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APA Referencing

Citing sources in APA format

Secondary Citations

A secondary citation is needed when the idea or text you want to use from a source you are reading was taken from another author.

For example, the source that you have (e.g., journal article) is considered your primary source. At times, students would like to paraphrase information from inside their primary source that is actually from a different source, such as the WHO (i.e., the author of the primary source has quoted or paraphrased information from a different source). This other source is called a secondary source.

It can be confusing which author to cite, especially for quotations. 

What to do?

The simple rule is that you always give a complete citation for the source you have actually read, which is your primary source. The author or organization that the primary source cited would get a secondary citation as shown in the examples and video below.

In the references list, you only provide a reference for your primary source, which is the source you actually read. 

Further information and examples of secondary source citations can be found on the APA style blog at this link.


The two examples below are based on the following text from an article written by Restrepo and Davis (2003):

Moreover, as Meade (1995) elucidates, (Stories) help people come to terms with duality, ambivalence, and strife, to move toward a philosophical perspective on life (p. 246).


Example 1 - Secondary Citation Paraphrasing Secondary Source (i.e., Meade)

            According to Meade, people are enabled in developing a philosophical viewpoint regarding duality, ambivalence, and hardship through                    stories (as cited in Restrepo & Davis, 2003).

Example 2 - Secondary Citation Quoting Secondary Source (i.e., Meade)

(Stories) help people come to terms with duality, ambivalence, and strife, to move toward a philosophical perspective on life” (Meade, 1995, p. 246, as cited in Restrepo & Davis, 2003, p. 45).


Watch this 2-minute video about secondary source citations in APA 7th edition format.

Bethel University CPS Online Library Services. (2020, March 11). APA secondary citations [Video]. YouTube.

If you need to read captions or slow down the speed of the video, go to the CC icon (captions) and the settings icon (playback speed):

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