Citation Guide: American Psychological Association (APA)
American Psychological Association (APA) style, used primarily in the social sciences and in some of the natural sciences, emphasizes the author(s) and publication date of a source. Writers who use the APA documentation system cite, or formally acknowledge, information within their text using parentheses and provide a list of sources, called a references list, at the end of their document.
This guide contains information on how to format the document, incorporate in-text citations, and develop the references list. This guide is far from exhaustive and for more information or resources on APA format, see the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual or visit the Additional Resources page.
To access this guide, click on the sections listed in the Contents area to the right.
[Guide Updated March 2022]
Citing Sources within Your Document
In APA an in-text citation must include the author's last name and the year of publication. Below are some of the more common ways to cite information in-text. For more information refer to Chapter 8 of the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
Examples of APA In-Text Formatting Rules
1. Citing a Source Named in Your Text
Place the publication year in parentheses directly after the author’s last name. Include the page number (with “p.” for “page”) in parentheses after a direct quotation.
Jennings(2012) pointed out that humans are poor students of probability, meaning that we’re prone to “develop paranoid nightmare-inducing phobias about the unlikeliest things (plane crashes, strangers kidnapping our kids) while ignoring far more pressing risks (heart disease, car accidents)” (p. xiv).
According to Jennings (2012), humans have a tendency to fear the most unlikely phenomena, while brushing off more apparent dangers.
Note that APA style requires using the past tense or present perfect tense to introduce the material you are citing: Jennings argued or Jennings has argued.
2. Citing a Source Not Named in Your Text
Insert a parenthetical note that gives the author’s last name and the year of publication, separated by a comma. For a quotation, include the page or paragraph number of the source.
Psychoneuroimmunology, a new field of medicine, “studies the ways that the psyche – the mind and its content of emotions – profoundly interacts with the body’s nervous system and how both of them, in turn, form an essential link with our immune defense” (Mate, 2011, p. 5).
Psychoneuroimmunology is a new field of medicine that examines the link between human emotion and physiology and how that unity affects health and immunity over the course of a life (Mate, 2011).
3. Citing Two Authors
List the last names of both authors in every mention in the text. If you mention the authors’ names in a sentence, use the word “and” to separate the last names, as shown in the first example. If you place the authors’ names in the parenthetical citation, use an ampersand (&) to separate the last names, as shown in the second example.
Tannenbaum and Marks (2012) indicated that “many of [MTV’s] most important founders came from radio backgrounds, which freed them from abiding by the existing rules of the television industry” (p. 14)
MTV was largely founded by individuals with radio expertise, which allowed the network to operate outside the constraints of the television industry (Tannenbaum & Marks, 2012).
4. Citing Three or More Authors
In all references to the source, give the first author’s last name followed by the abbreviation “et al” (Latin for “and others”).
While their study suggests that female Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom soldiers are just as resilient to combat-related stress as are male soldiers, Vogt et al. (2011) submitted that further research is needed to evaluate gender differences in the long-term effects of stress postdeployment.
5. Citing a Corporate, Group or Government Author
In general, cite the full name of the corporation, group, or government agency the first time it is mentioned in your text. If you add an abbreviation for the name in square brackets the first time you cite the source, you can use the abbreviation in subsequent citations.
A new international treaty has been signed to help combat the illicit trade of tobacco products (World Health Organization [WHO], 2013). This protocol not only will establish a global tracing system to reduce and eliminate illicit tobacco trade but also will play an important role in protecting people around the world from a serious health risk (WHO, 2013).
6. Citing an Unknown Author
Sources with unknown authors are listed by title in the list of references. In your in-text citation, shorten the title as much as possible without introducing confusion. Add quotation marks to article titles, and italicize book titles.
While life expectancy in general has improved for those living in developed countries, the improvement has been far more drastic for form – a phenomenon that is closing the gender gap in longevity (“Catching Up,” 2013).
7. Citing Two or More Works by the Same Author in the Same Year
After organizing the works alphabetically by title, insert a lowercase letter after the publication year (“2013a” or “2013b”).
Garfield (2016b) noted that our evolution as a society is consistently reflected in how we map our world: from the origins of triangulation and the fixing of longitude to aerial photography and, now, GPS and satellite navigation.
8. Citing Two or More Authors with the Same Last Name
Use the authors’ initials in each citation.
While both R. Cohen (2012) and L. Cohen (2012) have presented stark and sincere biographies free of bias, L. Cohen has introduced a new concept to the genre by chronicling three worthy subjects at once.
9. Two or More Works Cited Together
List the sources in alphabetical order, and separate them with semicolons. If you are referring to two or more sources by the same author, order those sources chronologically and separate them with commas; give the author’s last name only once (“Gharab, 2010, 2012”).
Rather than encourage exploration into more difficult and inaccessible energy stores, our new awareness of the finite nature of the earth’s resources should incite a change in lifestyle that no longer strains the limits of our environment (Dietz & O’Neill, 2013; Klare, 2012).
10. Citing a Source Cited in Another Source
Ideally, you should track down the original source of the information. If you cannot find the original, mention its author and indicate where it was cited.
Slater posited that the rise in online dating services has led to a decrease in commitment, as this technology fosters the notion that one can always find a more compatible mate (as cited in Weissmann, 2013).
