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How to Cite a Journal Article in APA 7: Referencing Rules With Examples

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Written by
Dr. Michael Turner
  • Icon Calendar 16 May 2024
  • Icon Page 4089 words
  • Icon Clock 19 min read

Journal articles are scholarly, peer-reviewed academic texts that students and researchers use as sources of evidence in the APA format. Basically, this evidence is essential in backing up the claims and arguments that writers make in their essays and research papers. Unlike other sources, journal articles are authored by scholars with notable academic credentials, have a narrowly defined scope, and have research-based analytical content. Then, the essential features of a journal article citation in the APA 7th edition include the author’s name, the publication year, the article’s title, the journal’s title, the journal’s volume and issue number, and the article’s page range, including DOI numbers or links where it is taken. Also, when searching for a journal article, a writer can decide to locate it via public or university libraries, databases, or online platforms. Hence, researchers need to learn how to cite a journal article in APA 7 correctly.

General Guidelines of Citing a Journal Article in APA 7

In academic writing, instructors encourage students to cite a journal article in APA 7 as a source of academic information. By definition, a journal article is a repository of data gathered via research and documented in articles and published throughout the year. Moreover, such types of academic articles are scholarly documents in a journal that are typically shorter than a book, being focused on a specific topic. In turn, a journal article presents the most recent research on a topic conducted by experts in the field. Since the Internet became a significant learning platform, journal articles have increasingly adopted the digital version. Therefore, students can access these scholarly documents in their print or online versions.

How to cite a journal article in APA

Nature of Journal Articles

Unlike most documents, journal articles are academic, meaning that they are published to advance knowledge in a specific discipline. Basically, the term that academics use to refer to this purpose is scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. In principle, therefore, a scholarly article is the same as a peer-reviewed article. Also, both terms mean academic texts that present the most recent research on a topic. As a result, some characteristics that distinguish these articles from other written documents include:

  • Having a scholar or researcher, with advanced academic credentials and affiliated to a notable association, as the author.
  • Covering a narrowly defined topic and scope, with a theoretical focus and centered on professional practice.
  • Having research-based analytical content aimed at creating new knowledge.
  • Including a structure that indicates a scientific research study – an abstract section, headings that indicate the purpose of the study, and parts that offer design, results, and discussion of the findings.
  • Using a formal and technical language characterized by professional jargon.
  • Having an objective point of view characterized by logical arguments supported with citations of published research.

Locating a Journal Article

Since journal articles are published in printed and online versions, students can access them via physical public access, college/university libraries, and on the Internet. Today, many libraries, including public ones, have built online portals from where students and researchers can access scholarly documents on specific areas of study. Regardless of the platform that students or researchers decide to use in accessing a journal article, the essential information that they must use in finding credible sources they are looking for includes titles of journals, relevant years, volumes, and issues. Consequently, they can use specific keywords or the author’s name. In turn, one of the most common platforms that students and researchers use to cite a journal article in APA 7 is Google Scholar.


Although it is now common to find journal articles on webpages, these scholarly documents are mostly found in databases, which act as repositories of academic texts. When locating an item in a database, students or researchers should use the options provided, including “Advanced Search” or “Form Search,” using titles of articles, author’s names, or specific keywords. In limiting the search, they should use some parameters indicated above – publication years, volumes, and issue numbers. In turn, Google Scholar is the most robust database for citing a journal article in APA 7, as students and researchers can access articles from across diverse academic disciplines and research areas.

Key Rules for Citing Information From a Journal Article in APA 7

Many rules guide academic writing on citing a journal article in APA 7, one of which relates to the use of information from different types of sources — books, reports, and journal articles. As far as academic writing is concerned, when students use such information, they have “borrowed” it from another source. Basically, rules indicate that students must cite such information from a journal article in APA 7 to note this truth, while failure to follow referencing guidelines means that they plagiarize their work. In other words, plagiarism involves the use of others’ information without assigning credit to them. When writing an academic document, students and researchers should cite direct quotes, statistics, and paraphrased information used in the text to avoid plagiarism.

