How to cite sources in APA
APA (American Psychological Association) style is a very popular academic writing style commonly used in social sciences.
It is essential to properly cite the sources you used in your paper to avoid plagiarism. There are some basic guidelines and rules that you should follow, and we are here to help you with them.
The citation guide we offer in this article is based on the latest APA version: The 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual (2020).
There are four essential components to APA Format citation:
In this guideline, you’ll find out how to correctly place these components in your APA format citations. First, let’s find out how to do in-text citations and then move on to the essential components of APA format.
How to do in-text citations
In-text citations are a must in APA Style after using a quote or paraphrase from another person’s work. Basically, you must give a reference every time you paraphrase or quote another person’s ideas in your academic essay.
There are two different forms of in-text citations:
|Parenthetical citation||Narrative citation|
Arguments regarding the issue… (Johnson, 2021).
Johnson (2021) argues that…
Citing two authors
When in-text citing works with two authors, do the following for parenthetical citation:
Citing two authors parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (Johnson & Williams, 2021). Parenthetical citation
Citing two authors narrative citation example
Johnson and Williams (2021) Narrative citation argue that…
Citing three or more authors
Citing three or more authors parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (Johnson et al., 2021). Parenthetical citation
Citing three or more authors narrative citation example
Johnson et al. (2021) Narrative citation argue that…
Citing an unknown author
When in-text citing a work of an unknown author, use the source title.
Citing an unknown author example
Arguments regarding the issue… (“How to Cite Sources in APA Format,” 2021). Unknown author citation
Citing organizations as authors
If the work you are citing has an organization as an author, write the full name of the organization.
Citing organizations as authors narrative citation example
United Nations (2021) Narrative citation argue that…
Note that if the organization has an abbreviation, you should also add it to your in-text citation. You should do the following for parenthetical citation:
Citing organizations as authors parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (United Nations [UN], 2021). Parenthetical citation
You can only use the abbreviation of your source after your first citation. However, note that if there is another organization with the same abbreviation, do not use only the abbreviation as it can cause ambiguity.
Citing indirect sources
You should always try to find the primary source and cite it during the writing process. However, in case you fail to access the primary source, use the phrase “as cited in.”
Citing indirect sources parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (Garcia, 2019, as cited in Johnson, 2021). Parenthetical citation
Citing indirect sources narrative citation example
Garcia (as cited in Johnson, 2021) Narrative citation argue that…
Do not forget to identify the primary source in your citation.
If you know the real name of a social media account, provide the surname and then add the year. Include their handle with @ symbol on the references page.
Citing usernames parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (Musk, 2023). Parenthetical citation
Citing different author roles
In case contributors have additional roles other than “author,” add a description of their additional roles in parentheses. After providing the author’s last name and their description as an author (A. A.), simply add:
Citing electronic sources
As electronic sources have started replacing printed sources each day, it is essential to know how to in-text cite electronic sources in the 7th edition of APA.
You should cite electronic sources the way you would other sources if the author and date are provided. Follow these instructions for in-text citing web pages:
Web page with author parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (Johnson, 2023). Parenthetical citation
Web page with organizational author parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (World Health Organization, 2023). Parenthetical citation
Web page with no date parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (American Psychological Association [APA], n.d.). Parenthetical citation
Web page without page numbers parenthetical citation example
Arguments regarding the issue… (Mayo Clinic, 2023, Complications section). Parenthetical citation
Writing the dates
If you’ve understood how to deal with the author(s) in your APA citation, let’s move on to the second part: Dates!
The date should come after the author in your citation, and it means different things for different works.
A retrieval date marks the date that you found out the information. It should be included in your citation after the title and before the URL.
Citing electronic sources retrieval date example
U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.).
U.S. and world population clock." U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved June 5, 2020 from https://www.census.gov.popclock
You can use the retrieval date in your citation if the information you found may change over time.
In case you don’t have access to the publication date, write “n.d” (no date) for the publication date.
In case you are unfortunate enough to deal with this complication, use lower-case letters to differentiate between the two works. To do so, just assign the works with different letters (a, b, c) in the order they are listed in your Reference List.
Multiple works by the same author in the same year citation example
According to Elkind (2007a), Work a youngsters are sometimes forced to grow up too fast.
It has been demonstrated that children who play freely and without excessive structure are happier (Elkind, 2007b). Work b
To assign letters in both your reference list and in-text citations, you should order the works by their titles without regarding “A,” “An,” and “The.”
Writing the titles
There is an important factor when writing titles: Determine whether your source is a work that is a part of a whole or not.
If it is part of a whole:
Writing the titles example
Bradley, C. (2021). Into the
Tone World: Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra. In Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker (pp. 194–215). Duke University Press.
Pro tipIf the page numbers are not provided, add the "." after the title of the whole. However, if it is provided, add it after the page numbers.
When to use brackets
When you need to identify your source, describe it in brackets after the title and before the period. Capitalize the first word but do not underline or italicize it.
When to use brackets example
Schostakowitsch: 7. Sinfonie
(»Leningrader«) ∙ hr-Sinfonieorchester ∙ Klaus Mäkelä. (2019, November 12). [Video]. YouTube. https://youtube.com
How to write the sources
The source is important in determining where you can retrieve the work. If possible, to identify a source, there are many elements you should add to your citations.
If the work you are citing is a whole work, try to follow this order in your citation:
Citing a whole work example
Smith, J. Author name (2019). Publication date The History of Time: An Exploration of our Understanding of Time. Title of the source Oxford University Press. Name of the publisher
As explained in the above section, your source may be a part of a whole work. If so, try to follow this order in your citation:
Citing a part of a whole work example
Brown, T. Author name (2021). Publication date The Science of Time Travel. Title of the source In M. Johnson & L. Scott (Eds.), Editor Advances in Time and Space Title of the book/journal/website the source comes from (pp. 45-67). Page numbers Springer. Name of the publisher
Abbreviations and example references list
Below is an example of a Reference List. Since each source is from a different category (a journal article, a serial, a document, an image, a book, and a book chapter), you can observe the different ways to cite your sources.
Writing a reference list
A reference list must list every source you used in your academic paper. It must contain the author(s) name(s), date of publication, title, and, if found, more information regarding the source. An APA reference list must follow these rules:
In case there are multiple works by the same author:
Your reference list must include complete references for all in-text references used. This is particularly important since it counts as plagiarism if you don’t include all the sources when writing an essay or research paper.
Things to avoid
Pro tipYou can always use a browser extension to automatically create citations in APA style.
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