Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

APA Style Guide With Referencing and Formatting Tips

Although APA 6 style is used primarily in college and post-graduate studies, it is possible that your high school instructors will ask you to use this editorial style. APA citation follows the author-date format, which makes it easy to follow sources by looking for the author and the year of publication. 

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Overview of APA Style

APA style was developed by the American Psychological Association to standardize the research and writing process for these fields:

  • Education
  • Social sciences
  • Behavioral sciences

Most middle and high school students will use MLA style format for their humanities classes; however, your teacher may ask you to use APA style. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition is currently used; however, a new version is being published soon.

Formatting an APA Style Paper

Formatting your APA style paper follows formal guidelines including font choice, margin size and page numbers. If your teacher doesn’t give you other instructions, follow these guidelines for formatting your APA paper:

  • Double space all text (even citations on your reference page).
  • Set 1-inch margins all around: top, bottom, left, and right.
  • Choose Times New Roman – 12 point font.
  • Do not justify lines; use flush-left style.
  • Indent paragraphs; the first line should be indented by five spaces.

Include:

  • Cover page
  • Abstract
  • Reference list

 

Note: Always follow your teacher’s instructions, even if they differ from the above guidelines.

 

In-Text Citation Format

Student adding APA style Bibliography to research paper

APA citation format follows the basic author-date style. For example, the in-text or parenthetical citation includes the author and year of publication.

Example

Jones (2019) concluded……..

In the final study, he concluded that ……..(Jones, 2019)

If you’ve used a direct quote or are paraphrasing a section of text, include the page number:

(Jones, 2019, p. 115)

APA lists all the sources you’ve used in your research paper in a reference list. Include this list at the end of your paper. These full source citations place the author and year of publication as the first elements.

Jones, A. (2019).

Note: Author is listed by last name and initial only.

 

As with other citation formats, include all necessary information to lead your reader to the exact source you used in your paper:

  • Author
  • Date of publication
  • Title of work
  • Publication data

Formatting Citations

There are many ways to find sources for research today. Learning to evaluate sources is an important part of the research process. A journal article may be found in print, published in an online journal and indexed in databases. As articles may be edited for formatting or clarity, it’s important you cite the exact place you accessed the article. Follow these guidelines for arranging your APA style paper.

  • Alphabetize entries using letter by letter style.
  • List authors by last name, first initial.
  • Capitalize only the first word of a title of a book, article or web page.
  • Do not place a period after the URL or DOI link.

Online Sources

Most of your sources can be found on digital platforms. Make sure you include the DOI or URL for the online source. A DOI provides a stable web address, so it’s best to include that if it is available. Follow these examples to cite and format your reference list entries correctly.

When citing blog or social media posts, include the type within brackets.

Example – No Author

The Muse. (2019). Five career blogs worth a read. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.experisjobs.us/exp_us/en/career-advice/blog.htm

(Muse, 2019)

Example – No Author, No Date

Experis. (n.d). Afraid you’ll be replaced by a robot? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.experisjobs.us/exp_us/en/career-advice/blog.htm

(Experis, n.d.)

Periodicals

Periodicals are published on a regular basis. They are a good research source since the information presented is timely and current. Types of periodicals include:

  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Journals

Format

Author, A.A, Author, B.B.,& Author, C.C. (year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, xx, pp-pp. doi: xx.xxxxxxxx

Author, A.A, Author, B.B.,& Author, C.C. (year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, xx, pp-pp. Retrieved from http://www.xxxxxxxxx

Online Newspaper Article

Follow the basic format for a periodical when including an online newspaper article.

Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from https://www.homeaddress.com/

Example with Author

Farris, P. (2019, November 15). Thompson’s death prompts look at history. The News Review. Retrieved from http://www.news-ridgecrest.com/news/category.pl?id=0

Example with No Author

Medina encourages census participation. (2019, November 15). The News Review. Retrieved from http://www.news-ridgecrest.com/news/story.pl?id=0000010731

In-Text Citation Example

Use a shortened version of the title within the text.

(“Census participation,” 2019).

Journal Article Online

Journal articles are good sources for papers. These are indexed in databases such as EBSCO.

Note: To format an online journal article, include the name of the journal as well as its location.

 

Example

Jaeger, P.T., Sarin, L.C., Peterson, K.J. (2015). Diversity, inclusion, and library and information science: An ongoing imperative (or why we still desperately need to have discussions about diversity and inclusion). Library Quarterly, 85(2), 127-132. doi: 130.065.109.155

Magazine Article Online

Follow the basic APA periodical format to cite an online magazine article. Include the location. It is no longer necessary to include the retrieval date in APA style.

Last, F. M. (Year, Month, day Published). Article title. Magazine Titlevolume (issue), pp. Retrieved from: https://www.xxxxxxx

Example

Hutson, M. (2019, March 4). How memory became weaponized. Psychology Today. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201903/how-memory-became-weaponized

Books Online

If you use a book citation from an online source, include the location. This could be either the website or the digital platform, such as Google Books or a Kindle edition.

Author, A. A. (Date.). Work title: Capital letter also for subtitle. Retrieved from https://includethewebsite.com

Author, A. A. (Date). Work title [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Example

Thomas, B. (2015). Growing daises [Google Books]. Retrieved from books.google.com

Note: Include the full URL where possible.

 

Print Books

Using print books is a good way to strengthen your reference citations. Print books undergo editorial review, which lends authority to the research. It’s easier to use print books since you can skim through the table of contents and index to find the material you need for your APA school paper.

Follow the basic APA citation format for books as follows:

Author, A. A. (Publication year). Work title: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location of publisher: Publisher.

If you have multiple authors, use these formats:

In-Text Example -Two Authors

Beetle & Bard (2010) stated…

In-Text Example – More Than Two but Fewer Than Five Authors

Beetle, Bard, Beatty, & Chen (2010) discussed…

Note: For the first citation, list all authors’ last names. After that, list the first author’s last name, then et al.

 

In-Text Example – Six or More Authors

Many times in APA journal articles, you’ll find six authors or more credited in one article.

Again, it was found by Beetle et al. (2010) that…

Johnson et al. (2010) stated …

Note: Use first author’s last name and add et al.

 

Reference List

Many times, you will see several authors credited for one research article. This can lead to a long source citation; however, APA allows some shortcuts for multiple authors.

Example – Up to Seven Authors:

Bard T. S., & Petty, R. S. (2010). Mood management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1034-1048.

Bard T. S., Turner R. V., Kelly S. Q., & Petty, R. S. (2010). Mood management. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1034-1048.

Example – More Than Seven Authors:

Beetle, F. H., Choi, M. J., Bard, L. L., Harland, A. A., Stanley, J. A., Tipman, S. T., . . . Rubin, L. H. (2017). Technical issues for MP software. Technical Communication, 51, 210-223.

Reference Books

Reference books, such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, are a good starting point for your research. They are secondary sources and are helpful to point you towards researchers, topics and primary sources.

To cite a reference book, follow the same format as a book. Usually there is an editor or editors rather than authors, so place that data in the first element.

Example

VandenBos, G.R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC. American Psychological Association.

Slide Show Presentations

If information is presented in a slide show format, such as PowerPoint or Prezi, you may include that as a source. Lectures may be presented online or in-class and are considered primary sources. When including in-text citations, use the slide number to direct the reader to a direct quotation, following the author-date citation format.

Direct Quotation Example

(Jones, 2014, slide 4)

Paraphrase Example

(Jones, 2014)

Reference Format

Author, A. A. (year of publication). Title of presentation [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from URL or DOI

Reference Example

Tenten, B. A. (2018). Outlining your APA research paper: An overview [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.xxx.edu/ppt/xxxx

If you’ve prepared your research paper as a PowerPoint slideshow, you’ll need to include a reference list on the last slide. This is the same format; however, you can single-space and omit hanging indents.

Meetings and Symposiums

Using proceedings from meetings is a good way to include current research into your APA style research paper. Many times, the latest research is presented first to researchers’ peers through annual conferences. You can use proceedings from the meetings or symposiums or cite a poster board presentation, even if it hasn’t been published formally.

Example – Published Source

Witten, I. H., Boddie, S. J., Bainbridge, D., & McNab, R. J. (2000). Greenstone: a comprehensive open-source digital library software system. In Proceedings of the fifth ACM conference on Digital libraries (pp. 113-121). ACM.

Note: Include the URL or DOI, if the source was retrieved online.

 

Unpublished Sources

Meeting notes that haven’t been published formally are still good sources. Just be sure that they’re presented by an authority in the subject at a conference organized by a reputable organization. Include the conference information as the last element.

Symposium Format

Contributor, A.A., Contributor, B.B., Contributor, C.C., & Contributor, D.D. (Year, Month). Title of contribution. In E.E. Chairperson (Chair). Title of symposium. Symposium conducted at the meeting of Organization Name, Location.

Example – Symposium

Muelbauer, J. (2007, September). Housing, credit, and consumer expenditure. In S. C. Ludvigson (Chair), Housing and consumer behavior. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Jackson Hole, WY.

Paper Presentation/Posters

Many times, conferences will have poster presentations set up around the hall. You may cite these sources for your paper as well.

Format

Presenter, A.A. (Year, Month). Title of paper or poster. Paper or poster session presented at the meeting of Organization Name, Location.

Note:  Use the month and year of the symposium or meeting for unpublished works.

 

Example

Herculano-Houszel, S., Collins, C.E. Wong, P., Kass, J.H., & Lent, R. (2008). The basic nonuniformity of the cerebal cortex. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 105, 12593-12598. doi:10.1073pnas.0805417105

Dissertations and Theses

Often, doctoral and master’s students will publish their dissertations or theses online. This is another good way to find current, relevant research on a particular subject. You can use their reference list sources to help you find other research materials.

To format a source citation for the APA reference list, use these formatting rules:

  • Italicize the title.
  • Indicate doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis in parenthesis after the title.
  • Provide the accession or order number listed in the database in parentheses.

The format for a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis available from a database service is:

Author, A.A. (2003). Title of doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis (Doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis). Retrieved from Name of database. (Accession or Order No.)

If you are citing an unpublished dissertation or thesis, follow this format:

Author, A.A. (1978). Title of doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis (Unpublished doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis). Name of Institution, Location.

Film and Video

Although writing in the humanities using MLA style includes more opportunities for citing film and visual arts, you may still find you need to do so in APA style. Include these elements:

  • Author name, screen name or both (The screen name will go in brackets, if both, or instead of author name if no author name is available.)
  • Year, month and day it was uploaded
  • Title of the video in italics
  • Medium in brackets [Video file]
  • Retrieved from URL or DOI

Format with Screen Name and Author

Harvey. B. [Screen Name]. (2018, December 3). Title time [Video file]. Retrieved from www.xxxxxx.com

Format with Screen Name

Videomaster. (2018, December 3). Title time [Video file]. Retrieved from www.xxxxxxxx.com

Format for Streaming Video

Allen, T., et. al. (Producers). (2017).  The story of Diana [Streaming video]. Retrieved from http://www.netflix.com

Reviews and Peer Commentary

Using reviews and peer commentary helps strengthen your thesis or purpose statement. These reviews let your reader know what researchers’ peers feel about the work presented.

Format

Reviewer, A.A. (2000). Title of review [Review of the book Title of book, by A.A. Author]. Title of complete work, xx, xxx-xxx.