Examples of In-Text Citations for a Journal Article in APA 7

If a student uses the article “Review of Mental Health Promotion Interventions in Schools,” published in 2018 in the Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology journal, the in-text citation would include:

1. An example of a direct quote:

“The WHO noted that fundamental to mental health promotion are actions that facilitate an environment that respects and protects basic civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights” (O’Reilly, Svirydzenka, Adams, & Dogra, 2018, p. 647).

2. An example of citing statistics from a journal article in APA 7:

A survey of about 599 primary and 137 secondary schools among educational institutions in the UK revealed that two-thirds of schools adopted universal healthcare approaches (O’Reilly, Svirydzenka, Adams, & Dogra, 2018, p. 658).

3. An example of an APA in-text citation of a paraphrased information:

According to the research, O’Reilly, Svirydzenka, Adams, and Dogra (2018) established the need for a robust evidence base in the scope of mental health promotion, arguing that the focus should be on both universal work and targeted approaches.

Paraphrases, Quotations, and Summaries

As indicated above, students and researchers can use scholarly works of others by citing them as journal articles in APA 7, using their statistics, or paraphrasing their arguments or findings. Firstly, quoting means taking what they have written without making any changes, while paraphrasing is taking that information and presenting it using one’s voice. In both cases, students should give credit to original authors, as indicated above. Occasionally, researchers summarize arguments or findings of others in their writing. In most cases, these summaries involve students applying their critical thinking to interpret others’ arguments or conclusions. In such cases, it is unnecessary to cite the information, not unless there are direct quotes and statistics.

Short and Long Quotes

When quoting others’ arguments or findings, writers intend to provide textual evidence for their claims. Typically, they use short or long quotes from external sources to back up those claims. Firstly, a short quote is limited to four lines, and writers must enclose it within double quotation marks, using the APA citation after the end quote and being before the period. Also, students incorporate these types of quotes within body paragraphs. In contrast, writers use long quotes, also known as block quotes, separately from body paragraphs and without quotation marks.

Using a Quote from a Journal Article in APA 7

Although quotes help researchers contextualize and strengthen their claims, block quotes in academic writing are discouraged because they tend to dilute the writer’s voice. Basically, one goal of academic writing is to promote critical and analytical thinking, and that is why paraphrasing what others have said is more highly regarded than quoting them. Therefore, the only time students or researchers should use a block quote is when they rely on the exact wording of another text to establish their arguments. In turn, this feature is common in the analysis of a literary text. Nonetheless, students should limit the quote to 40 words.

1. Citing a Block Quote in APA:

When students and researchers use quotes in the body of their text, they should provide an analysis after that to make readers understand how the evidence fits into their central argument, as captured in a thesis statement. Also, this feature means that a quote should not end a paragraph. Essentially, APA citations of a short and long quote remain the same. When citing a block quote from a journal article in APA 6, students should do the following:

  • Start the quote on a new line.
  • Indent the entire quote 0.5 inches, just like a new paragraph, using double spacing.
  • Avoid the use of quotation marks.
  • Capture the citation on the last line of the quote, before the period.
  • Start a new text after the quote on a new line, with no indentation. In turn, students should not end a paragraph with a block quote because any quotation they use as evidence in essays or research papers should be followed by analysis in their own words as part of the same paragraph.

2. Author’s Name in the Text

Plagiarism is academic dishonesty, which explains why writers are encouraged to cite external sources that they use to access information (quotes and statistics) to strengthen their claims. In this case, students can achieve this goal in two ways, such as citing a journal article in a sentence or mentioning authors, years, and pages at the end of a sentence by considering the APA format. When authors mention the source in the sentence, they indicate the name of the author(s) of the external source they have used, followed by the year in parentheses. However, when students cite the source at the end of the sentence, they indicate the author(s) and the year, separated by a comma. In case of a direct quote or statistics, the year should be followed by a comma and then the page number of the source document where writers obtained the information.

