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Citing sources -- APA

Citing sources -- APA

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Dan4th Nicholas. (2010, Oct. 30). Citation Needed. Retrieved from Used under the Creative Commons License.

Whenever you write a paper, you draw from existing sources of information.  It is important to acknowledge those sources when you write your own paper.  But how exactly do you write an acknowledgement of a source you incorporated into your paper?  What does a source citation look like?

The 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association -- commonly referred to as the APA guide or the APA style guide -- offers a comprehensive presentation of the guidelines used by the APA to acknowledge these cited sources.  (And yes, the APA style is used by many different disciplines, not just psychology).

Furthermore, chapters 8 through 10 of the Manual offer sample citations, which illustrate example variations on different types of citation.  That said, the 7th edition makes explicit a particularly salient guideline that was (at best) only hinted at in previous editions -- that it is entirely appropriate to apply general principles described through the citation style to individual sources where the form of how the source should be cited is not clear or obvious.  More specifically, this edition presents templates describing how to formulate certain broad categories of citation -- book, book chapter, journal article, etc.  In their words,

If you do not see an example that matches the work you want to cite, use the template for the applicable reference category as a starting point for writing the reference list entry.  Then select the appropriate option from each column.  Mix and match elements within a template; it is not necessary to use multiple templates (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, p. 314). 

Despite the statement that "it is not necessary to use multiple templates," the guidance of applying general principles would seem to transcend the APA's templates.  For example, section 10.12 of the Manual, which covers audiovisual works, does not include an example of an audiovisual work produced by a corporate entity.  It would seem logical to apply the corporate authorship guidelines from sections 10.1 and 10.3 to such a citation.

With this principle in mind, the following guide can help you write citations in the APA style.  It is, however, no substitute for the guide itself, which is the ultimate authority on the style, and offers more example citations than are listed here.  This guide merely summarizes the most common forms of APA citation, and uses them to illustrate the general principles of the style, which the APA itself says are intended to be adapted to individual sources.


Publication Manual website

Publication Manual blog

How many parts are in an APA citation?

Citations consist of two parts:

  • A quick note in the text of your paper anytime you use an existing source of information.  The "in-text citations" tab above shows you how to include a note in the text of your paper when you use a source.
  • A complete list of the sources you used at the end of your paper.  The tabs above will show you how to present a webpage, article, book, encyclopedia, or DVD in the list of references at the end of your paper.  General guidelines on how you present a your list of references include:
    • Reference list starts on a new page. Type the word "References" centered at the top of the page.
    • Double-space all reference list entries
    • The first line of each reference is set at the left margin and subsequent lines are indented ½ inch
    • Arrange alphabetically, not by format (book, journal, etc)
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