11. Citing a Source with No Page Numbers
Many visual documents, such as brochures and digital sources, such as websites and full-text articles from databases, lack page numbers. If the source has numbered paragraphs, indicate the paragraph number using the abbreviation “para.” If the paragraphs are not numbered, include the section heading and indicate which paragraph in that section contains the cited material.
Doig (2012) examined the rise in tactical urbanism, a kind of city planning newly employed by big government to take small bits of unusable public space and re-create them as parks, gardens, and other areas designed for public use (para. 3).
12. Citing E-mails, Letters, and Other Personal Communication
Give the first initial(s) and last name of the person with whom you corresponded, the words “personal communication,” and the date. Don’t include personal communication in your references list.
(C.Soto, personal communication, May 13, 2016)
13. Citing a Website
For an entire website, give the URL in parentheses in your text, and don’t include it in your references list. To cite a quotation from a website, give the paragraph number or section heading and include the source in your references list.
The Library of Congress (http://loc.gov) offers extensive online collections of manuscripts, correspondence, sound recordings, photographs, prints, and audiovisual materials spanning decades of American history.
The Environmental Protection Agency (2016) combats climate change by evaluating policy options that “range from comprehensive market-based legislation to targeted regulations to reduce emissions and improve the efficiency of vehicles, power plants and large industrial sources” (para. 2).
Citing Sources at the End of Your Document
Citing a Book with One Author
List the author’s last name followed by a comma and the first initial. Insert the date in parentheses and italicize the title. End with the publisher.
Christie, A. (2017). Death comes as the end. HarperCollins Publishers.
Cite the online version only if a print version is not available or is hard to find. Insert “n.d.” if no publication date is given. If you are citing an e-book, check to see if it has a DOI and provide it at the end of the citation. This should be done in the form of a URL, always use “https://doi.org/” directly before the DOI number. If no DOI is available, the URL may be provided instead to stand in place of information about the publisher. The DOI format is set by the International DOI Foundation. Using the phrase “Retrieved from” is very rarely necessary. It should be used if a retrieval date must be included with the URL. This is only ever necessary if there is no publish or archive date available.
Citing a Book with Two or More Authors
List the authors in the same order that the title page does, each with the last name first. Use commas to separate authors and use an ampersand (&) before the final author’s name. List every author up to and including 20; for a work with 21 or more authors, give the first 19 names followed by three ellipsis dots and the last author’s name (Do not use an ampersand in such cases).
Barwick, D., Bassham, G., Brannigan, M., Danahay, MA., Erion, GJ., Freeland, C., Gracia, JJE., Griswold, CL., Hibbs, TS., Holt, J., Irwin, W., Knight, D., Korsmeyer, C., Lawler, J., McKnight, G., McMahon, JL., Nixon, MD., Rieder, D., Sanford, JJ… Žižek, S. (2002). The matrix and philosophy: Welcome to the desert of the real. Open Court Publishing Company.
Codrescu, A., & Ueland, B. (2007). If you want to write. Simon & Schuster.
Citing a Book with a Corporate or Group Author
Write the full name of the corporate or group author. If the corporation is also the publisher, use “Author” for the publisher’s name.
Animal Liberation Front. (2022). The animal liberation front in canada: 1986 to 1992. Warcry Communications.
Citing a Book with an Unknown Author
When no author is listed on the title or copyright page, begin the entry with the title of the work. Alphabetize the entry by the first significant word of the title (not including A, An, or The).
Chameleon in a Candy Store. (2014). Simon & Schuster.
Citing Two or More Books by the Same Author
Give the author’s name in each entry and the list of titles in chronological order.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke University Press.
Barad, K. (2012). What is the measure of nothingness? Infinity, virtuality, justice. Hatje Cantz.
Citing a Translated Book
List the author first, followed by the year of publication, the title, and the translator (in parentheses, identified by the abbreviation “Trans.”). Place the original date of the work’s publication at the end of the entry.
Brum, E. (2019). The collector of leftover souls (D.G. Whitty, Trans.). Gray Wolf Press. (Original work published 2006).
Citing an Edition Other Than the First
Note the edition (“2nd ed., “ “Rev.ed.”) after the title.
McDonald, R. (2001). The bedford companion to shakespeare: An introduction with documents (2nd ed.). Bedford/St. Martin’s..
Citing a Book with an Author with an Editor
Include the editor’s name and the abbreviation “Ed.” in parentheses after the title.
Coetzee, J.M. (2016). The lives of animals (A. Gutmann, Ed.). Princeton University Press.
Citing a Work in an Edited Collection or Anthology, Including a Foreword, Introduction, Preface, or Afterword
Begin with the author, publication date, and title of the selection (not italicized). Follow with the word “In,” the names of the editors (initials first), the abbreviation “Ed.” or “Eds.” in parentheses, the title of the anthology or collection (italicized), inclusive page numbers for the selection (in parentheses, with the abbreviation “pp.”), and the publisher.
Fry, P.H. (Ed.). (1999). Biographical and historical contexts. In S.T. Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (pp. 3-24). Bedford/St. Martin’s.
Citing a Sacred Text
Cite a Sacred text as you would a book. Include the title, names of any translators or editors, and any other important information.
Peterson, E.H. (2002). The message: The bible in contemporary language. NavPress.
