Concise Guide to APA Style

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There are 3 parts to APA style:

  • Format (spacing, margins, etc.)
  • In-text citations (aka parenthetical citations)
  • The Reference List


A. Citing Your Sources

A research paper includes ideas and facts gathered from other sources. As you write your paper, you will summarize, paraphrase, or quote directly from these sources. To let your reader know that you have taken information from someplace else, you must give credit to your sources through proper documentation, i.e. you must cite your sources.   What must be cited?


Any information that was not originally created by you:

  • Quotations and opinions, whether directly quoted or paraphrased
  • Key terms or phrases
  • Ideas
  • Case studies
  • Another author's direct experimental methods or results
  • Another author's specialized research procedures or findings
  • Facts and statistics not broadly known
  • Images and Sounds

Any material from another source regardless of where you found it:

  • Printed sources
  • Electronic sources
  • Conversation or email
  • Recorded sources
  • Images
  • Your own thoughts and ideas
  • Your own research or experiment
  • Common Knowledge. For example:

-- dates of the American Civil War
-- the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution concerns freedom of speech
-- Napoleon's army was decimated by the winter march on Moscow in 1812


B. Documentation style

When citing your sources, you must follow a prescribed format known as a documentation style (sometimes called a citation style). The two most common documentation styles are:

• MLA style (Modern Language Association)
• APA style (American Psychological Association)

MLA style is commonly used for research papers in English and humanities courses, while APA style is often used in psychology and the social sciences.

The precise format (i.e. punctuation rules) for citing sources (along with other information about the mechanics of writing and presenting your research paper) is described in books called style manuals. A style manual will tell you how to cite a source within the body of your paper (either through a parenthetical reference or a footnote), and how to cite them in a bibliography at the end of your paper. (A bibliography is an alphabetical list of all of the sources cited in your paper.) Style manuals are available as separately published books, and summaries of documentation styles are available on the Internet.


C. How to cite a work within the text of your paper:
APA style for in-text citations

To give credit to authors whose words or ideas you are using in your paper, you must provide brief author-date citations within the text of your paper. These "in-text citations" help your reader know who said the words you quoted or paraphrased, and locate the full information about that source on your alphabetical reference list page in case the reader wishes to consult the sources you've used. In other words, in-text citations and the reference list work together. In-text citations provide at least the author's last name and the date of publication.



Ordinarily, introduce the quotation with a signal phrase* that includes the author's last name followed by the year of publication in parentheses. Put the page number (preceded by "p.") in parentheses after the quotation.

Critser (2003) noted that despite growing numbers of overweight
Americans, many health care providers still "remain either in
ignorance or outright denial about the health danger to the poor
and the young" (p. 5).

If the author is not named in the signal phrase, place the author's name, the year, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation:

Confusing this issue is the overlapping nature of roles in palliative care,
whereby "medical needs are met by those in the medical disciplines; nonmedical
needs may be addressed by anyone on the team" (Critser, 2003, p. 7).

Note: *A signal phrase alerts your reader that you are integrating someone else's ideas or words into your writing.  This is usually done with a phrase that includes the author's name and a verb.  For example: Peritz argued, Neely claimed, Yancey speculated, Obama suggested, Morris described.  In the example above, the signal phrase is "Critser (2003) noted...."

2. in-text citation for a summary or paraphrase

Include the author's last name and the year either in a signal phrase introducing the material or in parentheses following it.


The sibutramine study by Berkowitz et al. (2003) noted elevated blood pressure as a
side effect (p. 1809).


Elevated blood pressure is a side effect of taking sibutramine (Berkowitz et al., 2003,
p. 1809).


According to Carmona (2004), the cost of treating obesity is
exceeded only by the cost of treating illnesses from tobacco use
(para. 9).


The cost of treating obesity is exceeded only by the cost of
treating illnesses from tobacco use (Carmona, 2004, para. 9).


  • Each reference cited in your text must appear in the reference list.
  • The reference list is on a separate page.
  • The word "References" should appear in upper and lowercase letters, centered, bolded.
  • Double-space all entries.
  • The first line of each entry is set flush left, and subsequent lines are indented.
  • Arrange in alphabetical order by the last name of the author.
  • In general, each entry contains:

*  author's name
-- last name, comma, initials:

Anderson, A. K.

*  date of publication
-- after the author(s), give the year the work was published, in parentheses

Anderson, A. K. (2005).

* title of the work
-- capitalize only the first word of the title and any proper nouns:

Anderson, A. K. (2005). Affective influences on the attentional
     dynamics supporting awareness.

* publication information
-- for a journal, give the periodical title and volume number in italics. Include the
journal issue number in parentheses after the volume number, but don't italicize it.
-- give page numbers

Anderson, A. K. (2005). Affective influences on the attentional
     dynamics supporting awareness. Journal of Experimental
     Psychology, General, 134(2), 258-281.




You have 2 choices, depending on how you found the article:

1) Give the home page URL of the journal. No retrieval date is needed.
Type: "Retrieved from http://....."

2) State that you retrieved it from a database.
Type: "Retrieved from ProQuest Psychology Journals database."


2 options:

Beck, A. T. (2008). The evolution of the cognitive model of depression
     and it neurobiological correlates. The American Journal of
     Psychiatry, 165(8), 969-977. Retrieved from

Beck, A. T. (2008). The evolution of the cognitive model of depression
     and it neurobiological correlates. The American Journal of
     Psychiatry, 165(8), 969-977. Retrieved from ProQuest Psychology
     Journals database.


List as many of the following elements as are available.

Author's name

Date of publication (if there is no date, use "n.d.")

Title of document

Date of retrieval

A URL that will take readers directly to the source


Cain, A., & Burris, M. (1999, April). Investigation of the use of mobile
     phones while driving. Retrieved January 15, 2000, from

Archer, D. (n.d.). Exploring nonverbal communication. Retrieved
     January 15, 2000, from

Note: If a source has no author, begin with the title and follow it with the date in parentheses: For example:

New child vaccine gets funding boost. (2001). Retrieved January 15, 2000,

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