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[APA] How do I write an APA parenthetical (in-text) reference?

Next to each citation you create, you'll find a link titled "In-text reference" Click the link to get information about how to refer to that particular entry in-text, as well as a list of rules to follow for parenthetical references in general. We've listed that information here as well for your convenience.

What is a parenthetical reference?

A parenthetical reference is a reference within the body of your paper to one of the sources in your reference list. It indicates to your reader exactly what you derived from the source, and specifically where they can find it. You need to write a parenthetical, or "in-text" reference, whether you quote the material directly from the source, paraphrase it in your own words, or refer to an idea derived from the material.

What typically goes in an APA-style parenthetical reference?

The information that you need to include depends on what type of source the material comes from. For printed material, you normally only need to include the author(s) (or article title if there is no author) and year of publication (never the month or day) in your reference. When citing a specific part of a source (for example, a direct quotation), you will also want to indicate the page number(s) or other designation (chapter, figure, table, equation, etc.). For Internet sources, paragraph numbers can be used when page numbers are not available.

The information described above can be either included in the sentence that you write, or added in parentheses at the end of the sentence (see Rule 2).

What other rules do I need to know to write my reference correctly?

 

Rule 1: Placement
The parentheses are usually placed at the end of a sentence, between the last word and the period. If you are quoting material directly, the parentheses should go between the closing quotation mark and the period:

"The chicken came before the egg" (Smith, 2001).

 

Rule 2: Sentence vs. parentheses
Only information that is not already contained in your sentence is necessary in the parenthetical reference. For example, in the following example the author's last name, Smith, is already stated, so only the publication date is necessary within the parentheses:

Smith theorizes that the chicken came before the egg (2001).

 

Rule 3: Works by multiple authors
In parentheses, separate authors' names with an ampersand (&). When a work has two authors, cite both names every time you refer to the work. When the work has three, four, or five authors, cite all authors the first time your write the parenthetical reference, but only the first author followed et al. in subsequent references. When the work has six or more authors, cite just the first author followed by et al. for all references, including the first. Some examples:

2 authors:
The chicken came before the egg (Smith & Jones, 2001).
Smith and Jones (2001) also discovered that the chicken crossed the road.

3-5 authors:
The chicken came before the egg (Smith, Jones, & Williams, 2001).
Smith et al. (2001) also discovered that the chicken crossed the road.

6+ authors:
The chicken came before the egg (Smith et al., 2001).
Smith et al. (2001) also discovered that the chicken crossed the road.

 

Rule 4: Referring to a source more than once in a paragraph
There are three ways to vary your in-text references:

  1. Smith, Jones & Williams (2001) found that the chicken came before the egg.
  2. The chicken came before the egg (Smith, Jones & Williams, 2001).
  3. In 2001, Smith, Jones & Williams found that the chicken came before the egg.

When the name of the author is part of the narrative (as in #1), you need not include the year in subsequent nonparenthetical references within that paragraph as long as this does not cause any confusion.  However, if you add parenthetical citations later in the paragraph, include the year.  For example:

Smith, Jones, & Williams (2001) found that the chicken came before the egg. While this might seem remarkable, their other discoveries are even more amazing.  Smith et al.  found that some chickens crossed the road before laying their eggs.  As if this wasn't miraculous enough, they also reported results for chicks.  Apparently chicks cannot lay eggs (Smith, Jones, & Williams, 2001).

When the author's name and year occur within the parenthetical reference (as in #2), include the year in subsequent parenthetical references in the paragraph.

The chicken came before the egg (Smith, Jones, & Williams, 2001).  Even more astounding, Smith et al. (2001) found that some chickens crossed the road before laying their eggs.

You may occasionally vary your sentence structure by including both the author and date in the narrative (as in #3).  In this case, no parenthetical information is needed.

 Rule 5: Distinguishing works by authors with the same last name
Information you provide in the parenthetical reference should distinguish exactly which work in your source list you are referring to. If two or more authors in your reference list have the same last name, add their first and middle initials as well. For example:

J. Smith (2001) and R. G. Smith (2002) have proven that the chicken came first.

 

Rule 6: Distinguishing works by the same author with the same publication date
To differentiate works that have the same author and the same publication date, suffix the publication date of each work with a lowercase letter (a, b, c, etc.) in both the reference list and the parenthetical reference, in the order they appear in the reference list. NoodleTools does not do this for you automatically, so you will need to add this manually when applicable. For example:

In the reference list:
Smith, J. (2001a). Eggs. Egg Journal, 8(1), 17.
Smith, J. (2001b). More about chickens. Poultry Journal, 2(3), 3-5.