Citing a Dissertation or Thesis
Give the author, date, and title before identifying the type of work (doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis). End with the name of the database and the identifying number, or the URL.
West, R. (2012). Hostility toward the unattractive: Challenging current “sexual harassment” law (Doctoral dissertation). Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (AAI 3545458).
Citing a Book with Two or More Sources By the Same Author in the Same Year
List the works alphabetically, and include lowercase letters (a, b, and so on) after the dates.
King, S. (2021a). Billy summers. Scribner.
King, S. (2021b). Later. Hard Case Crime.
Citing an Article in a Journal
Most journals continue page numbers throughout an entire annual volume, beginning again at page 1 only in the first volume of the next year. After the author and publication year, provide the article title, the journal title, the volume number (italicized), and the inclusive page numbers.
Thonus, T. (2016). Time to say goodbye: Writing center consultation closings. Linguistics and Education, 33, 40-55.
If every issue of the journal begins at page 1, include the issue number in parentheses, not italicized, directly after the volume number.
Garicano, L., & Rayo, L. (2016). Why organizations fail: Models and cases. Journal of Economic Literature, 54(1), 137-192.
Many online journal articles now have DOIs (digital object identifiers), unique numbers assigned to specific content. If an article has a DOI, list it at the end of the entry; you do not need to list the database you used to access the article or the date you accessed the database. All DOI numbers should be placed in a hyperlink format: “https://doi.org/” followed by the DOI.
Dern, J. A. (2021). “I knew the sound well”: Rhetorical Mockery in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” The Edgar Allan Poe Review, 22(2), 312–328. https://doi.org/10.5325/edgallpoerev.22.2.0312
If no DOI is available for an article accessed on the Web or in a database, give the URL for the journal’s home page instead.
Summers, D. (2021). Collaging the Posthuman into the Postnatural. Journal of Posthumanism. https://journals.tplondon.com/jp/
Citing an Article in a Magazine
Give the publication date as year and month for monthly magazines; year, month and date for weekly or biweekly magazines. Place the issue number, if any, in parentheses directly after the volume number. Include all page numbers. For articles accessed on the Web, end with the URL of the magazine’s home page.
Fecht, S. (2012, December). Reef in a box. Popular Science, 281(6), 16.
Citing an Article in a Newspaper
Give the publication date as year, month, and date. Next give the article title followed by the name of the newspaper (italicized). Include all page numbers, preceded by “p.” or “pp.”
Levenson, M. (2016, April 11). School closings bring pain, and not always savings. Boston Globe, p. A1.
Citing an Unsigned Article
Begin with the article title, and alphabetize in the references list by the first word in the title other than A, An, or The. Use “p.” or “pp.” before page numbers.
RNA-only genes: The origin of the species? (2012, April 28). The Economist, 388(8592), p. 40.
Citing an Editorial
Include the word “Editorial” in square brackets after the title.
Affirm gays’ right to marriage [Editorial]. (2012, December 14). The Dallas Morning News, p. B12.
Citing a Letter To the Editor
Include the words “Letter to the editor” in square brackets after the title of the letter or, if the letter is untitled, in place of the title.
Gonzalez Hernandez, L. (2012, November 23). Stores should close on holidays [Letter to the editor]. Newsday, p. A24.
Citing a Review
After the title of the review, include the words “Review of the book ...” or “Review of the film ...” and so on in square brackets, followed by the title of the work reviewed. If the reviewed work is a book, include the author’s name after a comma; if it is a film or other media, include the year of release. If the review is untitled, give the bracketed information in place of the title.
Lane, A. (2014, December 15). Swinging Seventies [Review of the film Inherent Vice, 2014]. The New Yorker, p. 76.
Digital and Media Sources
Citing a Film or Video Recording
List the director and producer (if available), the date of release, the title, the medium in square brackets (“Motion picture,” “DVD,” or “Blu-Ray disc”), the country where the film was made, and the studio or distributor.
Nichols, J. (Director). (2016). Loving [Motion picture]. United States: Focus Features.
Citing a Television or Radio Program
List the director, writer, producer, host, or reporter (if available); the broadcast date; the title, followed by “Television” or “Radio” and “broadcast” or “series episode” in square brackets; the name of the series; and the name of the broadcaster.
Gates, B. (Speaker). 2015, March. The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready [series episode]. In TED2015. TED.
Citing a Sound Recording
List the author of the song; the date; the song title, followed by “On” and the recording title in italics; the medium in square brackets; and the production data. If the song was recorded by an artist other than the author, add “Recorded by” plus the artist’s name in square brackets after the song title and the recording year in parentheses after the production data.
Clapton, E. (2016). Catch the blues. On I still do [CD]. Encinitas, CA: Bushbranch/Surfdog Records.
Basic Format for Citing a Message Posted to a Newsgroup, Electronic Mailing List, or Online Discussion Forum
List the author, posting date, and the title of the post or message subject line. Include a description of the message or post in square brackets. End with the URL where the archived message can be retrieved. Include the name of the group, list, or forum if it is not part of the URL.
Rogers, K. (2021, April 30). Re: Classroom & Laboratory Resources [Online forum post]. https://plantae.org/community/groups/educators/forum/discussion/classroom-laboratory-resources/
Citing a Blog Post or Comment
To cite an entry on a blog, give the author (or screen name, if available), the date the material was posted, and the title of the entry. Include the description “Blog post” or “Blog comment” in square brackets and provide the URL.
