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APA guidelines (7th) ENG: Basic Principles of Citations

A detailed explanation of the latest edition of the APA guidelines, with lots of examples. This LibGuide is in English.

Standard in-text citation

A source citation is placed in your text at the time you refer to a work by another author(s), as a paraphrase or quote. A citation is a short reference in the text to a full description of that source in the reference list.


An in-text citation is the same for all types of sources and consists of author (WHO), date (WHEN) and page number(s) if any.


            WHO                    WHEN

All other details of the source consulted are included in the reference list.

From the in-text citation, the reader cannot yet tell what type of source it is, so the reader must look up the source in the reference list.

Place of in-text citation

An in-text citation is part of a sentence and can be placed at the beginning, halfway or at the end of the sentence.

You decide where the citation is placed, as long as it is clear to the reader which part of the text is your own work and which part is based on another source.

In-text citations can appear in two formats: parenthetical and narrative.

  • In parenthetical citations, the author name and publication date appear in parentheses.
Paraphrasing can help the student avoid plagiarism, but many students fail to understand the text, making it difficult to express the idea in their own words (Stander, 2018).


  • In narrative citations, the author name is incorporated into the text as part of the sentence and the year follows in parentheses.
According to Stander (2018) many students fail to understand the text they read, which makes paraphrasing difficult.

Repeating in-text citation

It can be distracting for the reader if the text is interrupted by the same source citation each time.


Tip: If you are basing a chapter in your report on a research method from a book and you are using a paraphrase, it is better to mention it at the beginning of the text, for example:

This chapter is based on chapter 7 from Doing Research (Verhoeven, 2019), which discusses the design and conduct of a quantitative study.


Please note: 

  • if you are going to cite during the writing of that chapter, then the page numbers must be listed separately,
  • if you cite another source in this chapter, then the earlier source must be cited again, so that there can be no doubt as to which source you are referring to.

WHO: one or two authors

You always name one or two authors (or editors) when you paraphrase or quote.

How a reference should (exactly) look like in the text is determined by the structure of the sentence. For example, you can:

  • cite the author in the text, and place the year in parentheses
Wainwright (2020) found in his study that students who spent more time on Facebook felt less happy.


  •  Place both authors and year in parenthesis (separate author name and year with a comma)
Dealing with and managing situations that raise ethical questions make research even more difficult (Wouters & Aarts, 2017).


  •  mention authors and year both in the text (however, this is less common).
In their 2017 publication, Wouters and Aarts note that dealing with and guiding situations that raise ethical questions make research even more challenging.


If you refer to the same source several times within the same paragraph, you do not need to mention the year again after the first reference, at least if you named the author in the text.

WHO: three or more authors

In case of three or more authors, mention only the first name with the addition et al. (Latin abbreviation for et alii, "and others"). Example:

  • parenthetical citation
An analysis of 65 literature studies points to several contradictions (Groer et al., 2013).


  • narrative citation
Groer et al. (2013) found multiple contradictions in their analysis of 65 literature studies.

Tip: See also Paragraph 8.17 of the Publication Manual of the APA

WHO: surnames with prefixes

Prefixes as 'van' or 'de' are part of the surname. Include them, keeping the spacing and their preferred capitalization.

For example:

  • Leonardo Del Vecchio would be Del Vecchio, L.
  • Simone de Beauvoir would be de Beauvoir, S.

 (Del Vecchio, year)

(de Beauvoir, year)

In the reference list, surnames with prefixes are alphabetized by the first letter of the prefix.

Multiple sources from different authors

Separate references to two or more works by different authors with a semicolon. Place references in alphabetical order (i.e., the same order as in the bibliography).

Other studies (Pieters & Indson 2014; Smeets, 1998; Willems, 2016) suggest that the economy....

Missing author

  • Organization as author

If no personal name is listed as the author, the responsible organization is listed.

According to the American Psychological Association (2020), the Publication Manual is used by both authors and students.


In the second reference, you may use an abbreviation, as long as it is well established or readily apparent. You introduce the abbreviation as follows: 

- When the name of the organization is mentioned in the running text, you mention the abbreviation (in round brackets) after the full name of the organization.


The United Nations (UN, 2011) published a report that considered internet access a fundamental human right.


- If the full name of the organization is in round brackets, put the abbreviation in square brackets.

- In the following reference(s), the abbreviation is sufficient.  

Internet access is considered a fundamental human right (United Nations [UN], 2011).


  • No author or organization

If there is no author or organization, the title is mentioned. If the title is long, it may be shortened to the first few words.

- parenthetical citation:

Orcas living in an unnatural confinement such as SeaWorld may behave violently towards trainers ("Killer whale trainer warns", 2022).


 - narrative citation:

In "Killer whale trainer warns" (2022) former orca trainer John Hargrove says that he witnessed violent behaviour by orcas living in an unnatural confinement such as SeaWorld.

Reference list

Killer whale trainer warns captive orca could kill again. (2022, April 5). The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved December 9, 2022, 



WHEN: publication date

For a book or magazine article, state the year it was published in parentheses.

If the date of publication is not known, use n.d. ("no date") in parentheses.