The APA Publication manual recognizes two kinds of in-text citations, parenthetical and narrative. They are characterized as follows:

In parenthetical citations, the author name and publication date (or equivalent information; see Section 9.12) appear in parentheses. In narrative citations, this information is incorporated into the text as part of the sentence. (§8.11)

As far as I can see, in all their examples of narrative citations, the last names that occur outside the parentheses are taken as referring to the authors of the cited works. For example, one might write

Salas and D’Agostino (2020) examine several aspects of this problem.

which would mean something like ’Salas and D'Agostino (in their work published in 2020) examine several aspects of this problem.

My question is, within APA style, can I also use a narrative citation to refer to the work rather than the authors of that work? For example, could I write:

Salas and D'Agostino (2020) is the most complete treatment of this problem in the literature.

Obviously here I would be referring to the work, not the authors, hence ‘is’ rather than ‘are‘. Is this also correct? And if not, what do I write if I want the subject of my sentence to refer to the cited work rather than the authors?

(In other author-date citation systems I am familiar with, I could refer to the work by omitting the parentheses, like this:

Salas and D'Agostino 2020 is the most complete treatment of this problem in the literature.

This seems logical to me. But unfortunately I find that APA style does not allow for this; hence my question.)


In general, if you want to refer to the work, you would write something like:

“Citing works” (Salas & D'Agostino 2020) is the most complete treatment of this problem in the literature.

Where you refer to the work by title and use a full parenthetical reference.

  • That's certainly one approach, but it's very inefficient! A common scenario for me is wanting to quickly survey the literature on some topic in a parenthetical remark or footnote, and in that sort of setting, one often wants to refer succinctly to several different works.
    – Cian
    Nov 30 '21 at 17:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.