APA Referencing—The Finer Points of In-text Referencing
As with all the referencing styles, APA has many discrete rules to learn, creating a great deal of opportunity for confusion. In this series of articles, I aim to clarify some of the finer points of the APA referencing style, all of which I have personally observed to be a common source of errors.
Author and Year within the Narrative
Most authors know that an APA in-text reference takes the form:
(Cazorla-Sánchez & Corum, 2005, p. 70)
What is less well known is that if you mention the author(s) or publication year in the text, you should not repeat this in the parenthetical reference. For example:
Correct: In 2005, Cazorla-Sánchez and Corum (p. 70) suggested that …
Incorrect: In 2005, Cazorla-Sánchez and Corum (2005, p. 70) suggested that …
Incorrect: In 2005, Cazorla-Sánchez and Corum suggested that … (Cazorla-Sánchez & Corum, 2005, p. 70).
In the correct example above, neither the authors’ names or year of publication are repeated in the parenthetical reference because these details are already given in the narrative. The other examples are incorrect because they do repeat these details unnecessarily.
Referring to the Same Source within the Same Paragraph
Another common error is needlessly repeating the publication year of a source within the same paragraph. When referring to a source multiple times in one paragraph (i.e. by using the author name(s) or title), you do not need to repeat the year in parentheses, so long as you haven’t mentioned any other authors in between these references (in this case, you do need to repeat the publication year). However, you should still provide the page number, even if it is the same. For example:
Jensen (2005, p. 72) believed that Franco was an able commander who made several notable contributions to the field of modern warfare and had a good understanding of what we today call the operational level of war. Sánchez and Corum (2005) argued that with hindsight, it is easy to identify missed military opportunities, and that ‘even the greatest strategists have missed ... opportunities for decision on the battlefield’ (p. 70). Cazorla-Sánchez and Corum (p. 70) also suggested that …
If your paragraph only contains references to one source, you can use a pronoun in place of the author name(s). For example:
Sánchez and Corum (2005) argued that with hindsight, it is easy to identify missed military opportunities, and that ‘even the greatest strategists have missed ... opportunities for decision on the battlefield’ (p. 70). They (p. 70) also suggested that …
The above rule about pronoun use is only for paragraphs that contain references to only one source. If the paragraph contains references to two or more sources (even if they are by the same author[s]), you cannot use pronouns in place of author name(s) in in-text references in the narrative.
The above two rules about not repeating the publication year apply only when the author name(s) have been given as part of the narrative. In parenthetical references, you must always indicate the year, regardless of whether you have referred to the source elsewhere in the paragraph: (Sánchez & Corum, 2005, p. 70).
Every effort must be made to locate a date of publication for a source; however, there will be cases in which one simply cannot be located (e.g. online sources). If a source really has ‘no date’, use the abbreviation ‘n.d.’ in place of the year. For example:
… (Lines, n.d., p. 3).
In the rare case of multiple ‘no date’ sources by the same author, these can be differentiated as follows:
Lines, L. (n.d.-a) …
Lines, L. (n.d.-b) …
It is worth emphasising that using ‘n.d.’ should be your last resort after undertaking a thorough search for a publication year for a source.
If there is a particular rule regarding APA (or another referencing style) that you’d like to see explained in this series, please contact me to let me know. I’m always happy to help.