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APA Referencing Guide

Based on the NWU Referencing Guide.

Citing sources in the text

A text reference consists of the author’s surname and year when the source was published. A page number is not necessary in the text reference, except when using a direct quotation, or when needed to give the specific place where the information of the source can be located.


A paraphrase gives the idea of another author in your own words. Take care to retain the spirit and argumentation of the original text and do not twist the argument of the original author to your own purposes. Vary the style of citation in your argument.

Text references can be parenthetical or narrative. The parenthetical format is where the author’s surname and date are in parenthesis, usually at the end of a sentence. The narrative format is when the author’s surname is part of the sentence and only the year is in parenthesis.
At the end of the sentence (parenthetical format):

Patients need to know that they can trust and rely on health care practitioners to take care of their problems (Healy, 2011).

As part of the sentence (narrative format):

According to Healy (2011) patients need to know that they can trust and rely on health care practitioners to take care of their problems.

Direct quotations

Although it is best to paraphrase sources rather than directly quoting them, it is sometimes necessary to use direct quotations, especially when reproducing an exact definition, or when an author has said something in such a way that you can’t describe it in a better way in your own words. When quoting directly, always provide the author, year and page number of the quotation.

In the middle of the sentence (note punctuation):

Zimbabwean youths show an interest in farming, but as Makate et al. (2018) conclude they “fail to make meaningful investments in agriculture” (p. 436), contributing to further unemployment amongst the youth in Zimbabwe.

At the end of the sentence (note punctuation):

Maori researchers’ dissatisfaction with mainstream researchers has led to an increased desire and capacity for “by Maori, for Maori, with Maori research” (Cram et al., 2004, p. 167).

Quotations of 40 words or more are formatted as a block quotation without inverted commas. Start the block quotation on a new line and indent the whole quotation 0.5 inch from the left margin. Double space the entire block quotation.

Example of block quotation with narrative citation (author is part of the sentence)

With the emphasis placed globally on human rights the following excerpt of Segone (2006) captures the importance of public policies which should be in place:
Within a human rights approach, evaluation should focus on the most vulnerable populations to determine whether public policies are designed to ensure that all people enjoy their rights as citizens, whether disparities are eliminated and equity enhanced, and whether democratic approaches have been adopted that include everyone in decision-making processes that affect their interests. (p. 12)

Example of block quotation with parenthetical citation (citation at the end of the sentence)

Researchers have studied how people talk to themselves:
Inner speech is a paradoxical phenomenon. It is an experience that is central to many people’s everyday lives, and yet it presents considerable challenges to any effort to study it scientifically. Nevertheless, a wide range of methodologies and approaches have combined to shed light on the subjective experience of inner speech and its cognitive and neural underpinnings. (Alderson-Day & Fernyhough, 2015, p. 957)

For direct quotations from sources without page numbers (e.g. webpages and some e-books), use another way of locating the quoted information. Use a way that will best help readers to find the quotation, e.g. paragraph number(s), heading or section names (you might need to abbreviate a long heading), or a combination of paragraph numbers and headings. Compare the following example where the paragraph number is used

People planning for retirement need more than just money—they also “need to stockpile their emotional reserves” to ensure adequate support from family and friends (Chamberlin, 2014, para. 1).

Example where the section name is used in combination with the paragraph number

Music and language are intertwined in the brain such that “people who are better at rhythmic memory skills tend to excel at language skills as well” (DeAngelis, 2018, Musical Forays section, para. 4).


The author is the person responsible for the intellectual content of a source. An author can also be an institution or organisation, for example in the case of a yearbook of a university or a report by a government department.

1. One author

In the text, give the author’s surname and date of publication.

During 2016, mathematics clinics were enthusiastically attended by school learners during most school holidays (Mkhize, 2016).

Reference list:

Mkhize, D. (2016). Fix the pipeline! Civil Engineering, 11, 17-19.

2. Two authors

Note the difference between the two examples in the text: when the authors are part of the sentence (narrative format), use and, but when the citation is in brackets at the end of the sentence (parenthetical format), use & between the authors.