In text:
It has been proven that the chicken came before the egg (Smith, 2001a).
Smith (2001b) has proven that the chicken came first.

 

Rule 7: Identifying works with no author
If the work does not have an author listed, and is shown and alphabetized in your source list by its title, then you should refer to it in the parenthetical reference by its title as well. The title may be shortened to the first few words if it is long (for instance, do not include the subtitle), and should be quoted or in italics if it is quoted or in italics in your source list. Unlike your reference list, where only the first word in the title and subtitle are capitalized, the full title should be capitalized in your parenthetical reference. For example:

The chicken came before the egg (Book of Poultry, 2001).
The chicken came before the egg ("Chickens, Eggs, and Other Mysteries," 2001).

If the author of the work is listed as "Anonymous" (and that is the way you are referring to it in your reference list), then cite it in text the same way. For example:

Experts believe that the chicken came before the egg (Anonymous, 2001).

 

Rule 8: Citing two or more works in one reference
Sometimes you may need to cite two or more works within a single parenthetical reference. To cite multiple works by the same authors, list the last names in alphabetical order followed by the dates of publication for each work. See Rule 6 if publication dates are also the same. List in press references last. For example:

Experts believe that the chicken came before the egg (Smith & Jones, 1998, 2001, 2003, in press).

To cite multiple works by different authors, separate the author/date groups by semicolons, and list the authors in alphabetical order. For example:

Experts believe that the chicken came before the egg (Jones, 2001; Smith, 1998, in press; Williams, 2003).

 

Rule 9: Referring to a specific part of a work
Include page numbers (or an alternate numbering, as described here) if citing a direct quotation (see exception below). Sources sometimes use alternate numbering systems like sections (sec.), chapters (chap.), books, figures, tables, parts, verses, lines, acts, or scenes. Online sources sometimes provide paragraph (para.) numbers. If an alternate numbering system is used, include that information.

Exception: Do not provide page numbers when citing parts of classic works (the Bible, classic verse, etc.). Instead include specific line, book, and section numbers as appropriate.

Experts believe that the chicken came before the egg (Smith, 2001, pp. 3-4).
Experts believe that the chicken came before the egg (Smith, 2001, para. 3).
In "Egg Poem" Smith (2001) asks "how do we know which came first?" (lines 5-6).

If a source such as an e-book does not have page or paragraph numbers, you may count paragraphs from the beginning of a heading. Follow the author and date with the heading title or, if the heading is cumbersome, abbreviate the first few words (capitalized and in quotes) followed by the paragraph number that you've determined.

One e-book reports a different theory (Smith, 2001, Introduction section, para. 4).
One e-book reports a different theory (Jones, 2001, "Trick Question," para. 2).

 

Rule 10: Personal communications
Personal communications like e-mails, unpublished letters and memos, and personal interviews are generally not included in your reference list, but they should be identified in text. Provide the full name (first and middle initials and the full last name) of the person, as well as the exact date of the communication (if possible):

J. Smith (personal communication, January 23, 2001) insists that the chicken came first. Another scientist (R.G. Smith, personal communication, February 2, 2001) says the opposite.

 

Rule 11: Classical works
If you know the original date of publication for a classical work, it is often useful to provide that in your reference:

Smith (1820/1999) insists that the chicken came first.

For very old works, the year of publication may not be applicable. For these sources, list the year of the translation or version:

The chicken came first (Smith, trans. 1999).
The chicken came first (Smith, 2002 version).

A citation (in your References list) is not required for a well-known classical work like the Bible. However, you should parenthetically indicate the version (if applicable) after your first reference to the work. Use book/chapter/verse/line/cantos numbers to refer to specific parts of the work, not page numbers: 

Genesis 1:3 (Revised Standard Edition).

Article keywords: parenthetical, parenthetical reference, apa parenthetical reference, in-text, in-text reference, apa in-text reference, intext, intext reference, as cited in, quote, quotation, (emphasis: parenthetical, parenthetical, parenthetical, in-text, in-text, in-text)




This article last revised: 03/08/2013

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