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APA Citation Guide

Guide to using the American Psychological Association citation format.

Getting Started

The American Psychological Association (APA) citation format is widely used in disciplines within the social and behavioral sciences, such as Psychology, Sociology, Economics, Criminology, Business and Nursing. It sets out rules and standards for the preparation of manuscripts for publication, the writing of bibliography of references and in-text citations, the avoidance of plagiarism and more.

Whether you are a professional writer, student, researcher or professional in a field within these disciplines, the APA style guide is a valuable tool for writing scientific papers, laboratory reports, and papers. 





Ask 4 basic questions when constructing a reference:

1. Who?
The author, whether it is an individual author, a corporate or organizational author.
2. When?
Typically the year the source was published.
3. What?
Generally the title of the source.
4. Where?
Retrieval or publication information.

Generic References

Who is responsible for this content?

  • One person or several people who have served as authors or editors.
  • Governments, associations, agencies, companies.

No Author
Most commonly occurs for wiki entries, dictionary entries and unattributed website content.

How to determine the date element?

  • Books and Journal Articles

Date = Year of Publication (usually found on the copyright page of books and first page of journal articles).

  • Magazines, newsletters, and newspapers

Include the year and exact date of the publication (month or month and day). Weeklies like Nature, Science and The Lancet - use month, day, and year.

  • Websites

Many websites or webpages do not include publication dates. If no date of publication is provided, use the letters n.d. (which stand for “no date”). The copyright date on the website itself should not be used as the publication date for particular content on that site.

What is a Title?

Journal Articles, Journals, Book Chapters, Books


When to Italicize the Title?

General rule: Italicize the parent element. Journal article: Article (child element) is contained within journal (parent element), so article title is not italicized but the journal title is. Book chapters, follow the same pattern.

Where should a reader go to locate the reference you used?

Periodicals (Journals, newsletters, magazines): Location is the volume and issue. Include DOI or URL if it's an online article. 
Books, Reports: Name and Location of the Publisher (city and state or, outside the United States - city and country).

In-Text Citations

The Basics

APA uses the author-date method, that is, author’s last name and year of publication.
(Jones, 1998)

When to Quote?

Use direct quotations selectively to be effective.
You would quote directly:

  • To support or refute a claim
  • To analyze a passage
  • To provide proof of your own claim
  • When something is said in a striking or unique way
  • When using a term that has been coined by the source’s author

Short Quotations

Include author, year of publication and page number.
According to Fossel (2014), “Whenever we try to control something that we cannot comprehend, such as nature, there will be no end of trouble” (p. 33).
Fossel (2014) found that “there will be no end of trouble” (p. 33), whenever we try to subdue nature.
He stated, “Whenever we try to control something that we cannot comprehend, such as nature, there will be no end of trouble” (Fossel, 2014, p. 33), and then offers an explanation as to why.

Long Quotations

  • Place direct quotations that are 40 words, or longer, in a block and omit quotation marks.
  • Start the quotation on a new line, indented ½ inch from the left margin.
  • Keep the entire quotation indented.
  • Maintain double spacing throughout.
  • Parenthetical citation comes after the closing punctuation mark.

Fossel’s (2014) study found the following: 

Land that’s been conventionally farmed cannot be certified organic for three years. During that time, it’s considered to be in transition. But while chemical detoxification can take three years, that may be just the beginning in terms of fertility. It’s impossible to say with any certainty because of all the variables. (p. 35)

Square Brackets

Use square brackets to insert changes, additions, or explanations into a quotation. However, when you change capitalization at the beginning of a quotation, punctuation at the end of a quotation, or double quotation marks to single within a quotation, square brackets are not required.

Commenting on the writing process, Stewart, Bullock, and Allen (2006) said, “We must recognize that their [professional writers’] method is almost always to write out a rough draft, let it sit for a while, and then submit it to a process of revision and fine tuning” (p. 64).

Ellipsis Points

Use ellipsis points (three periods with a space before and after each period) if you omit part of the original text.

Qiao et al. (2018) pointed out that “small-scale farmers . . . mainly produced for themselves and only had a small portion of their production left for sale before organic farming was introduced” (p. 305).

Exception: Use four periods (literally a period and three ellipsis points) if you omit words between two sentences.
Qiao et al. (2018) noted that “while training is important . . . . village or township leaders as well as governmental extension workers played the most important role in the learning and adaptation of new agricultural techniques” (p. 304).

Two Authors

When citing a work by two authors, name both authors in the signal phrase or in the parentheses each time you cite the work. Use the word “and” between the authors’ names within the text and use the ampersand in the parentheses.


