)

EXAMPLEFacebook post

The girl project. (2020, January 10). Signs you have poor boundaries [Image attached] [Photo]. Facebook.

Parenthetical citation: (The girl project, 2020)

Narrative citation: The girl project (2020)

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🎓 What does the APA format stand for?

APA is the referencing style of the American Psychological Association. The principles of the APA style can be found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The style is commonly used in psychology, education, and the social sciences.

✍️ How do I cite in APA?

In APA style, you need to cite your source in-text with the author's last name and year of publication in brackets, and then give a full reference in the alphabetic reference list. Our APA citation guides show you how to cite different sources in APA, taking into consideration all the rules set out in their Publication Manual.

🔔 Is the APA format double-spaced?

In general, all parts of an APA-styled paper should be double-spaced, including the abstract, text, titles, notes, and reference list. There are some exceptions, however, which you can read all about here.

🏫 How do you cite the same source multiple times in APA?

When you cite a source for the first time in a paragraph as part of a sentence, give the citation of your author's name and year. The second and subsequent time you use that source in a sentence, you do not need to include the year anymore.

🤷‍♀️ What are the differences between the APA 6th and APA 7th format?

In the fall of 2019, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued the 7th edition of their publication manual. Some of the major changes in APA 7th are:

  • Book references now omit the publisher location.
  • Journal articles should always include an issue number.
  • You can add up to 20 authors in a reference list instead of only 7.
  • Websites’ URLs omit the “Retrieved from” or "Accessed from" phrase.

You can read more about the changes in the latest version in our blog post.

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