APA Citations

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APA citations are used mostly in social and psychological science papers.

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Referencing is very important when writing research papers. In some cases, we may even need to directly quote from another source so as to complement statements we have made in our paper. This is when the knowledge of proper citation comes handy.

Referencing is very important when writing research papers. In some cases, we may even need to directly quote from another source so as to complement statements we have made in our paper. This is when the knowledge of proper citation comes handy.

Being able to properly cite all our sources is crucial as this spares us from charges of plagiarism. Citing works of others builds our paper's credibility. So when you do, it is important that you properly and accurately document all the source materials you have used.

When writing APA Citations, you should make use of the author-date method of in-text citation. In this method, the author's last name and the year of the source material's publication enclosed in parentheses should appear in the text, most of the time at the end of the sentence. It should also follow that a complete reference appears in the Reference List at the end of your paper.

Here are a couple of examples of APA Citations in text:

….fatty acid composition (Sargeant, 2007).

…covered over by development (Clayton, 2000).

In many scientific disciplines, several variations of the author-date style are being used. Here are other variations of APA citations:

…Sargeant (2007), found that the fatty acid composition….

Clayton (2000) said those rivers have since been covered over by development.

It should also be noted that APA citations should be written in past tense or present perfect tense when using signal phrases to describe earlier research. An example of this would be:

Smith (2000) stated that…


Smith (2000) has stated that…

Here are further guidelines in writing APA citations:

  • Capitalization. Always capitalize proper nouns such as author names and initials. (eg. A. Smith).

    If you're referring to the title of a source in your paper, capitalize all words of the title that are at least four letters long except short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs. Here are some properly formatted APA citations:

    Clean - Soil, Air, Water

    Sociology of Religion

    There Is Nothing Left to Lose

    Writing New Media

    When capitalizing titles, make sure you capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word, such as:

    Natural-Born Killers

    Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

    For titles with dash or colons, capitalize the first word that follows as in this example:

    Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of the Hitchcock's Vertigo
  • Italics/Underlining. For APA citations of titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums, italicize or underline them:
    When I Met Your Mother

    The Closing of the American Mind

    On the other hand, for titles of shorter works such as journal articles, articles from edited collections, episodes of television series, and song titles, put quotation marks around them:

    "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry"

    "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"

  • Short Quotations. When directly quoting somebody else's work, include the author, the year of publication, as well as the page number of the reference material preceded by "p." Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that mentions the author's last name followed by the year of publication enclosed in parentheses. Here's an example:
    According to Clayton (2000), "Several rivers aside from the Thames once intersected London, although those rivers have since been covered over by development" (p.28).

    If the author's name is not mentioned in a signal phrase, place the author's last name, year of publication and the page number in parentheses after the quotation:

    He said, "Several rivers aside from the Thames once intersected London, although those rivers have since been covered over by development" (Clayton, 2000, p.28).
  • Long Quotations. APA citations for direct quotations longer than 40 words, place them in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. The quotation should start on a new line, indented five spaces from the left margin.

    The entire quotation should be typed on the new margin, indenting the first line of every subsequent paragraph within the quotation, again five spaces from the new margin. Double-spacing should be observed all through out the quotation, just like the rest of the research paper. Parenthetical citation then comes after the closing punctuation mark. Here's an example of APA citation of a long quotation:

    Jones's (1998) study found the following:
      Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many students failed to purchase a style manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)
  • Summary or Paraphrase. If you will be paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and date of publication in your in-text APA citation. Although it is not required, APA guidelines encourage you to still provide the page number:
    According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners. APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).
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Reference List

A Reference List provides all the information needed for your readers to locate and retrieve any source you cited in the body of your research paper. Each entry or source you cited in your paper should appear in the list and it also follows that each entry in your Reference List should be properly cited in your text. The Reference List appears at the end of the paper and should begin on a new page, separate from the body of your paper. Furthermore, your Reference List should follow these guidelines:

  • Label. Reference List page should be labeled "References" at the top of the page, unformatted. Meaning, the word "References" should not be in italics, underlined, bold or enclosed in quotation marks.
  • Spacing. All text should be double-spaced just like the rest of your paper.
  • Indentation. Hanging indention should be observed. Meaning, all lines after the first line of each of your entries in the Reference List should be indented half-inch from the left margin.
  • Entries. All Reference List entries should be in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author of each source. Author names are inverted (last name stated first).
  1. For multiple authors, give the last name and initials for all authors unless the source has more than six authors.
  2. If the work has more than six authors, list the first six authors than make use of et al. after the sixth name to indicate all the remaining authors.
  3. If you have cited more than one work written by the same author, single-author references or multiple-author references with the same exact authors in the exact same order should be listed in order by the year of publication, starting with the earliest work.
  4. Making reference to works that are not journals, such as books, 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, as well as proper nouns. Also, there's no need to capitalize the first letter of the second word in a hyphenated compound word.
  5. In journal titles, capitalize all major words.
  6. In edited collections of journal articles and essays, do not italicize, underline or put quotation marks around titles of shorter works.
Full reference: 

Explorable.com (Aug 12, 2009). APA Citations. Retrieved Jul 22, 2024 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/apa-citations

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