Research by Huang and Lee (2014) supports …

(Huang & Lee, 2014)

Three to Five Authors

When citing a work by three to five authors, list only the first author's last name, followed by "et al." in every citation. Do rtake note of the full stop after "al".


(Peng et al., 2017)

Peng et al. (2017) posit...

If you're citing multiple works with similar authors, you'll need to list more names to avoid ambiguity.


(Peng. Jones, Smith, et al., 2017)

(Peng. Jones, Lee, et al., 2017)

Six or More Authors

Six or More Authors: Use the first author's name followed by et al. in the signal phrase or in parentheses. 


Jones et al. (2001) argued...

(Jones et al., 2001)

Unknown Author

If the work does not have an author, cite the source by its title in the signal phrase or use the first word or two in the parentheses. Titles of books and reports are italicized or underlined; titles of articles, chapters, and web pages are in quotation marks.


Opting to go green as a lifestyle choice can become a profitable business ("Green essentials," 2012).

Organization as an Author

If the author is an organization or a government agency, mention the organization in the signal phrase or in the parenthetical citation the first time you cite the source. According to the American Psychological Association (2000),... If the organization has a well-known abbreviation, include the abbreviation in brackets the first time the source is cited and then use only the abbreviation in later citations.


First citation: (World Health Organization [WHO], 2013)

Second citation: (WHO, 2013)

If you use a source that was cited in another source, name the original source in your signal phrase. List the secondary source in your reference list and include the secondary source in the parentheses.

For interviews, letters, e-mails, and other person-to-person communication between you and someone, cite the communicator's name, the fact that it was personal communication, and the date of the communication. Do NOT include personal communication in the reference list.


(L. Tan, personal communication, January 4, 2018).

M. K. Lim said that for the freshest produce, we should buy local (personal communication, November 13, 2017).

If possible, cite an electronic document the same as any other document by using the author-date style.

Kenneth (2000) explained...

Two or More Works in the Same Parentheses

When your parenthetical citation includes two or more works, order them the same way they appear in the reference list (viz., alphabetically), separated by a semi-colon.


(Miller, 2008; O’Connell, 2015)

Unknown Author and Unknown Date

If no author or date is given, use the title in your signal phrase or the first word or two of the title in the parentheses and use the abbreviation "n.d." (for "no date").


Another study of students and research decisions discovered that students succeeded with tutoring ("Tutoring and Improving," n.d.).

No Page Numbers

When an electronic source lacks page numbers, you should try to include information that will help readers find the passage being cited. When an electronic document has numbered paragraphs, use the abbreviation "para." followed by the paragraph number.

If the paragraphs are not numbered and the document includes headings, provide the appropriate heading and specify the paragraph under that heading. Note that in some electronic sources, like Web pages, people can use the Find function in their browser to locate any passages you cite.


The period of Japanese occupation imposed strict censorship and obstacles to the growth of the Korean film industry, culminating in a complete ban of Korean-speaking films in 1942 (Kim, 2017, para. 2).

Note: Never use the page numbers of Web pages you print out; different computers print Web pages with different pagination.


Your essay should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.

APA 7 provides slightly different directions for formatting the title pages of

1) Professional papers for example papers that are written for submission to a scholarly publication. 

2) Student papers for example papers that are written for submission for a student assignment to a specific module. 

For a Professional paper 

The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. A professional paper should also include the author note. Include the page header, flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page.

For a Student paper

A student paper should also contain the title of the paper, the author's name but include the course number and nameinstructor name, and assignment due date.

For examples of both the above formatting click here 

Basic Rules

  • Always start your reference on a new page. 

  • Make sure to double space the list. 

  • Reference list entries should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each work.

  • All lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list should be indented one-half inch from the left margin. This is called hanging indentation.

  • Authors' names are inverted (last name first); give the last name and initials for all authors of a particular work for up to and including seven authors.

  • If the work has more than twenty authors, list the first twenty authors and then use ellipses after the sixth author's name. After the ellipses, list the last author's name of the work.

  • Capitalize all major words in journal titles. When referring to books, chapters, articles, or Web pages, capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a title and subtitle, the first word after a colon or a dash in the title, and proper nouns.

  • Italicize the titles of these works: books, audiovisual material, internet documents and newspapers, and the title and volume number of journals and magazines.
  • Do not italicize titles of most parts of works, such as: articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals / essays, poems, short stories or chapter titles from a book / chapters or sections of an Internet document.
  • In titles of non-periodicals (books, videotapes, websites, reports, poems, essays, chapters, etc), capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a title and subtitle, and all proper nouns (names of people, places, organizations, nationalities).
  • If a web source (not from the library) is not a stable archived version, or you are unsure whether it is stable, include a statement of the accessed date before the link. 

For more information on Reference example, please click here

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