How to Cite a Journal Article in APA Format

how to cite a journal article apa
  • Last Edited: December 1, 2017

Referencing scholarly journals is what writing a research paper is all about.

You get to sound professional and academic while planting some nice, sweet references in your Reference List at the end of the paper.

Just be sure to cite those journals correctly—both in your text and at the end of your essay!

How? Well, we’ll show you.

This is our tutorial on how to cite a journal in APA format (6th edition).

In-Text Citations

The APA citation style is one of the easiest to use.

Just remember Name and Date and if you use a direct quote add in the Page Number.

“But, hey—wait a minute!” you’re probably thinking. “Academic journals sometimes have a dozen different authors listed for one article. Am I supposed to cite them all in-text???”

Great question. The answer is no. Here’s how it works.

Let’s say you’re writing on water conditions in California.

You want to use a source entitled “Evidence of Pesticide Impacts in the Santa Maria River Watershed, California, USA” that was published in a journal called Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, vol. 25, no. 4.

Here’s a link to the journal article’s abstract.

Here’s what the page looks like:

All the information you need for citing the journal is right here.

But, yes, that’s a lot of authors! Seven of them to be sure! So what do we do?

Whenever you cite a journal article where there are more than four authors, you include the last names of the first three authors listed and then ad et al. to cover the others.

That’s for the first time you cite the text in your essay.

If you cite the text again, just use the last name of the first author and add et al. to cover the others.

Now, how you cite the article will depend on how you incorporate the information into your writing.

If you are using the authors’ names in your sentence, you will include the date of publication in parentheses after the authors’ names and, if you are making a direct quote, you will want to include the page number on which the text is situated.

Let’s say you want to quote a portion of this text in your essay.

You will note that it occurs on page 1169 (in the upper right hand corner). Your essay, therefore, might look like this:

Even though Californian authorities believe the integrity of the watershed to be pristine, Anderson, Phillips, Hunt et al. (2006) have shown that “total DDT in Santa Maria River estuary sediments was among the highest measured statewide” (p. 1169). In other words, the watershed is highly polluted.

See how the first three names of the author list are used?

How the date and page number are included?

Date goes after the names of the authors, and the page number is put in parentheses after the quote but before the period. Pretty simple!

Now, let’s say you want to cite the text again—but this time without a direct quote and without using the authors’ names in your writing. Remember: you’ve already cited it once, so the next go around only requires the first name of the author! Your essay might look like this:

The government has continued to deny that contaminants are a problem in the Santa Maria River estuary, but the research clearly shows that chemical pollution is happening (Anderson et al., 2006). If the community does not act quickly, this problem could easily lead to ecological disaster.

Simple! Authors’ last name coupled with the year of publication—all in parentheses at the end of the sentence (but before the period) in the line where the information that is being referenced occurs.

So now that you see how to do the in-text citation for the journal, let’s look at how you should reference this journal on your References page at the end of the paper.

The Reference List

Here is where you will want to include all the authors’ names that are attached to the journal article.

In APA, you’ll start off the reference like this: you put the author’s last name in the first spot and follow it with the first and middle initials of the author. (Sometimes only a first name or initial is given—and that’s okay).

The year of the publication goes in parentheses following the authors’ names.

Place a period after closing the parentheses.

Then give the title of the journal article. Capitalize only the first word in the title. Do not italicize or bold the title. Do not use quotation marks. Place a period at the end of the article title.

Follow with the journal title. Capitalize the whole journal title and place it in italics.

Place a comma after the title and follow it with the volume number (also in italics).

After the volume number should directly follow the issue number (place it in parentheses, no space between the volume number and the open parentheses bracket).

Place a comma after the close parentheses bracket and follow with the page numbers of the article.

Place a period at the end.

For the journal article described above, the reference will look like this:

Anderson, B. S., Phillips, B. M., Hunt, J. W., Worcester, K., Adams, M., Kapellas, N., & Tjeerdema, R. S. (2006). Evidence of pesticide impacts in the Santa Maria River watershed, California, USA. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, 25(4), 1160-1170.

Notice how we used the first three names in the in-text citation and summarized the rest with the et al. Well, here we list all the names!

Not every article will have so many authors, of course.

Some journals, moreover, will only have a volume number and no issue number.

No worries in either case. The basic rules stay the same.

Let’s say you’re using a journal article entitled “The Phenomenology of Ghost Huntington in Rural Mississippi” by Grant and Lee (2015).

If you do not state the authors’ names in your writing you will include them in parentheses, joining them with the ampersand symbol—“&”—like this:

The experiences of ghost hunters in rural Mississippi are somewhat different from those had in rural Tennessee according to the latest phenomenological data (Grant & Lee, 2015).

Notice how the “&” symbol unites the authors’ names in parentheses. (Don’t forget: a comma goes between the authors’ last names and the year of publication for the article in the journal.)

After citing the text in your essay, jump down to your References page and add it in. It will look like this:

Grant, R. & Lee, M. (2015). The phenomenology of ghost hunting in rural Mississippi. Journal of Paranormal Activities, 7, 29-36.

Let’s point out a few things:

  1. The ampersand is used again to join the authors’ names in the reference.
  2. “Mississippi” is capitalized in the article title because it is a proper noun—the rest of the words (all common nouns) remain lower case.
  3. There is no issue number for this journal—only a volume number—so no worries, just follow the volume number with a comma and the page numbers of the article.

If the journal has a DOIDigital Object Identifier—you can include it at the end of the reference on the Reference page.

The DOI is a unique string of numbers and letters that is used to identify articles in journals located on the Internet.

It is a permanent link—that is why it is recommended that you add it to the reference if your source has one.

Where can you find the DOI?

The DOI can usually be found along with the article information on whatever site is hosting the journal article.

For instance, if we look back at our article from the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry journal we see that the DOI information is listed along with all the information relevant to the article.

You can see below—the blue arrow is pointing right to the DOI.

So for this article, the DOI would go right at the end of the reference. The whole thing would look like this:

Anderson, B. S., Phillips, B. M., Hunt, J. W., Worcester, K., Adams, M., Kapellas, N., & Tjeerdema, R. S. (2006). Evidence of pesticide impacts in the Santa Maria River watershed, California, USA. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry, 25(4), 1160-1170. doi:10.1897/05-231R.1


Not every journal article is going to have a DOI, so don’t worry if you can’t find one.

The main thing is to give the authors’ names, the year of publication, the title of the article, the title of the journal, the volume, issue, and page numbers.

See? No sweat! And now you know how to cite a journal in APA format.


Tips to Remember:

  1. In APA, in-text citations should include last name, year, and page number if a direct quote is used.
  2. No direct quote, no page number.
  3. If more than four authors—use et al. after giving the first three.
  4. Once a source has been cited once, just use one name to reference it in-text for further citations.

Cite This Resource:

Latest APA Format (6th edition)

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How to Cite a Journal Article in APA Format. (2017, December 1). Retrieved from

Latest MLA Format (8th edition)

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"How to Cite a Journal Article in APA Format." Student Network Resources Inc, 1 December. 2017. Web. 11 December 2017.

Latest Chicago Format (16th edition)

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Student Network Resources Inc. "How to Cite a Journal Article in APA Format." (accessed December 11, 2017).