3. Citing a Source Referenced From Another Source

Occasionally, writers can cite a source that also has a reference to the work of another author. In this case, APA citations for a journal article are different from those explained above. Here, writers should cite an original journal article and not the author where this source is referenced since the information is a paraphrase. In turn, researchers should identify the central theme in the information and present it analytically while acknowledging the article and not the author mentioned in the source document.

4. Referencing Different Sources

Given the robust nature of scholarly writing, there is always the possibility of a writer accessing the same information from two or more external sources. Basically, this information can be a quote, a statistic, or a summary. Whatever the scenario, writers should cite all the sources in their texts. For example, if students access two journal articles with the same information they have used to strengthen their argument, they should cite both as indicated above. Also, they should start with the source whose author’s name comes first alphabetically and use a semicolon to separate it from the second source. However, this format is applicable when the citation appears as a parenthesis at the end of a sentence. In turn, if the citation occurs in the sentence, the term ‘and’ should replace the semicolon, noting that only the year will be in parenthesis.

5. Citing Authored Sources

One characteristic of a scholarly, peer-reviewed source is being authored by a highly distinguished scholar, a person with notable academic credentials. In this case, using sources with the name of the author or names of authors is essential if one hopes to position their writing as a scholarly text. Where researchers cite a journal article with three or more authors as a source in APA 7, they should reference names as they appear in the article. However, writers should first indicate the second name in full and then the first and middle names’ initials. Also, surnames and initials of the first and middle names should be separated with a comma. In turn, if sources have no author(s), students should indicate the institution affiliated, which in most cases, also happens to be the publisher.

6. Referencing Corporate Authors

Some documents have no specific authors and only indicate the name of an institution or corporation. In this case, examples of such sources are fiscal year reports of major corporations. Although these articles are not peer-reviewed sources, students use them as reliable sources in academic writing. Moreover, when citing such documents in APA 7, writers should indicate titles of organizations as authors. In turn, the APA format of the in-text citation should appear, as explained in the preceding sections.

Citing Journal Articles in APA 7: References

Besides in-text citations, writers should also use reference entries in academic writing. Basically, these citations appear at the end of the document as a separate page. As explained, in-text citations capture only the author’s name and the year (and the page number in case of direct quotes and statistics). In contrast, entries on the reference list capture all significant details of the source: author’s name, the year of publication, the article’s title, and the journal’s title, including the volume and issue numbers with pages and doi numbers or links.

1. Citing Author’s Names

When students hope to make their writing scholarly, they use sources authored by notable scholars and institutions. However, a majority of academic, peer-reviewed journal articles are authored by individual scholars, who hold prestigious credentials and titles, such as doctors and university professors. In this case, the author’s name is the first feature that appears in the APA reference citation. Also, writers can access this name by searching for the title of the article in a library, database, or online. As indicated above, the name should start with the second name, a comma, and then initials of first and middle names, as applicable.

2. Dates of Publication

The second element in a journal article’s reference citation is the year when this research is published in the journal. In this case, the date, which is usually indicated by the year, is indicated in parenthesis. Since journal articles present the latest research on a topic, students and researchers tend to cite the most current articles in APA 7. However, even articles published several years back are still authoritative, especially in advancing the theoretical foundation guiding different research areas. Like the author’s name, students can access dates of publication by searching for titles of articles in a library, database, or online.

3. Titles of Articles

The third element in a reference citation of a journal article is the title of the article, covering APA guidelines. Basically, the title is usually relevant to a specific study area, meaning that several researchers may have studied it. This is why writers sometimes cite two or more articles that bear the same information when seeking evidence to back up their claims. When searching for a journal article, writers use the title more than any other feature since there are minimal chances for two articles to share an exact title. Alternatively, when students have no idea about the title but know authors, they can search for articles written by these authors to identify needed texts. Moreover, researchers should use sentence case when citing the title of a journal article in APA 7.