When citing peer commentary or reviews, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Include the medium, such as book or movie, inside the brackets.
  • Include the name(s) of the author(s) for books. Place this after the title. Use a comma.
  • Include the year of release for films and DVDs. Place this after the title, also with a comma.

Example

Ramirez, A. (2016, December 6). Understanding super powers [Review of the book Forever strong, by T.M. Washington]. The News Review. Retrieved from https://www.xxxxxxxxx.com

In-Text Example

(Ramirez, 2016)

Untitled Reviews

It is best to find reviews and peer commentaries that are published on reputable sites by identified authors. However, you may find helpful reviews that are untitled; use them sparingly.

  • Use the information inside the brackets as the title.
  • Keep the brackets.
  • Include the DOI or URL at the end of the citation, if found online. Do not place a period after the URL.

Example – Book Review

Schatz, B. R. (2000, November 17). Learning by text or context? [Review of the book The social life of information, by J.S. Brown & P. Duguid]. Science, 290, 1304. doi: xx.xxxxxxx

Example – Video Review

Axelman, A., & Shaprio, J.L. (2007). Does the solution warrant the problem? [Review of the DVD Brief therapy with adolescents, produced by the American Psychological Association, 2007]. PsycCRITIQUES, 52(51). doi:

Example – Video Game Review, No Author

[Review of the video game Fortnite, produced by Epic Games, 2017]. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://apps.apple.com/us/app/fortnite/id1261357853

Peer Commentary

Include the description of the peer commentary in brackets after the title. Include URL at the end of the source citation.

Sokolova, I. V. (n.d.). The power of gender biases [Peer commentary on the paper “Why women are more susceptible to depression: An explanation for gender differences” by C.M. Mulé]. Retrieved from http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/mule.html#sokolova

Bible and Religious Texts

You probably won’t need to cite biblical passages in your APA paper. However, if you do, follow the citation rules for classical works.

In-Text Citations

In your first in-text citation, identify the version you’re using in the paper. Instead of page numbers, use the book, chapter, verse or line number. You just need to include the in-text citation the first time. After that, it’s not necessary.

Format

“Quote” (Book Chapter: Verse, Translation).

Example

“For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels” (Hebrews 2:5, The New King James Version).

In Hebrews 2:5 (The New King James Version), we learn that…..

References

You do not include a source citation in your APA reference list for religious and classical works.

APA Abstract

Abstracts are an important part of APA papers. The abstract provides a summary of the paper. This helps the reader decide whether a particular paper is worth investigating further. The abstract is placed on the second page, after the cover page. Your instructor will give you the word limit, but the typical maximum is 250 words.

Follow this format:

  • This page is numbered 2 on your report.
  • On the first line of the page, center the word “Abstract.”
  • Do not underline, bold, italicize or otherwise format the title.
  • On the second line, start your abstract. Do not indent.

Unlike creating an annotated bibliography entry, do not include any evaluative remarks or additional information.

Literature Review

Literature reviews are also an important part of an APA paper. The literature review can stand alone as a research paper or it can be included within the body of a larger paper. The literature review starts after the introduction.

The purpose of a literature review is to evaluate your research sources while moving research forward. You present each source, connecting them together to support your thesis or purpose statement. Then, you point to the reader to new possible research avenues.

Arranging Your Reference List

After you’ve written your APA paper, you need to finalize your references. The reference page is the last part of your paper. As noted, each in-text citation must match with a corresponding source citation in your references. There are some exceptions. For example, you don’t need to include classical or biblical sources cited in the text in the references.

  1. Prepare a preliminary reference list or bibliography as you start your research process to help organize your sources.
  2. After you’ve finished your paper, eliminate any sources you didn’t use.
  3. Alphabetize the source entries by the letter by letter alphabetizing method.
  4. Use the same margin formatting as the paper.
  5. Use a hanging indent for each source entry.
  6. Double-space the text.

As a final check, review your assignment rubric and make sure your APA paper meets all your teacher’s requirements.

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