Skip to Main Content

JCU logoLibrary Guides

APA (7th Edition) Referencing Guide

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

Everything must match!

Coins showing Heads and TailsRemember, you have to cite every piece of information that came from another source, whether or not it is in your own words. Everything cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and everything in your reference list must be something you have referred to in text. Make sure you don't have anything in one place that isn't in the other.

Types of citations

There are two basic ways to cite someone's work in text.

In narrative citations, the authors are part of the sentence - you are referring to them by name. For example:

Becker (2013) defined gamification as giving the mechanics of principles of a game to other activities.

Cho and Castañeda (2019) noted that game-like activities are frequently used in language classes that adopt mobile and computer technologies.

In parenthetical citations, the authors are not mentioned in the sentence, just the content of their work. Place the citation at the end of the sentence or clause where you have used their information. The author's names are placed in the brackets (parentheses) with the rest of the citation details:

Gamification involves giving the mechanics or principles of a game to another activity (Becker, 2013).

Increasingly, game-like activities are frequently used in language classes that adopt mobile and computer technologies (Cho & Castañeda, 2019).

In-text citations

Using references in text

For APA, you use the authors' surnames only and the year in text. If you are using a direct quote, you will also need to use a page number.

Narrative citations:

If an in-text citation has the authors' names as part of the sentence (that is, outside of brackets) place the year and page numbers in brackets immediately after the name, and use 'and' between the authors' names:  Jones and Smith (2020, p. 29)

Parenthetical citations:

If an in-text citation has the authors' names in brackets use "&" between the authors' names :  (Jones & Smith, 2020, p. 29).

Note: Some lecturers want page numbers for all citations, while some only want page numbers with direct quotes. Check with your lecturer to see what you need to do for your assignment. If the direct quote starts on one page and finishes on another, include the page range (Jones & Smith, 2020, pp. 29-30).

1 author

Smith (2020) found that "the mice disappeared within minutes" (p. 29).

The author stated "the mice disappeared within minutes" (Smith, 2020, p. 29).

2 authors

Jones and Smith (2020) found that "the mice disappeared within minutes" (p. 29).

The authors stated "the mice disappeared within minutes" (Jones & Smith, 2020, p. 29).

For 3 or more authors, use the first author and "et al." for all in-text citations

Green et al.'s (2019) findings indicated that the intervention was not based on evidence from clinical trials.

It appears the intervention was not based on evidence from clinical trials (Green et al., 2019).


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.

If your author isn't an "author".

Whoever is in the "author" position of the refence in the references list is treated like an author in text. So, for example, if you had an edited book and the editors of the book were in the "author" position at the beginning of the reference, you would treat them exactly the same way as you would an author - do not include any other information. The same applies for works where the "author" is an illustrator, producer, composer, etc.

Quoting, summarising and paraphrasing

Quoting is when you have used the exact words from your source. You should always put the words that come exactly (word for word) in "quotation marks", and an in-text citation in the correct format for your referencing style.

It is always a good idea to keep direct quotes to a minimum. Quoting doesn't showcase your writing ability - all it shows is that you can read (plus, lecturers hate reading assignments with a lot of quotes).

You should only use direct quotes if the exact wording is important, otherwise it is better to paraphrase.

If you feel a direct quote is appropriate, try to keep only the most important part of the quote and avoid letting it take up the entire sentence - always start or end the sentence with your own words to tie the quote back into your assignment. Long quotes (more than 40 words) are called "block quotes" and are rarely used in most subject areas (they mostly belong in Literature, History or similar subjects). Each referencing style has rules for setting out a block quote. Check with your style guide.

It has been observed that "pink fairy armadillos seem to be extremely susceptible to stress" (Superina, 2011, p. 6).

NB! Most referencing styles will require a page number to tell readers where to find the original quote.

Summarising is when you take a large amount of text (for example, several paragraphs or a whole document) and "boil it down" to the most important facts or the essence of the argument. You then give this "in a nutshell" version in your own words.

It is a type of paraphrasing, and you will be using this frequently in your assignments, but note that summarising another person's work or argument isn't showing how you make connections or understand implications. This is preferred to quoting, but where possible try to go beyond simply summarising another person's information without "adding value".

And, remember, the words must be your own words. If you use the exact wording from the original at any time, those words must be treated as a direct quote.

