Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

APA Citation Format Guidelines and Examples

As students enter middle school, they start learning how to research and format essays. As they progress through high school, this writing and research process becomes more complicated. This may include learning the basic format for an APA citation. Before this, though, students must learn about the need to correctly cite the sources they use in their writing. Understanding the reasons behind using APA 6 citations is the first step to understanding the process. Students also learn to find primary and secondary sources for their research papers.

Citation generator

Understanding Citation Styles

Citation styles are developed by various organizations who need to standardize the way researchers and writers present information to others in their fields. Researchers present data in different ways. For example, researchers in scientific fields will need to interpret data through the use of tables and graphs, sometimes distilling raw data into a summary. However, researchers in the humanities may be examining historical records, paintings, and film.

The differences in the intent of the research is why there are different styles. There are thousands of different styles; however, most students will use three common styles:

  • APA 6
  • MLA 8
  • Chicago/Turabian 17

Citation Format in APA Style

In middle school or even high school, it is possible you won’t research or write an APA style paper. However, in college classes, you will use APA citation format for your social science classes, particularly education and psychology papers.

APA style was developed by the American Psychological Association (APA) as a way to formalize the editorial style for research and writing in the social sciences. Although students learn to use APA citation style and references, it is primarily a publishing style for researchers. APA style covers formatting for arranging your reference list.

Other rules cover how to:

  • punctuate
  • abbreviate
  • create tables
  • use headings
  • present statistics
  • format citations
  • cite references

When to Use APA Style

Usually you’ll start using APA in college, but it depends on your instructor. The following fields use APA style:

  • Social sciences
  • Behavioral sciences
  • Education
  • Library information and science

By standardizing research and writing styles within certain fields, it’s easier for students and researchers to understand the results. It’s also easier to spot each citation style as there are some distinct differences.

How to Spot an APA Citation

One interesting difference in APA cited sources is that you don’t capitalize the titles of the works in the typical way. For example, for a book titled APA Citations Styles: A Complete Guide, you’d write APA citation styles: A complete guide. APA uses the author-date style for in-text and source citations, including books, online sources and periodicals.

APA Manual

Students learning he basics of APA citation format

Chapters 6 and 7 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition covers citing sources and organizing references. These chapters are the ones students will use the most for formatting their school research papers. It’s helpful to purchase the book for reference. The APA maintains a website and updates these styles regularly to account for new developments. Expect the seventh edition of the APA style manual soon.

Technology helps students a great deal these days. Most word processing software makes it easy to format research papers by setting margins, headers, footers and tabs.

Citations and References

APA uses an author-date style of citation with a reference list. The in-text citations are simple: they include the author, date and page number of the cited source. This in-text citation refers to the full source citation listed in the references. In author-date style, the author’s name is followed by the date of publication:


Jones, 1998

Jones summarized that streetlights contribute to light pollution (1998).

Citing your sources protects you from allegations of plagiarism and shows your reader (and teacher) that you’ve performed thorough research to back up your thesis or purpose statement.

Publishing an APA paper

Research papers are published in scholarly journals. After an author submits a paper for review, it undergoes a rigorous double-blind, peer reviewed process.

Double-blind means that the author or authors’ names are scrubbed from the manuscript. This way, the reviewers do not know who the author is, and the authors do not know who the reviewers are. This process helps maintain the integrity of the review.

Peer-reviewed means that each manuscript is reviewed by others at a similar level in the research field. For example, papers submitted by those with doctorate degrees with be reviewed by researchers who hold equal authority in the field. Usually, at least two reviewers are assigned to each manuscript. The editor-in-chief of the journal holds the final decision.

Using journal articles in your research paper is a good way to understand previous research> It’s also a good way to keep up with current research. Always check the date of the article and look to see if there are more recent articles with updated conclusions. Using academic databases available through your school or library helps you find the latest research.

Learning APA Style

Writing an APA style paper is easy to do since you’re following well-established rules. APA style rules cover formatting your paper, plus in-text and reference list sources. Your instructor will tell you how they want you to prepare and submit your paper. For example, even though an abstract is a formal part of an APA paper, not all instructors require it. Review your assignment rubric, ask your teacher if you don’t understand, and you’ll do a great job on your research papers.

Students who plan on going to college should make a good effort to understand how to research, use sources, and write essays and research papers. College writing is a lot more intense than what you may experience in high school. Having these skills allows you to start college writing with confidence.

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