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APA (7th Edition) Referencing Guide

Guide to APA citation style using the 7th Edition of the APA Style Manual.

Number of authors

How many authors?

APA has strict rules for how to show the author's names in the text of your assignment and in your reference list. You need to check the number of authors you have for your work, and then format your references accordingly:

  • 1-2 authors
  • 3-20 authors
  • More than 20 authors

See the tabs on this box for details.

Things to Note:

Pay attention to the use of commas, the ampersand (&), and the word "and".

  • You use the word "and" when you are using the author's names as part of your sentence, but an "&" when the names are in the brackets or the reference list.
  • In text, you will always use a comma after each author (except the last one) when you have more than two names. In your reference list, you put a comma after each author (except the last one).

You always put a full stop after the al. in et al., because it is short for "et alia" ("and others").

For one or two authors, always mention the names of all authors

In Text:

Narrative citation: Zhang and Webb (2019) noted that students who read bilingual books performed better in vocabulary tests.

Parenthetical citation: Students who read bilingual books may perform better in vocabulary tests (Zhang & Webb, 2019).

In Your Reference List:

Zhang, Z., & Webb, S. (2019). The effects of reading bilingual books on vocabulary learning. Reading in a Foreign Language, 31(1), 109–139.

When you have 3 or more authors, you only use the first author's surname in text, and abbreviate the rest of the list with "et al." (Latin for "and others"). In your reference list, you list all of the authors (up to 20).

In Text:

Narrative citation: Boers et al.'s (2017) research into the use of pictures in glosses found they may decrease the amount of attention given to the words.

Parenthetical citation: Using pictures to illustrate glosses may, in fact, decrease the amount of attention given to the words (Boers et al., 2017).

In Your Reference List:

Boers, F., Warren, P., He, L., & Deconinck, J. (2017). Does adding pictures to glosses enhance vocabulary uptake from reading? System, 66, 113-129. 10.1016/j.system.2017.03.017

When you have more than 3 authors (regardless of how many), you only use the first author's surname in text, and abbreviate the rest of the list with "et al.". In your reference list, you list the first 19 authors and the last one, using an ellipses (...) to show that some authors have been omitted (do not use an ampersand &).

In Text:

Narrative citation: Tobler et al.'s (2017) research found genetic evidence that suggests Australian Aboriginal people have inhabited the Australian landmass for approximately 50,000 years.

Parenthetical citation: Genetic evidence suggests the Australian Aboriginal people have inhabited the Australian landmass for approximately 50,000 years (Tobler et al., 2017).

In Your Reference List:

Always include no more than twenty names, the first 19 and the last one:

Tobler, R., Rohrlach, A., Soubrier, J., Bover, P., Llamas, B., Tuke, J., Bean, N., Abdullah-Highfold, A., Agius, S., O'Donoghue, A., O'Loughlin, I., Sutton, P., Zilio, F., Walshe, K., Williams, A. N., Turney, C. S. M., Williams, M., Richards, S. M., Mitchell, N., ... Cooper, A. (2017). Aboriginal mitogenomes reveal 50,000 years of regionalism in Australia. Nature, 544(7649), 180-184.

Format of authors

  • Use only initials of author's first or given names within the reference list
  • If the author's first name is hyphenated then format as initial, full stop, hyphen and second initial. For example, Jean-Luc Picard is formatted as Picard, J.-L.
  • Formatting names with multiple parts:
    • For hyphenated surnames include both names and the hyphen in the reference list and the in text citation. For example: (Jones-Smith, 2015)
    • For surnames with multiple parts that do not include a hyphen include both names separated by a space in the reference list and the in text citation. For example: Arce Arias, A. (2017).
    • If the surname includes a particle (for example, van, der, den, la, von etc), include the particle before the surname in the reference list and the in text citation. Follow the authors example regarding capitalisation. For example: (van der Woodsen, 2021) (Del Castillo, 2017)
    • If the authors name has a suffix, include the suffix after the second initial in the reference list. For example, Jones, H. W., Jr., & Jones, H. W., Sr. (1941) ... Do not include the suffix in the in-text citation

Order of authors

Some points to remember about authors:

  • Do not alter the order of the authors within a citation (that is, the first, second, third etc authors of a work). You should leave them in the order they appear on the work.
  • Your reference list will be placed in alphabetical order based on the name of the first author for each reference. See the page on Reference list structure for more information about the order of your references.
  • If you cite more than one work in the same set of brackets in text, your citations will go in the same order in which they will appear in your reference list (i.e. alphabetical order, then oldest to newest for works by the same author) and be separated by a semi-colon. E.g.:
    • (Corbin, 2015; James & Waterson, 2017; Smith et al., 2016).
    • (Corbin, 2015; 2018)
    • (Queensland Health, 2017a; 2017b)
  • Use only the surnames of your authors in text (e.g., Smith & Brown, 2014) - however, if you have two authors with the same surname who have published in the same year, then you will need to use their initials to distinguish between the two of them (e.g., K. Smith, 2014; N. Smith, 2014). Otherwise, do not use initials in text.