Semenya and Letsosa (2013) contend that witchcraft is a threat to the community.
Witchcraft is a threat to the community (Semenya & Letsosa, 2013).

Reference list:

Semenya, D. K., & Letsosa, R. (2013). Effects and impact of witchcraft on Sotho Reformed churches and the Biblical view of witchcraft. Verbum et Ecclesia, 34(1), Article 676.

3. Three or more authors

When a source has three or more authors, mention the first author in the text, followed by “et al.” in every citation (even the first citation). This is followed by the date.

According to Dikobe et al. (2016) the mental health of professional nurses is negatively affected when caring for psychiatric patients with dual diagnosis.

Reference list:

Dikobe, J., Manyedi, E. M., & Sehularo, L. A. (2016). Experiences of professional nurses in caring for psychiatric patients with dual diagnosis. Africa Journal of Nursing and Midwifery, 18(1), 183-197.

Exception: when two different sources by the same first author and year are used and they shorten to the same form in the text, give the second author (or more authors if necessary to ensure distinction) followed by et al.

(Schutte, Huisman, Schutte, Van Rooyen, Malan, & Malan, 2007), as well as (Schutte, Huisman, Schutte, Malan, Van Rooyen, Malan, & Schwarz, 2007), will both shorten in the text to Schutte et al., 2007.
Use as follow:

..... (Schutte, Huisman, Schutte, Van Rooyen et al., 2007).
..... (Schutte, Huisman, Schutte, Malan et al., 2007).

Reference list:

Schutte, A. E., Huisman, H., Schutte, R., Malan, L., Van Rooyen, J., Malan, N., & Schwarz, P. (2007). Differences and similarities regarding adiponectin investigated in African and Caucasian women. European Journal of Endocrinology, 157(2), 181-188.

Schutte, A. E., Huisman, H. W., Schutte, R., Van Rooyen, J. M., Malan, L. & Malan, N. T. (2007). Aging influences the level and functions of fasting plasma ghrelin levels: The POWIRS-study. Regulatory Peptides, 139(1-3), 65-71.

4. More than one citation to the same author(s) in the same year

When using more than one publication by the same author(s) published in the same year, distinguish it by adding a, b or c after the date in the text, as well as in the reference list. Order these entries in the reference list alphabetical according to the titles.

Problems in life like the absent father in a family should be assisted by pastoral theology together with other disciplines such as psychology, sociology, counselling and education (Freeks, 2017a).

Because of the dilemma that families experience with the discipline of teenagers it is important that fathers must maintain discipline at home (Freeks, 2017b).

Reference list:

Freeks, F. E. (2017a). A pastoral-theological view on the fundamental role of the father in variance with contemporary family structures and its adverse challenges for fatherhood: A literature review. Journal for Christian Scholarship, 53(3-4), 177-192.

Freeks, F. E. (2017b). Responses of adolescents regarding the indispensable role of the Christian father as mentor within the family: A qualitative study. In die Skriflig / In Luce Verbi, 51(1), Art. 2255.

5. Citations to authors with the same surname

When referring to two authors with the same surname but different initials include the initials of the first author in all the in-text citations, even if the publication date differs. This will help to avoid confusion within the text and locate the correct entry in the reference list.

The foundation of a multi-racial and multi-cultural democracy is, in Mauritius as in South Africa, the promotion and protection of basic human rights (G. van der Walt, 2010). 

The question whether South Africa’s Constitution survives as a promise of an inclusive and post-apartheid constitutionalism, or dies an early death lies in the hands of two competing retroactive discourses (J. van der Walt, 2010).

Reference list:

Van der Walt, G. (2010). The United Nations convention on the rights of the child – has the bridge been crossed between theory and practice: Mauritius and South Africa? Obiter, 31(3), 715-724.

Van der Walt, J. (2010). Vertical sovereignty, horizontal constitutionalism, subterranean capitalism: A case of competing retroactivities. South African Journal on Human Rights, 26(1), 102-129.