All information must be cited, even if it is in your own words.

Superina (2011) observed a captive pink fairy armadillo, and noticed any variation in its environment could cause great stress.

NB! Some lecturers and citation styles want page numbers for everything you cite, others only want page numbers for direct quotes. Check with your lecturer.

Paraphrasing is when you take the core idea from the original text, and rewrite it completely in your own words (and "voice").

Paraphrasing often involves commenting about the information at the same time, and this is where you can really show your understanding of the topic. You should try to do this within every paragraph in the body of your assignment.

When paraphrasing, it is important to remember that using a thesaurus to change every other word isn't really paraphrasing. It's patchwriting, and it's a kind of plagiarism (as you are not creating original work).

Use your own voice! You sound like you when you write - you have a distinctive style that is all your own, and when your "tone" suddenly changes for a section of your assignment, it looks highly suspicious. Your lecturer starts to wonder if you really wrote that part yourself. Make sure you have genuinely thought about how *you* would write this information, and that the paraphrasing really is in your own words.

Always cite your sources! Even if you have drawn from three different papers to write this one sentence, which is completely in your own words, you still have to cite your sources for that sentence (oh, and excellent work, by the way).

Captive pink fairy armadillos do not respond well to changes in their environment and can be easily stressed (Superina, 2011).

NB! Some lecturers and citation styles want page numbers for all citations, others only want them for direct quotes. Check with your lecturer.

Example text with in-text referencing

This example paragraph contains mouse-over text. Run your mouse over the paragraph to see notes on formatting.

Excerpt from "The Big Fake Essay"

The purpose of an essay is to explore a given topic or answer a question, so the content must adequately fulfill this purpose In APA formatting, you should indent the first line of each paragraph one tab space. . The writer needs to consider the audience for the paper, the task that has been set and the topic that needs to be covered (Soles & Soles, 2005) Your lecturer may want page numbers for every citation. If so, this would be formatted like this: (Soles & Soles, 2005, pp. 1-10). Also note the use of the & symbol - you only use this in the brackets. In the sentence you would use the word "and".. He or she needs to understand the topic well, through reading widely and critically, in order to write clearly and comfortably in an academic style (Caron, 2008). For a research essay, it is important to find a wide variety of information from various sources and to use it effectively in the body of the essay – as well an ensuring it has been cited correctly (Barnet et al., 2013; Drew & Bingham, 2010). Note that when the same information has come from more than one source, you put the citations in alphabetical order within the brackets and separate them with a semicolon.Appropriate and correct referencing is important for avoiding plagiarism, which is a concern for undergraduate students and their markers (Löfström, 2011). Löfström (2011) goes on to state that “students’ conceptions of plagiarism were characterized by anxiety and fear, concerns about academic and legal consequences, and perceived sanctions” (p. 259). This sentence includes a direct quote from the Löfström text. Note the author details are part of the sentence. Therefore the page number appears at the end of the quote. A good writer must be critical and thoughtful in regards to the research presented in his or her essay and present the best information that could be found. While some essays may require the author to provide their own experiences and opinions, for most academic essays it is normally expected that the writer will consider the topic objectively (H. Hooper, personal communication, February 14, 2020). Because they don't provide recoverable data, personal communications are not included in the reference list. Cite in text only. Examples of personal communications include emails, interviews, private letters, telephone conversations.
Lectures that you have heard "live" and are not uploaded as web content also fall into this category. Basically, when there is no retrievable source document, one may use an in-text "personal communication"
citationOne can conclude that choosing appropriate academic language, as well as offering a well-researched and carefully considered argument, is important. The composition of the essay relies as much on the content as it does on the structure.


You can read the entire Big Fake Essay on the Writing Guide. It includes more details about academic writing and the formatting of essays.

Slightly tricky in-text citations

When you have multiple authors with the same surname who published in the same year:

If your authors have different initials, then include the initials:

As A. Smith (2016) noted...

...which was confirmed by J.G. Smith's (2016) study.

(A. Smith, 2016; J. G. Smith, 2016).

If your authors have the same initials, then include the name:

As Adam Smith noted...

...which was confirmed by Amy Smith's (2016) study.

(Adam Smith, 2016; Amy Smith, 2016).