4. Titles of Journals

The title of the journal is the fifth feature in a reference citation for a journal article in APA 7. Generally, there are different types of journals, and where the writer chooses to publish their article depends on the area of study. In other words, there are journals dedicated to research on education, nursing, mental health, sociology, and criminology, among others. When indicating the journal’s title in the reference citation, the writer should use title case and italics.

5. Journal’s Volumes and Issue Numbers

After writing the journal article’s title, students should punctuate the citation with a comma and then indicate volume numbers in italics and issue numbers in parentheses with no space between these identifications. Basically, issue numbers should go into brackets, and there should be no space with volume numbers. However, writers should italicize the volume number, being similar to the case with the journal’s title. Ideally, volume and issue numbers indicate that journals have several publications, probably published within a year or several years. Hence, this information gives students the specific location of articles from different journal’s publications. Moreover, a journal indicates volume and issue numbers every time it publishes a scholarly, peer-reviewed article.

6. The Article’s Page Range

As indicated earlier, journal articles are shorter than books. Basically, this feature explains why journals show such sources by using a volume and issue number to help researchers locate them quickly. Besides these two numbers, journals also indicate the page range of the article, which must not necessarily start with 1. In this case, writers should use a comma to separate the volume and issue number from the page range. Like volume and issue numbers, journals usually indicate the page range of articles they publish. In turn, once students access articles in a library, database, or online, they know the page range of sources.

At the end of any source entry for citing a scholarly article on the References page, students need to indicate DOI numbers or links to scholarly databases where this source is taken. Basically, a DOI number is unique for any scholarly article, and researchers can find a source by using this number. In turn, writers can use links to scholarly databases if they cannot find a DOI number as an alternative measure to show readers from where this source is retrieved. Also, using DOI numbers is not mandatory, but, for scholarly essays and papers, students should include this information.

Three Scenarios

There are three scenarios that students and researchers are likely to encounter when searching for journal articles: unpublished journal articles, published journal articles accessed via a database, and published journal articles accessed online. Basically, writers should be careful to identify the category within which the article they are using an external source belongs because the APA citation format is different for each scenario.

Case 1: Citing Unpublished Journal Articles in APA 7

Unpublished journal articles are studies that are yet to be formally published in a journal. When citing such a text, students should determine whether the author has submitted it for journal publication or not. If such a source is only available as a printed article, which means the author is yet to provide it for publication, the APA reference citation should capture:

  • Author’s name.
  • The year where the article is written.
  • Article’s title.
  • The words “Unpublished article” within square brackets.
  • Author’s study department.
  • Author’s university of study.

1. Unpublished Article Submitted for Publication:

In a case where writers cite a journal article in APA 7 that is unpublished but already submitted by the author(s) to a journal for publication, they should indicate the words “Article submitted for publication” within square brackets in the reference citation. Basically, these words should replace the words “Unpublished article” in the APA citation format of an unpublished article, as indicated above. In turn, the rest of the entry should appear like the citation of an unpublished journal article yet to be submitted for publication.

2. Articles in Press:

An author of a journal article can submit it to a journal for publication. Although this request can be accepted, it is yet to be published. When citing such an article in APA 7, writers should indicate the words “in press” in place of the year in both reference and in-text citations. Moreover, this feature suggests that the year, when the journal is written, is no longer applicable, and there is no date to understand when it is published in the journal because it is yet to be formally published. In turn, writers should omit names of universities, including departments.

Case 2: Citing a Published Journal Article Found in a Database

As already indicated, a student or researcher can access a journal article via the physical library, a database, and online. When citing a journal article in APA 7 located in a database, writers should capture the following information:

  • Author’s name(s).
  • Year of publication.
  • Title of the article.
  • Title of the journal in italics.
  • Volume numbers in italics and issue number in parentheses or “round brackets” with no space between them.
  • Page range.
  • DOI number or Link.

