Use the author–date citation system to cite references in the text in APA Style. In this system, each work used in a paper has two parts: an in-text citation and a corresponding reference list entry.

author-date citation

The author–date citation system is covered in Sections 8.10–8.36 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

In-text citations may be parenthetical or narrative.

  • In parenthetical citations, use an ampersand (&) between names for a work with two authors or before the last author when all names must be included to avoid ambiguity.
  • In narrative citations, always spell out the word “and.”

Number of Authors to Include in In-Text Citations

The format of the author element of the in-text citation changes depending on the number of authors and is abbreviated in some cases.

  • For a work with one or two authors, include the author name(s) in every citation.
  • For a work with three or more authors, include the name of only the first author plus “et al.” in every citation (even the first citation).
The following table shows the basic in-text citation styles:
Author type Parenthetical citation Narrative citation

One author

(Luna, 2020)

Luna (2020)

Two authors

(Salas & D’Agostino, 2020)

Salas and D’Agostino (2020)

Three or more authors

(Martin et al., 2020)

Martin et al. (2020)

Group author with abbreviation

First citation a

Subsequent citations



(National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2020)

(NIMH, 2020)



National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2020)

NIMH (2020)

Group author without abbreviation

(Stanford University, 2020)

Stanford University (2020)

a Define the abbreviation for a group author only once in the text, choosing either the parenthetical or the narrative format. Thereafter, use the abbreviation for all mentions of the group in the text.

Exceptions to the Basic In-Text Citation Styles

Dates in a Citation

  • The year in the in-text citation should match the year in the reference list entry.
  • Use only the year in the in-text citation, even if the reference list entry contains a more specific date (e.g., year, month, and day).
  • For works with no date, use “n.d.” in the in-text citation.
  • For works that have been accepted for publication but have not yet been published, use “in press.”

Repeating a Citation

  • When repeating a citation, show the entire citation; do not, for example, include only a page number (the abbreviation “ibid.” is not used in APA Style). Instead, use the following guidelines:
    • Include the author(s) and year for every parenthetical in-text citation.
    • Do not repeat the year for narrative in-text citations the second and subsequent times they appear in a single paragraph. Follow this guideline with each new paragraph (i.e., include the year in the first narrative citation in a new paragraph).
    • However, if you cite multiple works by the same author or authors, regardless of the publication years, include the date in every in-text citation to prevent ambiguity. For example, if you cite Mohammed and Mahfouz (2017) and Mohammed and Mahfouz (2019), include the year with every citation, even when one of the references is cited multiple times in a single paragraph.

Further Guidelines for In-Text Citations

  • Each in-text citation must correspond to only one reference list entry.
  • Do not include suffixes such as “Jr.” in the in-text citation.
  • For works with an unknown author (see Section 9.12), include the title and year of publication in the in-text citation.
  • Chapter 10 of the Publication Manual (7th ed.) includes more than 100 reference examples, each of which includes examples of the parenthetical and narrative citations.
  • For more guidance and examples, see the Publication Manual

Parenthetical Versus Narrative

In-text citations have two formats: parenthetical and narrative.

  • In parenthetical citations, the author name and publication date appear in parentheses.
  • In narrative citations, the author name is incorporated into the text as part of the sentence and the year follows in parentheses.

Citing Multiple Works With Three or More Authors and the Same Date

Sometimes multiple works with three or more authors and the same publication year shorten to the same in-text citation form, which creates ambiguity.

To avoid ambiguity, when the in-text citations of multiple works with three or more authors shorten to the same form, write out as many names as needed to distinguish the references, and abbreviate the rest of the names to “et al.” in every citation.

Citing Works With the Same Author and Date

When multiple references have an identical author (or authors) and publication year, include a lowercase letter after the year.

Citing Authors With the Same Surname

If the first authors of multiple references share the same surname but have different initials, include the first authors’ initials in all in-text citations, even if the year of publication differs. Initials help avoid confusion within the text and help readers locate the correct entry in the reference list.