Reference Source In Essay Citations

The Basics

When using APA format for in-text citations, remember that they follow a basic formula of (author, date, p.), for more specific information see the information below, or refer to the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition), or visit the Purdue Online Writing Law (OWL) for up to date tips.


Place citations within sentences and paragraphs so that is is clear which material has come from which sources. Use pronouns and transitions to help you indicate whether several sentences contain material from the same source or from different sources:

Symthe (1990) found that positioning influences ventilation. In his quasi-experimental study of 20 ICU patients, he used two methods to... However, his findings did not support the work of Karcher (1987) and Atley (1989) who used much larger samples to demonstrate that...

Direct quote

When using quotations taken directly from the text, place the authors last name, the date of publication, and the page number used within parentheses after the quote:

"Rare and special collections are being digitized, not only for preservation purposes, but as a means of encouraging wider access to those materials." (Falk, 2003, p. 259).

or, if introducing the quote, refer to the year directly after the author's name, and the p. # directly afterward:

According to Falk (2003), "Rare and special collections are being digitized, not only for preservation purposes, but as a means of encouraging wider access to those materials." (p. 259)

Two or more authors

When a work has a single author or two authors, cite their names and the date of publication whenever you refer to their work in the text. (Exception: Within a given paragraph, do not include the date after the initial citation unless you are citing other publications elsewhere in your paper by the same authors), Join two co-authors in the text with the word "and", but within parentheses use an ampersand (&).

If authors have the same surname, always include their initial in each citation.

When citing co-author groups of three to five authors, cite all names and the date in the initial citation, but only the first author followed by et al. and the date in the subsequent citations.

For co-author groups of six or more authors, cite in the text only the surname of the first author followed by et al. and the date. If two or more six-author groups shorten to the same surname, cite the surnames of as many subsequent authors as need to distinguish between references.

No author

If a work has no author, use the first two or three words of the title (omitting a beginning article), and capitalize each word of your shortened version. Place the short title in quotation marks if it is an article or chapter, or underline it if it is a book or periodical. Substitute the short title for the name of the author. An article: ("Learned Helplessness," 1985). The full title appears alphabetically in the references list (without quotation marks) in the author position.

When citing an edited work (a book, a report, a monograph) and that work has no author, the editor(s) assume the author position.

E-books, or references without page numbers

If a work, such as an e-book does not use page numbers, use as much information from the page as possible.  For example, use a section and paragraph number:

One of the author’s main points is that “people don’t rise from nothing” (Gladwell, 2008, Chapter 1, Section 2, para. 5).

Multiple references

Alphabetize multiple references within parentheses and separate author groups with a semicolon. You may separate a major reference from others by inserting "see also" before remaining references, which appear alphabetically:

Ex. (Patel, 1990; see also Arndt, 1986; Turgel, 1992).

When selecting one or more authors to represent the work or findings of a large group of authors, inform the reader by including "e.g." within the citation:

Ex. A large number of studies have shown that variations in brain waves are common (e.g., Engle, 1993a; Reuter, 1990, Trautman, 1987).


When an author-date citation appears at the end of a sentence, place the period after the parentheses. When an author-date citation appears mid-sentence, punctuation depends on the context.

Spacing has changed in the new APA guidelines: only one space after periods, excepts for initials within parentheses. For. ex.: (U.S.)

Other guidelines

Indicate in the text when you are citing from a secondary source in one of the following ways:

Place both authors in the same citation at the end of the sentence: (Smith, 1976, cited in Carrginton, 1989)


Cite them separately within the same sentence: Smith (1976) fornulated a theory about deviant behavior (cited in Carrington, 1989).

Use appropriate verbs to distinguish between empirical and nonempirical works:

"Zuckerman (1989) compared two groups of..." [empirical] vs. "Basil (1991) wrote extensively about..." [nonempirical].

Also inform the reader about background information: "For a review, see..." or "(see discussion in Ryan, 1990)."

When citing more than one article published by an author in the same year, repeat the year but add a suffix to represent each article (Wilbourn, 1988a, 1988b). Suffixes are assigned according to the alphabetical order of the first major word in each title and also appear in the reference list, where the author's name is repeated for each article.

  • 1

    Gather your information about each source. First you need to find out what kind of information you'll need from each type of source. If you're using a strict format that requires the copyright year of each book you refer to, it can be a pain to go through all of your research without knowing this, then have to go back, find all the books at the library, and determine the copyright date. Generally, it's better to record more information than less, just in case.

  • 2

    Books. Collect the full names of all authors, title of the book, city of publication, publisher's name, and the year of publication. If the book is published by an organization and the individual authors aren't listed, write down the full name of the organization. For electronic books, also record the URL and date of access.
    • Encyclopedias and dictionaries - Also get the full name of the author who wrote the entry (if it is given), the entry title, the number of volumes in the set, and the edition. Write down the volume you're using and the page numbers, unless the content is organized alphabetically.
    • Anthologies and collections - Note the author and the title of individual work you're citing (poem, play, short story, etc.), the full names of any editors and compilers, and the page number(s). If the work was previously published in another book, record the information for the original source as described above.
  • 3

    Journal articles. Collect the journal title, article title, author name(s), volume and issue number of the journal, date of publication, and page numbers of the article. If it is an online journal, also record the page or paragraph numbers (if applicable), URL, and the date you accessed the site. If you are accessing the article through a database, also record the database name.

  • 4

    Magazine articles. Collect the author(s) names, title of the article, title of the magazine, volume number (if applicable), date of publication, and page numbers. For online magazines, get the date of access and URL as well. If you access the magazine through a database, find the vendor/supplier of database, database name, accession number of article (if applicable), and the date of access.

  • 5

    Newspaper articles. Collect the name of the author of the article, title of the article, name of the newspaper, date of publication, and the section, page and column location of the article. If the newspaper is online, get the URL and date of access, too. If you found the newspaper article in a database, write down the URL, date of access, database, and library through which article was accessed (name, city, and state).

  • 6

    Websites. Get the author's name (if given), title of work, group responsible for the site (if applicable), date site was last updated, date of access, and URL. If you have trouble finding everything except the last two items, you might want to reconsider the validity of this source. For postings, also get the title of posting, post number (if numbered), date of posting, URL the post was made to, and URL of message archives.

  • 7

    Government documents. If published by the US government, get the issuing agency, title of the document, number of the Congress, session number of Congress, place of publication, date of publication, document number (if given), and SuDoc number.

  • 8

    Letters and interviews. Collect the names of the author and recipient (or interviewer and interviewee), date written/conducted, name of collection, name of depository, and the depository's location.


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *