Academic writing is full of idiosyncrasies, one of which being the Latin abbreviation ‘et al’. The term et al means ‘and others’ and is often used in academic literature to abbreviate a list of authors’ names. For this reason, using et al in your in-text citation allows your references to be shorter. It also helps them appear tidier if you are referring to the same citation numerous times in your work.

Whether or not you can use et al is determined by the number of authors in your citation. Where you have three or fewer authors, you will need to list all the authors in both your in-text citation and reference list.

However, when a source has four or more authors you can list the first author followed by et al. in your in-text citation. In your reference list however, you will need to list all of the authors (even if there are 20 or more of them!).

Here’s an example with three or fewer authors:

In-text citation:

Macdonald, Kleinaltenkamp and Wilson (2016)


Macdonald, E. K., Kleinaltenkamp, M. and Wilson, H. N. (2016) ‘How business customers judge solutions: Solution quality and value in use’, Journal of Marketing, 80 (3), pp. 96-120.

… and with four or more authors:

In-text citation:

Baines et al. (2014)


Baines, P., Crawford, I., O’Shaughnessy, N., Worcester, R. and Mortimore, R. (2014) ‘Positioning in political marketing: How semiotic analysis adds value to traditional survey approaches’, Journal of Marketing Management. 30 (1-2), pp. 172-200.

For more information on referencing, check out the Author-Date Referencing Guide.

As always, if you have any questions about referencing, please contact MIRC or the Kings Norton Library.

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