Law, T.J. (2021, February 10). 15 Top Online Teaching Platforms [Blog post]. https://www.oberlo.com/blog/online-teaching#15-top-online-teaching-platforms
Citing a Facebook Post
Start with the author’s name exactly as it appears and the date of the post. Give the first few words of the post in place of the title, and include the label “Facebook post” in square brackets. Include the URL. If the Facebook page is private and will not be accessible to readers, cite it as you would cite personal communication within the body of your text, not in the reference list.
Computational Biology Research Lab. (2022, February 14). The first paper of 2022 starts our foray into the Ontology Space. [Facebook post]. https://www.facebook.com/CBRLab/
Citing a Twitter Post
Use the author’s real name, if possible, followed by the screen name in brackets. Include the entire tweet in place of the title, followed by the label “Tweet” in square brackets. End with the URL.
Biden, J. (2022, February 14). Under the Build Back Better plan, no one making under $400,000 per year will see their taxes go up a single penny. [Tweet]. https://twitter.com/JoeBiden/status/1493315864288018439?s=20&t=i1ChUCbxlN3TH1_5uBPD9A
Citing a Podcast
Give the name of the producer, the date of the podcast, and the title. Include a description in square brackets and the URL.
Candeias, M. (Host). (2022, February 20). Ep. 357 - Plant Architecture Revisited [Audio podcast]. https://www.indefenseofplants.com/podcast
Citing an Online Video
Give the name of the creator, the date it was posted, and the title. Include a description in square brackets and the URL.
Hillsdale College. (2015, April 29). Opening Lines of Beowulf In Old English [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH-_GwoO4xI
Citing Computer Software or Game
Sometimes a person is named as having rights to the software or game: in that case, list that person as the author, followed by the date in parentheses. Identify the source in square brackets as “Computer software” or “Computer game.” End with the place of publication and the publisher, or list the URL if the software is available online. If the creator is unknown, begin with the name of the software or game, followed by the label in square brackets and the date in parentheses. End with the locatin and publisher or URL. If you are referring to a specific version that isn’t included in the name, put this information last.
The Stanley Parable [Video game]. (2011) Galactic Cafe.
Other Types of Sources
Citing a Cartoon or Comic Strip
Cartoons or comic strips can appear in newspapers, magazines, or in book format. If the cartoon appears in a book, use the standard book format. If it appears in a newspaper or magazine, use the format for a newspaper or magazine. If the item is published in a magazine, include the issue and volume number. And if there is no caption or title for the cartoon, include the first few words of dialogue.
Artist, A. A. (date). Title of cartoon/comic strip. Title of Newspaper, pp. xx.
Morin, J. (2008, November 5). "Golly, Dick". The Denver Post, p. 23B.
Citing Conferences and Meetings
Information from conferences and meetings can be published, either in book form or as a regular occurring periodical. When this is the case, the reference should follow the format for a book or periodical. If retrieved electronically, the reference should include the DOI or "http://xxx.xxx" as the final piece of the reference entry. If, however, the information is not formally published, follow the templates below.
Contributor B. B., & Contributor C. C. (date). Title of contribution. In D. D. Chairperson (Chair), Title of conference/symposium. Conference/Symposium conducted at the meeting of Organization Name, Location.
Anderson, J. R., & Powell, M. (2011, November 20). The history of the American Indian caucus. In S. Parks (Chair), NCTE centennial writing and working for change founders panel, part 2: 1980's and 1990's. Meeting conducted at 101st Annual Convention of NCTE, Chicago, IL.
Paper presentation or Poster Session:
Presenter E. E. (date). Title of paper or poster. Paper or poster session presented at the meeting of Organization Name, Location.
Goff, B. F., & Goodrich, D. C. (1998, June). Integrated observations of semi-arid land-surface-atmosphere interactions. Poster session presented at a special symposium of the American Meteorological Society, San Diego, CA.
Citing Data Sets, Software, Measurement Instruments, and Apparatus
It is unnecessary to create a reference entry for standard software and programming languages (Microsoft Word or Excel, Java, Adobe Photoshop, SAS or SPSS). Simply give the name and the version number of the software in text. Reference entries are needed, however, for specialized software or computer programs with only limited distribution.
Rightsholder, F. F. (year). Title of program (Version number) [Description of form]. Location: Name of producer.
REA Testware (2011). Praxis II English subject assessments (2nd edition) [CD]. Piscataway, NJ: Educational Testing Service.
Author, G. G. or Organization. (year). Title of data set [Data set]. http://xxx.xxx
- Italicize data set titles, but not software, programs or languages.
- Unless there is an individual with proprietary rights to the software, the reference should be displayed as an un-authored work.
- Identify the version number in parentheses immediately after the title, unless there isn't one.
- After the title/version number put the description of form in brackets [ ], i.e. [Computer program], [Data set].
- In the publisher position give the location and name of the organization that produced the work. Or, if it can be downloaded or ordered online, provide that information instead in the same position.
