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APA Style 7th Edition

MGH IHP's guide to APA Style 7th Edition

Citation Basics


In-text (also called parenthetical) citations follow the author-date citation system in APA style. The author and date of a reference appear in parentheses when referred to in the text of a paper, like this (Smith, 2016).


When a work does not have an author, use the first few words of the title of the reference in its place.  

(Do not pull words from the middle of the title; it needs to be the first few because this is how readers will match your in-text citation to the reference list.)


For articles, chapters, and web pages, put the title in quotation marks.  For books, brochures, and reports, put the title in italics. Examples:


(“Article title beginning”, 2016) or (Book title, 2011).


You can also work a citation into the flow of the sentence, but the author (or title) and year always stay together. For instance:


As Garcia (2016) states in her groundbreaking work...


If the author of a work is named as "Anonymous," this title takes the place of the author name in the citation. For example:


(Anonymous, 2019)


Read on for more guidelines and tips for citing specific types of sources in-text.

Citing Quoted Material

Paraphrasing is preferred to direct quotations, but occasionally using an author’s exact words is desirable.  In that situation, you want to direct the reader to the exact location of the quote by including a page number in the parenthetical notation:

(Garcia, 2016, p. 57)

If you use the author’s name in the text of the paper, wait until the end of the quote to insert the page number:

As Garcia (2016) states in her groundbreaking work, “hallucinations provide windows into the neural underpinnings of visual awareness in these patients” (p. 57).

If the quote spans multiple pages, use "pp." instead, like this

(Wong, 2014, pp. 21-22)

Quoting a Source with No Page Numbers

If you need to quote a website or other material that does not have page numbers or chapters, use any of the following location information instead: (p. 273)

  • Heading or section name
    • Consistent with data from recent flu seasons, "the overall hospitalization rate for the season increased to 29.7 per 100,000" (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, Severe Disease section).
  • Abbreviated heading or section name in quotation marks (as opposed to writing out the full heading or section name) 
    • In the Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) Technology Modernization Action Plan (2020), "[modernization] of FDA's technology infrastructure will involve dynamic, enterprise-wide collaboration among Agency programs" ("Building the Foundation" section).
  • Paragraph number
    • Western countries are experiencing problems on where to send their recyclable waste. Until 2018, "China used to accept 55% of the world's plastic and paper waste" (British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 2020, para. 2).
  • Heading or section name in combination with a paragraph number 
    • Makena, a drug to prevent premature birth, may be taken off the market because "Makena's manufacturer struggled to compete with the cheaper, compounded 17P" (Huetteman 2020, "How Makena cornered the market" section, para. 26).

Note: Kindle location numbers are no longer required with in-text citations. Instead, provide the page number or any of the information listed above. 


For audiovisual works, cite the time stamp of when the quotation began in place of where you would normally cite a page number. 

  • Habits are "mental associations that we form when we repeat an action over and over again in a given context and then get a reward" (Wood, 2020, 15:15).

When to Use Page Numbers in an In-Text Citation

Page numbers are only required for direct quotations. However, there may be times when you may want to refer to a specific part of a source, in which case you can include page numbers in your parenthetical citation. It is not mandatory, though, to include page numbers for segments that do not have a direct quotation.

... the study dropout rate was a disappointing 50% (Smith & Jones, 2016, p. 3).

For more see page 269 in the APA manual.

Using "et al." in Parenthetical Citations

If you are citing a source with three or more authors, you need to use "et al." in your citations. In APA 6, a work with between three and five authors would be listed the first time, with the use of "et al." each subsequent time the in-text citation was used. In APA 7, any in-text citation with three or more authors will use "et al.".  

Author Type Parenthetical citation Narrative citation
One author (Porth, 2020) Porth (2020)
Two authors (George & Franco, 2020) George and Franco (2020)
Three or more authors (Smith et al., 2020) Smith et al. (2020)

In text, a citation with more than three authors can be parenthetical:

Reference list errors are prevalent in scholarly journals (Onwuegbuzie et al., 2011).

Or it can be part of the narrative:

Onwuegbuzie et al. (2011) used content analysis to determine that reference list errors are prevalent in scholarly journals.

Similar to APA 6, for works with a group author with an abbreviation, the first citation will spell out the author, followed by the abbreviation in brackets. For example: 

(American Psychological Association [APA], 2020) or American Psychological Association (APA, 2020)

Subsequent citations will use the abbreviation only. For instance,

(APA, 2020) or APA (2020) 

Citing One Author Throughout One Paragraph

If you’re citing the same author/source repeatedly throughout one paragraph, inserting multiple citations is technically correct but lacks flow and readability. For example,

Dogs are man’s best friend (Smith, 2015). In a randomized controlled trial, dogs preferred their owners to all other people (Smith, 2015). The results of this study have implications for dog behavior (Smith, 2015). However, the study also had a small sample size, so more research into this area is necessary (Smith, 2015).

Alternatively, using the author's name in your writing can make the paragraph flow better and prevent you from having to repeat the citation subsequent sentences. (Also see p. 174 in the APA manual.) For example,

Smith (2015) notes that dogs are man’s best friend. In a randomized controlled trial conducted by Smith, dogs preferred their owners to all other people. The results of his study have implications for dog behavior. However, his study also had a small sample size, so more research into this area is necessary.