Case 3: Citing a Published Journal Article Found Online in APA 7

Unlike a database, the Internet is home to articles from across diverse disciplines and areas of study. Basically, making an article accessible via the online platform means that its reach is broad and is common among authors wishing to make their name known. When citing a journal article found online in APA 7, students should use the format of citing a published article found in a database. In the place of the DOI number, they should indicate the URL.

Schemes and Examples for Citing a Journal Article in APA 7: References

1. The APA Reference Citation Format of an Unpublished Journal Article:

  • Last name, Initials. (Year). Article title. [Unpublished article]. Department Name, University Name.

Assuming the article “The Potential Role of Hydrogen as a Sustainable Transportation Fuel to Combat Global Warming” was unpublished, the example of the APA citation entry would read:

  • Acar, C., & Dincer, I. (2020). The potential role of hydrogen as a sustainable transportation fuel to combat global warming. [Unpublished article]. Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Bahcesehir University.

2. The Reference Citation Scheme of an Unpublished Journal Article Already Submitted for Publication in a Journal:

  • Last name, Initials. (Year). Article title. [Article submitted for publication]. Department Name, University Name.

Assuming the article “The Potential Role of Hydrogen as a Sustainable Transportation Fuel to Combat Global Warming” was unpublished but already submitted for publication, the example of this citation would read:

  • Acar, C., & Dincer, I. (2020). The potential role of hydrogen as a sustainable transportation fuel to combat global warming. [Article submitted for publication]. Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences, Bahcesehir University.

3. The APA Reference Citation Format of a Journal Article in Press:

  • Last name, Initials. (in press). Article title. Journal title.

Assuming the article “The Potential Role of Hydrogen as a Sustainable Transportation Fuel to Combat Global Warming” was already submitted for publication and accepted, the example of the APA journal citation entry on the “Reference” page would read:

  • Acar, C., & Dincer, I. (in press). The potential role of hydrogen as a sustainable transportation fuel to combat global warming. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

4. The Reference Structure of a Published Journal Article Found in a Database:

  • Author’s Last name, First and Middle names’ initials. (Year of publication). Article title. Journal Title, Volume(Issue), pp-pp. DOI number.

A sample citation for the APA format of a journal article found in a database is as follows:

  • Azad, N., Anderson, H. G., Brooks, A., Garza, O., O’Neil, C., Stutz, M. M., & Sobotka, J. L. (2017). Leadership and management are one and the same. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 81(6), 1-5. https://doi.org/10.5688/ajpe816102

5. The APA Reference Citation Scheme of a Published Journal Article Found Online:

  • Author’s Last name, First and Middle names’ initials. (Year of publication). Article title. Journal Title, Volume(Issue), pp-pp. Retrieved from URL

A sample citation of a journal article found online is as follows:

  • Dempsey, J., & Aimone, M. (2018). A new frontier for asset management. The Military Engineer, 110(716), 46-47. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/26487566

Summing Up on How to Cite a Scholarly Article in APA 7

Using scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles as external sources of evidence is common in academic writing. What makes these articles scholarly and peer-reviewed are their characteristics. Basically, these elements for citing a journal article in APA 7 include being authored by distinguished scholars with notable academic credentials, focused on a narrowly defined topic area, and bearing research-based analytical content. When citing such an article, a writer should note the following tips:

  • Indicate the author(s) by name(s), starting with the last name, a comma, and initials of the first and middle names.
  • Define the year of publication. For unpublished articles, the year should indicate when the article is written.
  • Write the title of the article by using sentence case.
  • Mention the title of the journal by using title case and italics.
  • Indicate volume numbers in italics and issue numbers in parentheses with no space.
  • Include the page range.
  • End with DOI numbers or links if available.

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