It can also happen that you refer to two different authors with the same surname and initials who published in the same year. It is then necessary to use the authors’ first names in the text reference and the entry in the reference list to distinguish between the two authors.

Planning and proper administration are of the utmost importance to make a success of training programmes in an organisation (Marjon Meyer, 2016).

For an organisation to stay in line with the skills development legislation it is important to appoint a skills development facilitator (Marius Meyer, 2016).

Reference list:

Meyer, Marius. (2016). Human resource development legislation. In M. Meyer (Ed.), Managing human resource development: A strategic learning approach (5th ed., pp. 25-60). LexisNexis.

Meyer, Marjon. (2016). Planning and organising training. In M. Meyer (Ed.) Managing human resource development: A strategic learning approach (5th ed., pp. 223-251). LexisNexis.

6. No author indicated

If no author can be identified, use the title in the text reference followed by the year. In the reference list entry, start the entry with the title.

Several innovative musical developments took place at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Chamber music, 2009).

Reference list:

Chamber music. (2009). Retrieved September 30, 2019, from http:/ ChamberMusic&title=About%20Music

7. Organisation as author

An organisation can also be an author.

An abbreviation of the organisation can be used in the text (see example and table of basic citation styles below), but spell out the full name of the organisation in the reference list. Do not use an abbreviation or acronym of an organisation in the reference list.

The consumer price inflation went up from 4,9% in September 2018 to 5,1% in October 2018 (Statistics South Africa [Stats SA], 2018).
Data from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA, 2018) indicated that the consumer price inflation went up from 4,9% in September 2018 to 5,1% in October 2018.

Reference list:

Statistics South Africa. 2018. Consumer price index: October 2018. (Statistical release P0141).

Basic citation styles

Author type Parenthetical citation Narrative citation
One author (Mkhize, 2016) Mkhize (2016)
Two authors (Semenya & Letsosa, 2013) Semenya
and Letsosa (2013)
Three or more authors (Dikobe et al., 2016) Dikobe et al. (2016)

Group author with abbreviation

First citation

Subsequent citations


(World Health Organization [WHO], 2020)

(WHO, 2020)


World Health Organization (WHO, 2020)

WHO (2020)

Group author without abbreviation (National Institute of Mental Health, 2020) National Institute of Mental Health (2020)


Secondary sources

A secondary source is, for example, when an author writes about Freud’s view of psychoanalysis without reading Freud’s own work. Making use of the work of other authors like Smith, Jones or White who wrote about Freud, asks for a secondary citation. It is, however, possible that these authors interpreted Freud incorrectly, causing you to work unscientifically and unethically. Keep secondary citations therefore to the minimum as it is “second-hand” information and always try to find the primary source if possible.

However, it might happen that the primary source is unavailable or in a foreign language and then needs a secondary citation.

If the year of publication of the primary source is known, include it in the text reference. The secondary source gets an entry in the reference list.

According to Freud (as cited by Williams, 1996), dreams are ...

Reference list:

Williams, L. (1996). Freud’s theories about dreams. Batsford.

→ Only sources you have handled get an entry in the reference list. In this case it is Williams.

Text references to more than one source

When referring to more than one source when a statement is made, arrange the references alphabetically according to the first author, in the same order they will appear in the reference list. Use a semi-colon after each reference.

The field of inclusive education has been criticized for inadequate theoretical rigour and conceptual clarity (Allan, 2014; Black-Hawkins, 2014; Waitoller & Artiles, 2013; Walton, 2016).

If multiple sources are cited in the narrative of a sentence (authors are part of the sentence), they can appear in any order.

According to Walton (2016) and Black-Hawkins (2014) the field of inclusive education has been criticized for inadequate theoretical rigour and conceptual clarity.

Arrange two or more works by the same author within the same parentheses by year of publication. Give the authors’ surname once, followed by the dates. Place in-press citations last.

Past research (Gogel, 1990, 2006, in press) showed that …