- The legal reference format should be used for an apparatus patent
- For more information, particularly on measurements and apparatus, see the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
Citing an Entry in a Dictionary or an Encyclopedia [Including a Wiki]
Begin your citation with the name of the author or, if the entry is unsigned, the title of the entry. Proceed with the date, the entry title (if not already given), the title of the reference work, the edition number, and the pages. If the contents of the reference work are arranged alphabetically, omit the volume and page numbers. If the entry was found online, provide the DOI or URL.
Yoshida, A. (1999). Epic. In Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/art/epic
Citing a Brochure or Pamphlet
Format the entry as you would a book. Insert “n.d.” if there is no publication date.
UNESCO. (n.d). The world heritage brochure. Paris: Author Press.
Citing an Interview
How interviews are cited and listed in the references depends on the original format of the interview. If the interview is a 3rd party interview (not conducted by you), and is recoverable (it is published or recorded and archived and can be retrieved by someone else), then use the appropriate reference format, i.e. video, sound recording, article, etc.
If the interview was conducted by you for information purposes and that person agrees to be identified as a source, then it falls under personal communication and is cited in-text only. A reference entry is not required for it because it cannot be retrieved.
If the interview involved a research participant no citation is necessary. Do not cite in-text or list as a reference entry as this would constitute a breach in confidentiality.
Citing Unpublished Survey Data
Give the title of the survey first, followed by the date the survey was distributed, and the words “Unpublished raw data.”
The University of Iowa graduation exit survey. (2012, April 22). Unpublished raw data.
Citing an Unpublished Letter
Treat unpublished letters as personal communications, and include them in your text only. Do not cite unpublished letters in your references list.
Citing a Lecture or Public Address
Provide the name of the speaker, followed by the full date of the presentation and the title of the speech if there is one. End the entry with a brief description of the event and its location.
Wolin, P. (2016, May 3). Descendants of light: American photographers of Jewish ancestry. 92nd Street Y, New York, NY.
Citing a Map or Chart
Organization producing item (Cartographer). (year). Title of map [Type of map]. Location: Publisher.
Organization producing item (Cartographer). (year). Title of map [Type of map]. http://xxx.xxx
Citing a Work of Visual Art
For location, give the name of the museum or building where the work was viewed. If viewed online, include that information in the location position as the URL. For the type of art, give as much information as you have: watercolor, print, bronze sculpture, oil painting, photograph, etc.
Hartigan, G. (1966). Frank O’Hara [Oil on linen]. https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/frank-ohara-1926-1966-10010
Citing a Government Publication
Give the name of the department, office, agency, or committee that issued the report as the author. If the document has a report or special file number, place that in parentheses after the title. If the publication was found online, provide the DOI or URL.
United States Congress. (2015). Economic indicators, October 2015. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.
Citing a Legal Document
Legal publications have their own unique format depending on the type and source of the document. They should be treated the same way as reference entries with no author; alphabetize them by the first significant word entry other than A, An, or The.
Name v. Name, Volume Source Page (Court Location and Date).
Meyer v. State of Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (S.Ct. 625 1923)
Name of Act, Volume Source § section number (year).
Farm Credit Act, 42 U.S.C.A. sec. § 410 (1959).
Legislative Materials (enacted Federal bills and resolutions)
xx. Res. xxx, xxx Cong., Volume Source page (year) (enacted)
S. Res. 223, 103d Cong., 2nd Sess., 140 Cong. Rec. 6871 (1993) (enacted).
Administrative and Executive Materials
Exec. Order No. xxxx, 3 C.F.R. Page (year).
Exec. Order No. 12149, 3 C.F.R. 420-22 (1979).
Additional Information on General Formatting
APA uses an author-date form of in-text citation to acknowledge the use of another writer’s words, facts, or ideas. When you are summarizing or paraphrasing, provide the author’s last name and the year of publication either in the sentence or in parentheses at the end of the sentence. You may include a page or chapter reference if it would help readers find the original material in a longer work. When you are quoting, the citation in parentheses must include the page(s) or paragraph(s) (for sources that do not have pages) in which the quotation can be found.
Although APA requires page or paragraph numbers only for direct quotations, your instructor might prefer that you include a page or paragraph number with every source you cite in your document. If you are not certain of the requirements for your project, ask your instructor for guidance. For more information refer to Chapter 2 of the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual or visit the Additional Resources page of this guide.
APA format requires 1-inch margins at the top, bottom, left and right of an 8 1/2 by 11-inch page, with 12 point Times New Roman font.
Double-space the entire paper: between the title and the body of the paper, within the title, any footnotes, in the References, and in figure captions. Never use single spacing or one-and-a-half spacing, except within tables or figures.
Do not justify lines. Lines should be flush on the left and ragged on the right. In addition, do not break words at the end of a line with a hyphen. Instead, let the line run short and put the entire word on the following line.
Indent every paragraph five spaces, using the tab key. You do not need to indent the abstract, block quotations, titles, headings (unless the heading level calls for it), table titles or table notes, or figure captions. Titles should always be centered.
Titles are an important part of a paper and need to convey the key ideas of a paper in a concise and clear way. Creating strong titles takes practice and is not always easy. Be willing to play around with different titles and try out different wordings before settling on the best one. In general, do not use abbreviations or redundant or explanatory words (i.e. "Study", Research", Investigation"). Also, a good general guideline is to keep titles to 12 words or less.
