APA style uses an author—date system for citations. It does NOT use a numbering system. In this system the last name of the author(s) and date will appear within the text which then allows the reader to locate the full information pertaining to the source in an alphabetized reference list at the end of the text. It is important to note that all citations must have an entry in the reference list and each entry in the reference list must be cited within your text.

There are a couple of common ways to cite the work of others in your text. First, you can include the author’s name directly in the sentence structure like this.

Beehr (1976) found that supervisor support did not protect individuals who were working in highly ambiguous situations from experiencing decreased life and job satisfaction.

Or you could put the reference at the end of the sentence like this.

Past research has shown that supervisor support did not protect individuals who were working in highly ambiguous situations from experiencing decreased life and job satisfaction (Beehr, 1976).

Make sure that you put the citation before the “.” at the end of the sentence.

What if an article you are citing has two authors? Again you could do it either way.

Glazer and Kruse (2008) concluded that when nurses are emotional attached to a hospital they are less likely to quit.

When nurses are emotional attached to a hospital they are less likely to quit (Glazer & Kruse, 2008).

Above (and in the examples below) notice when to use “&” and “and.”

In most disciplines the order of the names is very important. Being first author is more prestigious than being fifth author. It is very important to get the order correct. Do NOT arrange the authors’ last name in alphabetical order. Use them as they appear in the article, from left to right, top to bottom.

So far it is pretty simple, but what if you have three authors? Here is how to do that.

In their meta-analysis Sverke, Hellgren, and Naswall (2010) found that job insecurity negatively impacts employee job attitudes, organizational attitudes, and health.

A recent meta-analysis found that job insecurity negatively impacts employee job attitudes, organizational attitudes, and health (Sverke, Hellgren, & Naswall, 2010).

It is about to get a little tricky. The examples with three authors above show how the citation should appear the first time in the text. For all subsequent citations you would use “et al.” as shown below. This “et al.” simply means “and others” and is a Latin abbreviation.

Sverke et al. (2010) concluded that most of the researching on job insecurity is cross-sectional and therefore there is a need for longitudinal designs to examine the effects of longer term job insecurity.

Most of the researching on job insecurity is cross-sectional and therefore there is a need for longitudinal designs to examine the effects of longer term job insecurity (Sverke et al., 2010).

What do you do if a source has six or more authors? In this case you simply use the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” for every citation. You do NOT list out the last name of every author. This is important because some disciplines, such as medical research and physics, tend to have many authors on articles. In fact, the record at the time of this writing is a physics paper with 5,154 authors (Castelvecchi, 2015). (Like my use of a citation here? I don’t think that is common knowledge so I provided a citation for the source.)

Sometimes there is not a person who gets attributed as the author. What do you do then? You use the group’s name, such as the corporation’s name, government agency, association, etc. Here is an example.

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (2015) concluded that there is no systematic method of training and developing for senior executives.

There is no systematic method of training and developing for senior executives (U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 2015).

What if there is no identifiable author? First, you probably shouldn’t be using it as an authoritative source as it is unlikely to be scholarly in nature. However, if you choose to use it you would use the first few words of the text (this is commonly the title). Here is an example from everyone’s absolute favorite source Wikipedia.

The evolution of occupational therapy can be traced back to the Greek physician Asclepiades (“Occupational Therapy,” 2016).

Note the use of the double quotation marks around the title of the article.

If you are doing a thorough literature review you will likely find multiple sources or studies supporting a conclusion. As a result, there are a lot of times when you must support a statement with more than one source. Another example should clear this up.

Both Deckard (1994) and Raiger (2005) found that burnout among healthcare workers is high.

Studies have shown that burnout among healthcare workers is high (Deckard, 1994; Raiger, 2005).

In the second example where both sources appear in parentheses make sure you use a “;” between each source. In addition, the sources should be listed in the order in which they appear in the reference list. In other words, they should be alphabetized.

Test Yourself


1. Job stress leads to employee health and organizational problems (              )

Beehr and Newman, 1978
Beehr & Newman, 1978

 

2. What does "et al." mean?

ecetera
and others
and so on

 

3. There have been several meta-analyses of gender and leadership style (Eagly & Karau, 1991    Eagly, Karau & Johnson, 1992    Eagly, Karau, Makhijani, &1995).
What punctuation marks should go in the underlined spaces between the citations?

a period "."
a semicolon ";"
a comma ","

 

4. You are citing the source "Johnson, Tigger, and Smith (2017)" for the second time in an article. How should it appear in the sentence?

Johnson et al. (2017)
Johnson, Tigger, and Smith (2017)

 

References

Castelvecchi, D. (2015). Physics paper sets record with more than 5,000 authors. Nature, News & Comment, Retrieved from: http://www.nature.com/news/physics-paper-sets-record-with-more-than-5-000-authors-1.17567