Note: In your reference list, you would include the author's first name in [square brackets] after their initials:

Smith, A. [Adam]. (2016)...

Smith, A. [Amy]. (2016)...

When you have multiple works by the same author in the same year:

In your reference list, you will have arranged the works alphabetically by title (see the page on Reference Lists for more information). This decides which reference is "a", "b", "c", and so on. You cite them in text accordingly:

Asthma is the most common disease affecting the Queensland population (Queensland Health, 2017b). However, many people do not know how to manage their asthma symptoms (Queensland Health, 2017a).

When you have multiple works by the same author in different years:

Asthma is the most common disease affecting the Queensland population (Queensland Health, 2017, 2018). 

When you do not have an author, and your reference list entry begins with the title:

Use the title in place of the author's name, and place it in "quotation marks" if it is the title of an article or book chapter, or in italics if the title would go in italics in your reference list:

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

Note: You do not need to use the entire title, but a reasonable portion so that it does not end too abruptly - "Mrs. Obama Says" would be too abrupt, but the full title "Mrs. Obama Says 'Lovely Frame' in Box During Awkward Handoff" is unecessarily long. You should also use title case for titles when referring to them in the text of your work.

If there are no page numbers, you can include any of the following in the in-text citation:

  • If paragraph numbers are visible use them in place of page numbers; alternatively, you could count paragraphs down from the beginning of the document. Use the abbreviation 'para.'
    • "On Australia Day 1938 William Cooper ... joined forces with Jack Patten and William Ferguson ... to hold a Day of Mourning to draw attention to the losses suffered by Aboriginal people at the hands of the whiteman" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., para. 4).
  • If the document contains headings but no page numbers or paragraph numbers, use the heading plus a paragraph number within that section.
    • "in 1957 news of a report by the Western Australian government provided the catalyst for a reform movement" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., The catalyst for change section, para. 1)
  • If the heading is too long you can shorten it and place it in "quotation marks". In this case the full heading was "Alick Jackomos recalls petition-gathering for the referendum with Doug Nicholls"
    • "By the end of this year of intense activity over 100,000 signatures had been collected" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., "petition gathering", para. 1).

When you are citing a classical work, like the Bible or the Quran:

References to works of scripture or other classical works are treated differently to regular citations. See the APA Blog's entry for more details:

Happy Holiday Citing: Citation of Classical Works. (Please note, this document is from the 6th edition of APA).

Organisation as an author

In text citation:

If the name of the organisation first appears in a narrative citation, include the abbreviation before the year in brackets, separated with a comma. Use the official acronym/abreviation if you can find it. Otherwise check with your lecturer for permission to create your own acronyms.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2013) shows that...

The Queensland Department of Education (DoE, 2020) encourages students to... (please note, Queensland isn't part of the department's name, it is used in the sentence to provide clarity)

If the name of the organisation first appears in a citation in brackets, include the abbreviation in square brackets.

(Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2013)

(Department of Education [DoE], 2020)

In the second and subsequent citations, only include the abbreviation or acronym

ABS (2013) found that ...

DoE (2020) instructs teachers to...

This is disputed (ABS, 2013).

Resources are designed to support "emotional learning pedagogy" (DoE, 2020)

In the reference list:

Use the full name of the organisation in the reference list.


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). Australia's welfare 2017.

Department of Education. (2020, April 22). Respectful relationships education program. Queensland Government.

Secondary citation (works referred to in other works)

Academically, it is better to find the original source and reference that.

If you do have to quote a secondary source:

  • In the text you must cite the original author of the quote and the year the original quote was written as well as the source you read it in. If you do not know the year the original citation was written, omit the year.
  • In the reference list you only list the source that you actually read.

In text citation:

Wembley (1997, as cited in Olsen, 1999) argues that impending fuel shortages ...

Wembley claimed that "fuel shortages are likely" (1997, as cited in Olsen, 1999, pp. 10-12).

Some have noted that fuel shortages are probable in the future (Wembley, 1997, as cited in Olsen, 1999).

In the reference list:

Olsen, M. (1999). My career. Gallimard.

What do I do if there are no page numbers?

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

Creative Commons Licence
Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International License. Content from this Guide should be attributed to James Cook University Library. This does not apply to images, third party material (seek permission from the original owner) or any logos or insignia belonging to JCU or other bodies, which remain All Rights Reserved.