Example of a Poor Title:
Research on How Higher Grades May Appear to Affect the Mood of Freshman Students
Example of a Better Title:
The Perceived Effect of Higher Grades on Mood Freshman Year
Every noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, and adverb in a title should always be capitalized. Articles, such as “a”, “the” and “and”, as well as Conjunctions, and Prepositions typically should not be capitalized unless they are at the beginning of the title. Center the title and position it in the upper half of the page.
In addition to the title, the title page should include the author's name and the institutional affiliation where the research was carried out or the paper was written. The author's name should include the first name, a middle initial, and a last name. Do not abbreviate the institutional affiliation.
Page Numbers and Running Head
Pages should be numbered consecutively, beginning with the title page. In addition to page numbers, every page should include a running head. The running head is the title of the paper or a shortened version of the title. On the title page the words "Running Head:" should appear in the left hand corner, followed by the title or shortened title in all capital letters. The page number should appear in the right hand corner. Subsequent pages should repeat this format minus the "Running Head:" portion.
An abstract is a summary of the paper. It is appropriate to include the results and your conclusions in the abstract. Succinctly explain the type of research done and the conclusions reached. Be sure to use key words and important information in the abstract, remembering to be accurate and coherent without giving an evaluation. The abstract should be objective, telling readers what was done, but without opinion. Meaning, do not imply that the research is groundbreaking, or the conclusions unexpected or surprising. Most abstracts have word limits, usually between 150 and 250 words. A good abstract takes practice and revision, much like a good title.
Writing and Grammar Tips
Good writing should be clear, concise, and free of biased language. Read your writing with this in mind. Do not use vague words or phrases, avoid euphemisms and irrelevant evaluation, and keep your audience in mind. For guidelines on reducing bias and writing clearly, refer to the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
APA style allows for the use of personal pronouns, such as I, or we if there are coauthors, when discussing actions and research that you have conducted. There is no need to speak in the third person ("the researchers") when you are conducting the research.
Use the active voice, avoiding the passive voice unless specifically directed to do so by your instructor. When referring to actions that occurred as a specific time in the past, use the past tense. If referring to an action that is still occurring into the present, or that did not occur at a specific time, use the present perfect (i.e. "have conducted").
When writing numbers, use numerals for numbers 10 and above, and write numbers out below 10.
Parallel construction is a way to structure your sentences, and it can enhance your writing as well as your readers' understanding of the ideas in your paper. To create parallelism use a pair of coordinating conjunctions (between....and, both....and, neither....nor, either.....or, not only.....but also), placing the first conjunction immediately before the first clause or phrase making up the parallel structure.
The forward moved downfield while dribbling the ball and looking for defenders.
The phrases in italics create the parallelism because they are both constructed using the participle of a verb. While...and is the pair of coordinating conjunctions.
Neither the cat in the tree nor the fireman in the street knew what to do.
Part of the key to creating parallelism is to use the same words or to structure the parallel elements in the same way. The same information is in the sentence below, but it is not written in parallel.
Neither the cat out on a branch in the tree nor the fireman standing below knew what to do.
Creating parallelism takes practice and thought. For more ideas or information on how to create parallel sentences the APA Publication Manual or stop by the CSU Writing Center.
Insert two spaces after punctuation when ending a sentence. Use one space after commas, colons, and semicolons, after periods that separate parts of a reference citation, and after periods of initials in personal names (e.g. J. Power). Do not insert any spaces after internal periods in abbreviations (10 a.m., the U.S.) or with colons in ratios.
Research papers frequently employ specific sections, such as the Methods, Results, and Discussion. Other common sections are a Literature Review or Appendices. Brief explanations for each section are listed below. For more in-depth explanations see the APA Publication Manual.
The introduction should begin with a presentation of the specific problem that the author is studying as well as the research strategy. The introduction does not require a heading. A good introduction should explore the importance of the problem, review relevant scholarship, and lay out the hypotheses and how the hypotheses relates to the research design.
This section describes how the research was conducted, including sampling procedures, participant characteristics, research design, sample sizes, and experimental manipulations and interventions.
The results section reviews the data and analyses that were conducted. This section usually explains the data that is presented in accompanying figures or tables.
The discussion evaluates and interprets the results that were laid out in the previous section. This is where your interpretation of the results is explored, as well as the implications of the results and any suggestions for future research.
A literature review does more than review previous research and studies. It explains how the previous research leads or points to the research done in this paper. This is where you build an argument for the relevance and need for your research.
This is where material (extra data, tables, figures) that doesn't fit smoothly into the body of the paper can be included. Appendices are labeled A, B, C, etc. If there is only one Appendix, then it is Appendix A.
Levels of Headings
There are five heading formats in APA. The section headings (Methods, Results, Discussion, etc) would be the highest, or the first level, and then depending on how many levels of subheadings there are, progress downward to the next level.
Heading Level Format
1 Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and
2 Flush left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading
3 Indented, boldface, lowercase paragraph heading
ending with a period.
4 Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase paragraph
heading ending with a period.
5 Indented, italicized, lowercase paragraph heading
ending with a period.
In-Text Citation Format
For specific rules and examples see the In-Text Citations section
The APA's in-text citation system follows a parenthetical format, much like the MLA's; however, it emphasizes authors and dates of publication because authors and dates of research are important benchmarks denoting relevancy and validity in both the social and the natural sciences.
