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APA Style (7th ed.)

Learn more about the APA Style (7th ed.) rules

APA Style (7th ed.) citations checklist

If you're using the 7th edition APA Style rules and want to review your in-text citations before you submit your document for grading or publication, check for these 10 common problem areas:

1.  Cite all quoted or paraphrased text

Failing to cite quoted or paraphrased information is plagiarism (Royal Roads University, 2014, para. 6), so it's important that you cite your sources properly. For more information, please see the resources in Plagiarism. Please note that one citation at the end of a paragraph doesn't indicate that the entire paragraph came from that source; rather, the citation notes the source for the last sentence of the paragraph.

2.  Cite the author, year, and specific location when citing quotations 

According to the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020), "when quoting directly, always provide the author, year, and page number of the quotation in the in-text citation in either parenthetical or narrative formal" (p. 270). Citations can provide page numbers or other information if the resource doesn't have page numbers (APA, 2020, p. 270). For example:

  • Narrative citation: Lastname (year) argued “quotation” (p. X).
  • Parenthetical citation: For example, "quotation" (Lastname, year, timestamp).

If you’re citing from an book that doesn’t have page numbers, please see the examples in How Do I Reference a Book in APA Style? and How Do I Reference a Chapter of an Edited Book in APA Style?

3.  Authors may provide specific locations in citations to paraphrases  

Citations to paraphrased text must provide the author’s last name and year: (Lastname, year). While providing a page or paragraph number is optional in citations to paraphrases, authors "may include one in addition to the author and year when it would help interested readers locate the relevant passage within a long or complex work (e.g., a book)” (APA, 2020, p. 269). Keeping track of page numbers or other specific locations will also be helpful to you if you need to return to the source to expand on a point in your text. If you choose to provide page numbers or other specific locations in citations to paraphrases, do so consistently throughout your work.

4.  Check if your resource has an organizational or group author

If you have cited a resource as having no author, check to see if there’s an organizational or group author. For example, an author who retrieved information from would cite Royal Roads University as the organizational author: (Royal Roads University, 2015, para. X). Avoid unnecessary abbreviations when identifying group authors; use abbreviations for group authors "if the abbreviation is well-known, will help avoid cumbersome repetition, or will appear at least three times in the paper" (APA, 2020, p. 268). See Can I Use Abbreviations, Such as an Acronym, in My Text? for more information.

5.  When citing resources by one or two authors, provide the author or authors' name(s) every time the work is cited:

  • Narrative citation, one author: Lastname (year) argued that, “quotation” (para. X).
  • Parenthetical citation, two authors: In fact, paraphrased text (Lastname & Lastname, year, p. X).

6. When citing resources by two authors, use and in a narrative citation and the ampersand sympbol (&) in the parenthetical citation (APA, 2020, p. 266):

  • Narrative citation: Lastname and Lastname (year) argued that paraphrased text (para. X).
  • Parenthetical citation: Consequently, "quoted text" (Lastname & Lastname, year, p. X).

7. When citing resources by three or more authors, provide the first listed author's last name and "et al." in every citation:

  • Narrative citation: Lastname et al. (year) argued that "quotation" (para. X).
  • Parenthetical citation: However, paraphrased text (Lastname et al., year, p. X).

8.  Use n.d. when a publication date isn't available

When a resource doesn't provide a publication date, use n.d. ("no date") instead of the year:

  • Narrative citation: Lastname and Lastname (n.d.) argued that paraphrased text (para. X).
  • Parenthetical citation: Furthermore, "quoted text" (Lastname & Lastname, n.d., p. X).

9.  Cite sources that aren’t recoverable by your reader as personal communications

If your source is recoverable by your intended audience (e.g., a public resource or Moodle post that can be accessed by the course instructor), use the approrpriate APA Style rules to cite and reference the resource. If your source doesn’t provide recoverable data that can be accessed by the intended audience of the work, please consider it to be a personal communication (APA, 2020, p. 260). Examples of this type of communication can include “emails, text messages, online chats or direct messages, personal interviews, telephone conversations, live speeches, [and] unrecorded classroom lectures” (APA, 2020, p. 260).  

When citing personal communication, provide the first initial and last name of an individual or the organizational name, personal communication, and "as exact a date as possible" (APA, 202, p. 260):

  • Narrative citation: A. Lastname (personal communication, Month day, year) said “quotation”.
  • Parenthetical citation: In 2014, paraphrased text (Organizational name, personal communication, Month day, year).

It isn’t necessary to provide a page or paragraph number in the citation, nor should the resource be included in the references because it isn’t recoverable. If you are citing repeatedly from the same personal communication, use a narrative citation in the first citation and then connect subsequent quotations or paraphrases to the author through the description in the text. 

10.  Avoid secondary source citations whenever possible

A secondary source is a resource that provides information originally presented or published elsewhere. The problem with relying on secondary sources is you’re using someone else’s interpretation of the original material to inform your understanding of that material, rather than working with the original material directly. Unless the original resource is unavailable or is only available in a language you don’t understand (APA, 2020, p. 258) or you’ve been directed to use a secondary source, please use primary sources in your research. If you need help with locating a source, contact the RRU Librarians. If your only option is to work with a secondary source, please first check with your instructor or journal editor to ensure that using the secondary source is acceptable. Then, cite the source to show which resource you actually read. For example, if Johnson’s work cited Lee, and you want to quote or paraphrase Lee, the correct citation would be:

  • Narrative citation: Lee (2016, as cited in Johnson, 2018) discovered that paraphrased text (p. X where the paraphrased information by Lee can be found in Johnson’s text).
  • Parenthetical citation: Additionally, "quoted text" (Lee, 2016, as cited in Johnson, 2018, p. X).

Reference the text you read (e.g., Johnson). For more information, please see How Should I Cite a Secondary Source in APA Style?.

For extensive information on citing specific resource types, including examples, please search WriteAnswers by keyword.


American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).