I have run into a problem in biblatex-apa that has previously been discussed here: citing -- within the same parentheses -- multiple author groups that abbreviate to the same (Smith et al.), yet actually refer to different groups and different years. Here's my demonstration of this issue:

incorrect version

But: When I use the workaround proposed by moewe in 2013, I get the following, which might be correct:

correct version

Question 1: Is this fix actually correct (as per APA style)? Unfortunately, I cannot find any other reference to this problem online. I believe that moewe's fix nails it. But does it?

Question 2: Has anyone used this fix in large documents (without running into any other errors that such an interference with the package might cause)?

Question 3: I am wondering whether Philip Kime (plk) has ever implemented an official (APA compliant) solution to this problem!?

I know this is a somewhat bulky and complicated issue, but any help would be greatly appreciated!

  • One thing I can say is that in your example you have exactly three names and the APA style guide notes in an exception that "If two references of more than three surnames with the same year shorten to the same form (e.g., both Ireys, Chernoff, DeVet, & Kim, 2001, and Ireys, Chernoff, Stein, DeVet, & Silver, 2001, shorten to Ireys et al., 2001), cite the surnames of the first authors and of as many of the subsequent authors as necessary to distinguish the two references, followed by a comma and at at." So in a way cases with three authors are left untreated.
    – moewe
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 14:42
  • Note also the comment in the biblatex-apa documentation about the citations 6.12i and 6.12j: "Automatic list disambiguation is only for ambiguous author lists in the same year so these are not disambiguated." So I believe that the behaviour you see with unpatched biblatex-apa is closest to what the APA guide says (whether is is the best way to deal with citations like this is another issue entirely).
    – moewe
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 14:43
  • Any news here? What should an answer to this question look like?
    – moewe
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 6:00
  • @moewe: Sorry for the terrible delay. But I am pretty sure your solution is correct. See my answer below...
    – Robsson
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 14:19

1 Answer 1


Regarding Question 1: Correct as per APA style?

I believe that the examples and rules described under 6.16 in the APA Manual (6th ed.) indeed suggest that moewe’s solution gives us what the APA wants in such cases. The manual says that we must sort multiple citations within the same parentheses, “including citations that would otherwise shorten to et al.” (p. 177), in the same order as in the reference list. And that is, of course, alphabetically. An exception from this rule is the case of "works by the same authors (in the same order)" (p. 178). These are migrated and sorted by year (“Bauer et al., 2001, 2016”). If, however, two works shorten to the same term ("Smith et al." in my above example), yet do not represent the same authors (let alone the same authors in the same order), the criteria of the exception are not met. Therefore, the special rule of combining citations and sorting them by year cannot be applied here. As a consequence, the superordinate rule (sort multiple citations within the same parentheses alphabetically) should be used. And that would indeed give us “Smith et al., 2016; Smith et al., 2001”.

Regarding Question 2: Use fix in a large document?

I have implemented moewe’s fix in a large document - and it works perfectly and does not interfere with any other procedure in biblatex-apa.

Regarding Qustion 3: Official solution in the package?

Philip Kime has told me that this correction has indeed been implemented in a more recent version of biblatex-apa (probably 6.8).

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