APA uses an in-text author-date citation system. The in-text citation directs readers to the References list at the end of the paper, where every source that is cited in-text is listed alphabetically. If a source is not cited in-text, it should not appear in the References list. However, there are two types of sources that are cited in-text but not listed in the References list: classical works and personal communications.
Some general rules for APA in-text citations are:
- If someone's ideas, research, or theories have influenced your thinking or work, you should cite them in your writing
- Cite facts or figures that are not common knowledge.
- Always give the author's last name and the publication date.
- Place a comma between the author's name and the year of publication: (Fisher, 2012).
- If the author's name is given in the sentence where the citation appears, only the publication date needs to be given in parentheses. If the author's name is not mentioned, give both pieces of information in parentheses.
- Parenthetical citations are always included inside sentence punctuation.
- Page numbers are included for direct quotations and must include abbreviations ("p." or "pp."). Page numbers are encouraged but not required for paraphrased material.
For more detailed information on in-text citations format see Chapter 8 of the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
The end documentation in the APA system is called References. It is located at the end of a document and contains publication information for all sources that you have cited within your document, with two exceptions. Entire websites and personal communication, such as e-mail messages, letters, and interviews, are cited only in the text of the document.
Begin the list on a new page at the end of the document, and center the title “References” at the top. Organize the list alphabetically by author (if the source is an organization, alphabetize it by the name of the organization: if the source has no know author, alphabetize it by title). All the entries should be double-spaced with no extra space between entries. Entries are formatted with a hanging indent: the first line is flush with the left margin, and subsequent lines are indented one-half inch. Only the initial word and proper nouns (names of people, organizations, cities, states, and so on) in a source title and subtitle are capitalized.
In longer documents, a references list may be given at the end of each chapter or section. In digital documents that use links, such as websites, the references list is often a separate page to which other pages are linked.
For information on how to format individual entries instead of the page as a whole, see the References pages
Below is a list of accepted abbreviations for the References list to use in entries:
Abbreviation | Book or publication part
Rev. ed. Revised edition
2nd ed. second edition
Ed. (Eds.) Editor (Editors)
n.d. no date
p. (pp.) page (pages)
Vol. Volume (as in Vol. 4)
Vols. Volumes (as in Vols. 1-4)
Tech. Rep. Technical Report
Order of References
The basic rule to alphabetize seems simple, but questions and complications inevitably arise. Below are some rules for the order of Reference entries.
- Nothing precedes something: Gold is listed before Golding; Villavicencio is listed before Villa-Zorro; Muros is listed before Muros de Allende.
- Several works by the same author: If it is a one-author entry, arrange them by year of publication, with the earliest date first.
Peterkin, J. (1927). Black April. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 48.
Peterkin, J. (1928). Scarlet sister Mary. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 92.
If the dates are the same, arrange them alphabetically by title and attach suffixes to each year (a, b, c...).
Smith, S., Wesson, P., & Winchester, T. (1988a). Title alpha.
New York: Macmillan, 324.
Smith, S., Wesson, P., & Winchester, T. (1988b). Title beta.
New York: Macmillan, 76.
Smith, S., Wesson, P., & Winchester, T. (1988c). Title zeta.
New York: Macmillan, 101-103.
3. List one-author works before co-authored works with the same first author. Do this even if the publication date for the co-authored work is earlier.
Shor, I. (1986). Culture wars: School and society in the
conservative restoration, 1969-1982. Boston: Routledge
and K. Paul, 55.
Shor, I. & Friere, P. (1987). A pedagogy of liberation:
Dialogues on transforming education. New York:
Bergin and Garvey, 112-115.
If there are different co-authors, entries are listed alphabetically by the second author. If the second authors are the same, then alphabetize by the third author, etc.
Smith, M., Brown, N., & Black, L. (1993). Title one. New York: Macmillan, 57.
Smith, M., White, Q., & Toggle, V. (1989). Title two. Boston: Bedford, 32-36.
4. If you have two different authors with the same last name, alphabetize by their first initial.
Duke, K. (1998).
Duke, N. (2003).
A sample title page, abstract and first page, and References list are located in the Related Resources menu.
Results and data can be presented in a paper in two ways. Authors can explain the results of an experiment or inquiry through text, or they can display the results in a table or figure. When the results are in the form of data, it is often more efficient to display them in a table or figure. The advantage of a table or figure is that a large amount of information can be displayed in a format that is easier to comprehend.
Do not do both. Do not explain the results in text and display a table or figure. If you use a table or figure, refer to it, discuss the highlights, but do not repeat all of the information again.
A table is used for numerical values or textual information, and is arranged in rows and columns. A figure can be anything from a chart or graph to a photograph or drawing.
When using tables or figures in a paper, there are guidelines on how to label, number, and format them. The information presented here is an overview, and for a more specific and detailed guide refer to the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
Data can be presented for a variety of reasons, such as explanation, communication, calculation, storage, or visual enhancement. The most common reason, however, is communication because a researcher usually wants to communicate the meaning of the data. Here are some general rules to keep in mind:
- Number all tables and figures in the same order in which they are mentioned in text and refer to them by their number, not "the table above" or "the table on page two". Use Arabic numerals, not letters. If you have one table and one figure, they should be labeled Table 1 and Figure 1. If you include additional tables or figure in an appendix, they should be labeled with the letter of the appendix and an Arabic numeral: Figure B3 is the third figure in Appendix B.