Notes on et al.:

"Et al." is short for "et alia" - which means "and others". Note this is plural - "others" - you only use it when there is more than one "other" (which is why you never use it for a work with two authors - always name both authors). Never use et al. to replace one person.

If you have the same first author and date for two works, but the other authors are not the same for both works, keep listing authors until the citations are clearly different, and then use et al. for the remaining authors.

For example:

Chan, G. C., Leung, J., Quinn, C., Kelly, A. B., Connor, J. P., Weier, M., & Hall, W. D. (2016). Rural and urban differences in adolescent alcohol use, alcohol supply, and parental drinking. The Journal of Rural Health, 32(3), 280-286.

Chan, G. C., Kelly, A. B., Connor, J. P., Hall, W., Young, R. M., Toumbourou, J. W., & Williams, J. (2016). Regional versus urban differences in teenage alcohol use: Does parental disapproval account for these differences? Australian Journal of Rural Health, 24(1), 3-8.

If you used both of these works for your paper you would cite them like this:

(Chan, Leung, et al., 2016)

(Chan, Kelly, et al., 2016)

If the first two or three (etc) authors are the same, keep adding authors until they are different.

(Chan, Kelly, Smith, et al., 2016)

(Chan, Kelly, White, et al., 2016)

Remember, you don't use et al. for only one person, so if there were only three authors and you needed to name the first two authors in your in-text citation, you would name all three authors. If you had only four authors, and you had to include the first three authors to make the citation clear, then you would include all four authors.

When this happens, use an & between your last two authors:

(Smith, Jones & Brown, 2016)

(Taylor, Brown, Gwyrdd & Schwarz, 2016)

When the author isn't a person

There are circumstances where you cannot find a person to use as your author because the "author" is a group, a company or an organisation. Some times there is no author, in which case see "No author or anonymous" below.

Is the author a company or organisation?

  • Government bodies (such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the Department of Education and Training) are often the official "author" of the works they publish.
  • Companies are usually the authors of their web pages

Write the company's name in full, the first time you use them, in text, then you can use an acronym. Always write the name in full in the reference list.

For example:

In text, the first time:

Narrative: The American Psychological Association (APA, 2012) noted that...

Parenthetical: The consumer price index is collated by using around a million pricing structures (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2018).

In text, subsequent times:

Narrative: As noted by the APA (2012)...

Parenthetical: New weights were used to maximise transaction data (ABS, 2018).

In the reference list:

Do not use acronyms unless the acronym is the official name of the company/organisation - and even then try to find the full version (e.g. CSIRO is Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation). Check the legal information or copyright pages of the organisation's web site.

American Psychiatric Association. (2012). How to write an APA style reference when information is missing.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2018). Consumer price index, Australia, Dec 2017 (No. 6410.0).


N.B. Write author names "as is" to the best of your ability. Use their capitalisation, spacing and punctuation. If they use an "and" or and "&" in their name (e.g. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) retain the version of "and/&" they have used.

No author or anonymous

Is there a corporate body (like a government department or a company) who is responsible for the work? They're probably your author. Take a look at "When the Author isn't a person" above.

Is the work anonymous, or without a byline?

  • Sometimes newspaper articles and dictionary or encyclopedia entries don't have an author attributed. Editorials in peer reviewed journals may not have a byline. These works are unattributed, but they are not "anonymous".
  • Only list the author as "anonymous" if the article/work has been attributed to "Anonymous" or "Anon". If there is no attribution, follow the advice below.


When there is no attributed author, move the title of the article (or encyclopedia entry, etc) to the first position in the reference list. In text, use the title of the document in "quotation marks" where you would use the author's name. For long titles, it is okay to use only the first few words.

For example:

In text:

Narrative: In the Nature editorial, "On the March" (2017), it was suggested that crowds might be "painted as hostile" (p. 137) by the media.

Parenthetical: During the 2017 presidential inauguration, there were some moments of awkwardness ("Mrs. Obama Says ‘Lovely Frame’", 2018).

Please note: In text, the title of the article is given title case - that is, major words are capitalised. You do not use title case in the reference list.

In the reference list:

On the march. (2017). Nature, 554, 137.

Mrs. Obama says ‘lovely frame’ in box during awkward handoff. (2018, February 1). AP News.

Who's the author?

This table shows who to give as the author for various AV media types:

Media Type

Include as the author

Media Type

Include as the author



Classical music album or song


TV series

Executive producer(s)

Modern music album or song

Recording artist

TV series episode

Writer and director of episode




Host or executive producer

Online streaming video

Person or group who uploaded the video

Podcast episode

Host of episode








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