The technique of using authors' names in the text of your paper is also helpful when you want to compare the work of two or more authors and make be citing them alternately throughout a paragraph. For example,

Smith (2015) notes that dogs are man’s best friend. In a randomized controlled trial conducted by Smith, dogs preferred their owners to all other people. Lincoln's (2016) work built on this idea even further and provided some evidence of variation in levels of preference based on amount and type of training the dog had received. Her study revealed that dogs who had spent time in formal training programs with their owners showed a higher the preference for those owners than dogs who had participated in more informal training. The results of both studies have implications for dog behavior and the possible causes for variations in that behavior (Lincoln, 2016; Smith, 2015). However, both studies also had small sample sizes, so more research into this area is necessary.

Using Signal Phrases

The examples above for Citing one Author Throughout a Paragraph use what are called signal phrases to alert the reader that the writer is about to use information from an outside source. For example:

According to Smith (2017)...
As noted by Watson and Holmes (1884)...
Roberts (2000) discovered...

Signal phrases are a handy tool to help you indicate what content of your paper is coming from an outside source and which parts are your own original analysis. 

For more on using signal phrases, read this short guide from the GMU Writing Center.

And see suggested words to use in your signal phrases.

Citing Multiple Sources in the Same Parentheses

Sometimes you will want to make a general statement about two or more of the studies you read, especially if they had similar conclusions. To do that, just include each set of authors and dates in your parentheses, in the same order they appear in your reference list (i.e. alphabetically), and separated by semicolons.

The research shows an increase in birth rates for this particular population (Farhad & Engel, 2015; Pak, 2013; Sanchez, Chopra, & Martin, 2016).

Direct Quote from a Slide Presentation

If you are directly quoting text from a slide presentation, include a slide number and a paragraph number (if necessary), so that anyone reading your paper will be able to quickly and easily find your source.

(Smith, 2015, slide 12, para. 2)

Citing an Item in a Museum

If the item in a work of art or other piece with a known creator, use the same structure as you would for a written work with an author:

(Van Gogh,1889)

If the item's creator is unknown, use the same structure as you would for a written work with an unknown author, and use the title/description in its place:

(Gastroscope, ca. 1940)

("ca" stands for circa, for dates that have been approximated)

Citing A Museum Wall Sign

(Museum of Fine Arts, 2015)

Citing Images in a Presentation

All images in a presentation must be treated the same as figures would be in a written paper. You can think of each presentation slide as a page in an APA style paper. An image should have a caption. A caption contains:

  • The title of the image, i.e. Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.
  • A brief description of the image, followed by (optional) any additional information necessary to explain the figure.
  • A reference for the image if it is not originally yours, in the following format:
    • Adapted from Original Work, by Creator, Year, URL
  • A copyright statement.

Here is an example of a figure with a caption that you might put in a presentation:

Figure 1

An engraving of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston ca. 1857-1860. 

An engraving of MGH circa 1827.

Note. Adapted from "Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston," by Reuben Carpenter, ca. 1857-1860 ( CC BY-NC-ND.

That is the information that goes on the slide where the image appears. You must also cite the image in your reference list. Please see Citing Digital Images.

These are the basics of using and citing images. For complete rules and details, see section 7.26 in the official APA manual. 

Citing an Article or Website with an Unknown Author

When an article or webpage doesn’t have an author listed, use the title of the article in place of the author, both in-text and in your reference list. See above for more info on citing websites without an author.

(“Ativan (Lorazepam),” 2012)

Abbreviating Organizational Authors

When citing an organization as author, such as the CDC or WHO, you may use the organization’s acronym throughout the paper after you’ve spelled it out completely at least once. For example,

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2016), asthma is…


One in 13 people has asthma (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2016).

Whether you spell it out in text or in a parenthetical citation, it only needs to be done once, with the acronym immediately following in parentheses or brackets.

Multiple Sources from the Same Author with the Same Publication Year

Occasionally, you may have multiple sources with the same author and the same publication year. To distinguish these sources from each other, you add a lowercase letter after the year, in alphabetical order of where the references appear in the reference list. For example,

(CDC, 2017a)

According to the CDC (2017b)

Non Recoverable Information (Personal Communication)

When citing a source that cannot be recovered, such as your personal notes or a conversation, cite the source in a parenthetical citation with the author, followed by a personal communication designation and the date:

(J. Smith, personal communication, August 8, 2016)

Do not cite personal communication in the reference list.

Secondary Citation

Quoting something that is quoted in a paper you’ve read is called a secondary citation.  They are not recommended in APA; so it would be better if you could find the original source and quote directly from it.  However, if you have to because the original document is out of print, no longer exists as it did at the time of citing, not in English, or is otherwise unattainable, put the article you actually read in the reference list.  

Then in the text of the paper, the primary citation would appear in the reference list, but the secondary citation would not. Cite the secondary citation as you normally would in author-date format.

Alternatively your text could mention the original source, and it would look something like this:

The Transcultural Nursing Society’s mission statement (Ray, 2013, p. 143) states “to enhance the quality of culturally congruent, competent, and equitable care that results in improved health and well-being for people worldwide”…

Note: APA 6 used the term "as cited in" to cite secondary sources. APA 7 no longer uses this term.