How Should a Reference Source Be Cited in the Text in APA Format?

APA, or American Psychological Association, is a writing and editing format used by students, writers and researchers in papers and reports. Since third-party research is often used when writing, it is important that the writer cite his sources in order to avoid plagiarism. While a Works Cited or Reference Page at the end of a paper is standard, a writer following APA guidelines also provides in-text citations, or citations within the text.

Summaries and Paraphrases

When a writer paraphrases or summarizes research in a paper, he may include an in-text citation at the beginning, in the middle or at the end of the sentence or section. An APA-formatted citation follows the author-date citation system, which includes the surname of the author and the year of publication. For example:

Brown (2011) felt that …


Brown felt more research was needed (2011).


The research was not well rounded enough (Brown, 2011).


APA-formatted papers may also include direct quotations from outside sources. In-text citations for quotes follow the author-date format as well, but also include page numbers (when possible), as well as quotation marks. For example:

Brown claims, "Research needs to be continual and consistent in order to keep up with modern times" (2011, p. 3).

If the research is taken from an electronic source and there is no page number, then a heading and paragraph number can be used after the quote like this:

(Style section, para. 3).

Long Quotes

It is sometimes necessary to include longer quotes in an APA-formatted paper. Quotes that are 40 words or longer begin on their own line and are placed in a freestanding block indented 1/2" from the left margin. These longer quotes do not have quotation marks but include a parenthetical citation after the closing period or punctuation mark.


Some cited research has numerous authors. Both surnames are used if the source has two authors (Cooper & Blake, 2004). If a source has three to five authors, they are included in the first citation (Cooper, Blake, Sun, Smith & Brown, 2004). In subsequent citations (or when there are six or more authors), only the first surname is included (Cooper et al., 2004). If there is no author, then the source title is used in text and the first word or two of the title is placed in parenthesis (Mastering APA, 2009).