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NWACC Library

APA Citation Guide

Updated for the 2019 7th edition.

What It Is

An in-text citation is a brief reference in your essay that leads your reader to a corresponding entry on your references page. Think of an in-text citation like a flag you plant for your reader. The flag sends the reader to your references page to find full details about the source you are referencing.

In-text citations are how we give credit to the original ideas that influenced, inspired, or guided our own work. 

Include an in-text citation (or flag for your reader) when you:

  • directly quote a source
  • paraphrase, or put a source into your own words
  • include dates, statistics, or other factual information found in a source.  

Remember, you cannot borrow anyone's words, phrases, ideas, arguments, images, or other knowledge product without giving them credit for their work.

Signal Phrases

Need some help with phrasing your narrative citations? Try these signal phrase explainers and word banks!

How to Style It

Basic Formatting

Author type Parenthetical citation Narrative citation
1 author (Clymer, 2015). Clymer (2015) argues…
2 authors (Rattler & Rewis, 2020). Rattler and Rewis (2020) suggest…
3 or more authors (Dobbs et al., 2023). Dobbs and others (2023) illustrate…
Dobbs and colleagues (2023) illustrate…

APA uses the author-date system for in-text citations. Parenthetical references briefly document sources of information. Page numbers are only required for a direct quotation; paraphrasing is preferred. Each item cited in text must have a corresponding entry on the reference page, which includes the full publication information for the sources. 

Parenthetical citation means planting the flag for the reader at the end of the sentence by placing the relevant information inside parenthesis. In APA style in-text citations must include the author's last name and year. If no author or date is given, use the title in your signal phrase or the first word or two of the title in the parentheses and use the abbreviation "n.d." (for "no date").  The sentence's period comes after it. It looks like this:

The 101st Congress easily passed the Legislation (Harris, 2020).
Preventative care slows the disease's progression (CDC, 2022).
The sound and the fury are tied together directly (Cook, n.d.).


A narrative citation means the flag is contained within the body of the sentence. It is usually accomplished by using a signal phrase or lead-in phrase, to alert the reader. The signal phrase might come at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.

Examples of signal phrases include the verbs: 

  • according to
  • argues
  • reports
  • suggests

It looks like this. 

According to Harris (2020), the legislation passed easily.
Cook (n.d.) notes a correlation between the sound and the fury.
Preventative care slows the disease's progression notes the CDC (2022).


What to Include in All In-Text Citations

  1. Author's name*
  2. Year
  3. Page number, if a direct quote

*If the work does not have an author listed use the title in place of the Author's name.


List the author's last name.

Reading skills are crucial to college success (Farmer, 2022).
Farmer (2022) reports reading skills are crucial to college success.


Two Authors

List the last name of both authors. Separate them with "&".

(Dorris & Erdrich, 2015).
Dorris and Erdrich (2015) suggest that...


Three or More Authors

  • List only the first author's last name. This is the lead author.
  • Insert a space followed by the phrase et al. Notice that al. is an abbreviation so it needs a period after it.

Note: The abbreviation et al. is short for the Latin phrase et alia, which means and others. When we use it, we are telling our reader this source was written by the lead author and others, or by the lead author et al.

(Marzuillo et al., 2006).
Marzuillo and colleagues (2006) propose reducing caffeine intake to help relieve depressive symptoms.


No Listed Author

  • Replace the author's last name with the title of the work.
(Cats and Conservationists, 2006).
According to the book Cats and Conservationists (2006), the ecological damage caused by cats...

Page Numbers

If using a direct quote, include the specific page number. Paraphrasing is preferred when citing in APA style. 

  • Include the page number following the year, separated with a comma
  • Include p. before a single page number or pp. before a page range
  • If 2 pages or more need to be cited in the essay, place a hyphen between them. There is no space on either side of the hyphen.
"Use a high burn point cooking oil , such as safflower, grapeseed, canola, olive, refined avocado, corn, sunflower, or peanut" (Saunders, 2015, p. 3).
"Use a high burn point cooking oil , such as safflower, grapeseed, canola, olive, refined avocado, corn, sunflower, or peanut" (Saunders, 2015, pp. 3-5).