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APA Citation Guide

Guide to using the American Psychological Association citation format.

About this guide

About this guide

Welcome to our APA Citation Format Research Guide


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

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

You may also look at the Teaching and Learning Academic Integrity site for more information on plagiarism and citation. 

Understanding citation

APA uses the Author-Date Citation System

 All academic papers written in the APA style format have two parts: 

To better understand the APA citation format, you can take the Academic Writer Tutorial to learn the basics of the APA 7th Edition citation format. 

You can also try your hand at this Research Article Activity created by APA. This activity will help students learn how to find, cite, analyse, and summarise a scholarly research article. For each step of the action, type your responses directly into the text fields provided, or copy the questions into your preferred word-processing program and answer them there. Complete this activity multiple times to help you write papers such as literature reviews.

In-Text Citations

In-Text Citations

For more information on how to cite ChatGPT, go to this APA blog; also refer to the Teaching and Learning Centre's Academic Integrity PDF  

How you cite the author element in the in-text citation depends on how many authors there are and who the author is 


  • For works with one of two authors 

When citing a work by one or two authors, name the author or authors in the signal phrase or 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.




  • For works with three or more authors 

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



  • For works with an unknown author 

If the work doesn't have an author, include the title of the work and the year of publication in the in-text citation. However, consider the work's credibility, especially if you cannot find the author. 


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


  • For works where the agency, organisation or group is the author 

If the author is an agency, organisation, or group, mention the name of the agency, organisation or group and then the year. If the organisation 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.


According to APA, a secondary source is "a secondary source refers to content first reported in another source."

For example, if you read a work by Lyon et al. (2014) in which Rabbitt (1982) was cited, and you were unable to read Rabbitt’s work yourself, cite Rabbitt’s work as the original source, followed by Lyon et al.’s work as the secondary source. Only Lyon et al.’s work appear in the reference list.


For more information on secondary sources, go to the APA page

According to APA, personal communication refers to:

  • emails
  • text messages
  • direct messages
  • personal interviews
  • telephone conversations
  • live speeches
  • non-archived social media live streams (e.g., Instagram Live, Twitter Spaces)
  • unrecorded webinars
  • unrecorded classroom lectures
  • memos
  • letters
  • messages from non-archived discussion groups or online bulletin boards,

You can use a personal communication citation only when a recoverable source is unavailable.


For more information on personal communication, go to the APA page. 


According to APA, a classroom source includes works from a classroom website or learning management system (e.g., Canvas or Blackboard). These sources can be cited as classroom sources because they are recoverable by the instructor and fellow students. 

  • For PowerPoint slides from a class 



  • For study guides

The citation for your study guide can be found in the study guide itself 

There are specific ways to present tables and figures in APA format; to learn more about these ways, go to the APA website

Occasionally, you may not be able to find information to complete the in-text citation. In such cases, this table from Scribbr will help. 

  • For missing author, date and page number 


You can get more help writing in-text citations when information is missing from this West Cost University Library guide. 

  • When to Quote?

Use direct quotations rather than paraphrasing:

  • when reproducing an exact definition 
  • when an author has said something memorably or succinctly, or
  • when you want to respond to exact wording (e.g., something someone said).

Instructors, programs, editors, and publishers may establish limits on the use of direct quotations. Consult your instructor if you are concerned that your paper may have too much-quoted material.


  • Short Quotations

Short quotations should consist of at most 40 words. 

The short quotation should include the following:

  • quotation marks around the words
  • incorporate the quote into your text

There is no additional formatting needed. Do not insert an ellipsis at the beginning and end of a quotation unless the original source includes an ellipsis.

Here is an example from the APA website 


  • Block Quotations

Block quotations should consist of more than 40 words 

Format quotations of 40 words or more as block quotations:

  • Do not use quotation marks to enclose a block quotation.
  • Start a block quotation on a new line and indent the whole block 0.5 in. from the left margin.
  • Double-space the entire block quotation.
  • Do not add extra space before or after it.
  • If additional paragraphs are within the quotation, indent the first line of each subsequent paragraph an additional 0.5 in. 
  • Either (a) cite the source in parentheses after the quotation’s final punctuation or (b) cite the author and year in the narrative before the quotation and place only the page number in parentheses after the quotation’s final punctuation.
  • Do not add a period after the closing parenthesis in either case.

Here is an example from the APA website 

For more information on how to cite with quotations, visit the APA Style Quotation website 

You can also use this In-Text Citation Checklist (PDF, 227KB) to check if you have cited your references correctly. 

Reference List Entry

Creating reference list entries

A reference list entry in the APA citation format generally has four elements: 

  • author: Who is responsible for this work?
  • date: When was this work published?
  • title: What is this work called?
  • source: Where can I retrieve this work?

If you want to view a complete list of reference examples from the APA website, click here

Here are some related PDFs on how to create reference entries 

Reference Examples

Author of AI Model. (Year of version used). Name of tool (Version of tool) [Large language model]. URL

Example: OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Jul 20 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai/com/chat


For more information, go to How to cite ChatGPT or refer to the Teaching and Learning Centre's Examples of Responsible Uses of Generative AI Tools


All papers in APA format generally include

Depending on the assignment, the paper may include additional elements, such as tables and figures. Student papers generally only have an abstract if requested.

Arrange the pages in this order:

  • title page 
  • abstract (if requested) 
  • text
  • references
  • tables (if applicable 
  • figures (if applicable) 
  • appendices (if applicable) 

The APA website has some sample papers for you to view. 

A variety of fonts are permitted in APA Style papers. However, these fonts should be legible and widely available. 

Use the same font throughout your paper, with the following exceptions:

  • figures: Within figure images, use a sans serif font with a type size between 8 and 14 points.
  • computer code: To present computer code, use a monospace font such as 10-point Lucida Console or 10-point Courier New.
  • footnotes: When inserting footnotes with the footnotes function of your word-processing program, use the default font settings. The footnote font might be smaller than the text font (and have different line spacing), and it is unnecessary to change it.


Style guidelines ensure clear, consistent communication and presentation in written works. Following style guidelines prevents inconsistencies among and within academic papers, journal articles, and book chapters.

In the APA citation format, there are guidelines for the following: 

  • punctuation 
  • spelling and hyphenation 
  • capitalisation 
  • numbers 
  • italics and quotation marks 
  • abbreviations
  • lists 

To learn more about the mechanics of style, click here

Other APA Guides