How to Cite Sources in APA Format

APA format specifies how citations should appear in-text.
In-text citations should also follow proper APA format. Image: Kory Twaites

When you are writing an APA paper, you will often need to refer to works by other people. This may involve describing research conducted by psychologists, paraphrasing another writer, or including a direct quotation from another work. Proper APA citing demonstrates that you are familiar with the research on your topic, that your sources have been accurately documented and that you own conclusions are backed up by solid evidence.

Your in-text citations are just as important as your reference section. APA format establishes a number of clear rules for how to cite works using author information. The specific format of your in-text citations will vary depending upon the source and the number of authors to whom the source is attributed.

Citing Your Sources in APA Format

All of the sources that you use in your paper should be cited in two ways. First, an in-text citation should be used wherever you refer to another source in the body of your paper. This is often accomplished by including the name of the source’s author and the publication year.

The second way that sources should be cited in APA format is to include a reference section at the end of your paper that provides the full reference for any and every source that was cited in the body of your paper. Always remember, if you cited a source in your paper, it must also be included in the reference section.

How to Cite Authors In APA Format

No Author:

While most articles, books, and other reference materials will include an author attribution, some sources lack information on authorship. How to you cite these resources in APA format? In-text citations should use a short article title enclosed in parentheses and the date.

When article titles are long, simply use the first word or two of the title.

For example:

The study revealed a strong positive correlation between the two variables ("Learn APA," 2006).

One Author:

When a book, article or other source lists only one author, simply provide the author's last name followed by the publication date.

For example:

...students demonstrated solid understanding of the concepts and information (Jones, 2001).

or

Jones (2001) found that students demonstrated a solid understanding of the concepts and information.

Two Authors:

When a source lists two authors, your in-text citations should provide the last names of both authors and the publication date.

For example:

...later studies demonstrated a similar effect (Ross & Hudson, 2004).

or

Ross and Hudson (2004) found a similar effect in later studies.

Three to Six Authors:

Proper APA format for sources with three to six authors requires listing the last names of all authors the first time you cite the source as well as the publication date.

For example:

...results indicated a strong positive correlation between the two variables (Robsen, Hutchkins, Ru, & Selanis, 1989).

or

Robsen, Hutchkins, Ru, & Selanis (1989) found a strong positive correlation between the two variables.

Subsequent citations should list only the last name of the first author along with the publication date.

Robsen (1989) demonstrated the affects of...

or

..in a study demonstrating these effects (Robsen, et al., 1989).

Seven or More Authors:

Listing the last name of the first author as well as the publication date should cite sources with more than seven authors.

For example:

...students demonstrated competence after reading about APA format (Smith et al., 2005).

or

Smith et al., (2005) found that...

Organizations as Authors:

How do you create an in-text citation in APA format when the author is an organization or entity? Always include the full name of the organization the first time you cite the source in-text. The citation should also include the acronym of the organization if one is available. Subsequent citations can simply list the acronym and the publication date.

For example:

The American Psychological Association (2000) reported that...

or

...found that students responded positively (American Psychological Association [APA], 2000).

and subsequent citations

(APA, 2000).

Be sure to check your references and citations using the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

How to Cite Books in APA Format

The APA citing format you use for books can vary depending upon the number of authors that are listed.

If a book has just one author, simply provide the author’s last name followed by the publication date. In cases where then are more than six authors, the last name and first initial of the first listed author should be used, followed by "et al.".

For example:

...students demonstrated competence after reading about APA format (Smith et al., 2005).

or

Smith et al., (2005) found that...

APA Citing for Articles in Journals, Magazines, and Other Periodicals

When you are citing articles in an academic journal, magazine, newspapers or other periodicals, you should follow the author-date format. APA citing should include the author's last name, followed by the date of publication.

For example:

...as Smith and Jones (2005) described...

or

...the study found a statistically significant relationship between the two variables (Smith & Jones, 2005).

In some instances, a publication might not have a listed author. Include the short title of the article followed by the date of publication.

For example:

...the findings were contradicted previous research on the subject ("New Research," 2009).

Citing Articles with No Author:

In cases where no author is listed, include the short title of the article followed by the date of publication.

For example:

...the findings were consistent with previous research ("New Study," 2003).

If you use a direct quotation, your APA citing should always include the page number where the source can be found. In cases where you are citing an organization such as the American Psychological Association (APA), spell out the entire name the first time you cite the source. All further citations should use the appropriate acronym.

APA Citing for Electronic Sources

The exact format you use for APA citing of electronic media depends on the type of source that is used. In many cases, the format will be very similar to that of books or journal articles, but you should also include the URL of the source and the date it was accessed in the reference section. Learn more in this article on how to cite electronic sources in APA format.

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