- Labels should be placed next to the element that they are labeling.
- Use fonts that are large enough to read easily.
- All of the information needed to understand the table or figure should be included in the table or figure. Use labels and table notes to accomplish this.
- Avoid unusual or non-standard abbreviations.
- Avoid decorative elements (such as shading, unusual font styles, colors, borders, etc.) if they do not add necessary content or meaning.
- Do not reproduce a table or figure from another source without written permission. If you do reproduce a table or figure, give credit in the caption to the author or copyright holder. For more information on permission to reproduce data displays, see Chapter 1 of the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
Most tables are created using the table feature of the word processing program in which the text is written. When putting a table together, consider what data is necessary for readers to understand the discussion, and what data is needed to provide a sufficient understanding of the analyses conducted. For more information on data and what a "sufficient understanding" is, see the APA Publication Manual. Finally, every table needs a title, and it should be clear and explanatory.
Tables have several basic components: the table number, table title, table body, cells, column heads, stub head, stub column, and table notes.
Table Number X
Stub Head Column Head Column Head
x x x
x x x
x x x
x x x
x x x
Table Note: Use this space for general notes on a table
The column to the farthest left in a table is the stub column. The stub column lists the major independent or predictor variables. A cell is the point of intersection between a row and a column, represented in the example table by an x. The rows of cells, which contain data, comprise the table body.
Temperature Ranges and Averages for Narnia, January through June____________________
Month Low Temperature High Temperature Average______________
January 2 34 16
February 4 26 14
March 12 41 28
April 19 52 43
May 34 68 54
June______________ 47 __________________75_____________61_______________
Note: All temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit.
Additional table elements are the column spanner, table spanner, decked heads, or different types of table notes. A column spanner is a heading that identifies more than one column, vs. a column heading, which can only identify one column. A table spanner is a heading that covers the entire table body. Decked heads are stacked headings, done to avoid word repetition. In Table 2, the column spanner and the column headings are decked, allowing the column headings to use less words and have less space in-between the columns than in Table 1. The column headings Low and High are better than Low Temperature and High Temperature, as in Table 1. It is better to have briefly worded column headings. Try not to have more than two levels of decked heads.
______________________________________ Table Title___________________________
Column spanner _Column spanner__
Stub head Column head Column head Column head Column head
x x x x x
x x x x x
x x x x x
x x x x x
x x x x x
Temperature Ranges and Averages for Narnia, January Through June, Years One and Two___
Month Low High Average_______________________________
January 2 34 16
February 4 26 14
March 12 41 28
April 19 52 43
May 34 68 54
June______________ 47 _____75________ 61________________________________
January 2 4 3a
February 3 25 10
March 8 41 18
April 18 52 33
May 29 68 48
June______________ 45* ____72_____ ___57_______________________________
Headings always identify the information below them. In the stub column, if there is subordinate information, indent within the column rather than creating a new column.
With all headings, only the first letter of the first word should be capitalized. Unless they are referring to a group, stub heads, column heads, and column spanners should be singular. Table spanners, however, can be plural.
With cells, if there is no information you should either leave the cell empty or insert a dash. Leave the cell empty if there is no information because the data are not applicable. Insert a dash if there is no information because data were not gathered or reported. Explain the dash in a general note underneath the table.
Tables can have three kinds of table notes. General notes, specific notes, or probability notes. A general note qualifies, explains, or gives information about the table as a whole. A specific note refers to a column, row, or cell within the table. A probability note refers to p values. For more information about p values and probability notes, see the APA Publication Manual.
For examples of different types of tables and their specific uses, refer to the examples in seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual. Authors should consider whether or not the table is necessary, if every column has a column head, if the table is referred to in text, etc.
Figures can be a graph, chart, map, drawing, or photograph. A chart displays non-quantitative information whereas a graph usually shows the relationship between two quantitative indices. A chart may show the flow of something through a process, for example, and a graph may show the relationship between temperatures during the summer and the number of homicides.
Figures need to be easy to read, clear, and free from unnecessary detail. Figures should add to the information in the text, not duplicate it, and they should not have unnecessary information. They should use an easy to read font that is not too small.
When deciding on whether or not use a figure, keep the information value in mind. What information does the figure convey? Is there a better way to convey that information, or is a figure the best way? As with tables, figures should be understandable on their own. Because of this, label figures clearly and concisely. If necessary, use a legend to explain the figure.
A caption is used to explain a figure, whereas a legend is used to explain symbols that are used within the figure. Captions should be positioned below a figure, but legends should be placed within the figure. Use the caption as a title for the figure, keeping it brief and concise. If necessary, add information after the caption (usually a short phrase punctuated with a period) to explain the figure. Do not explain the figure in the text of the paper. Readers should be able to understand the figure fully based on the figure alone.
For more information on figures and how to present them, including examples of figures, refer to the seventh edition of the APA Publication Manual.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, seventh edition. (2020).
Liberty University - 'APA Format Quick Guide'
Purdue OWL - 'APA Style'
Temple University Libraries - 'APA Citation Style'
Bennett, Andrea, Will Allen, Mike Palmquist, Karen A. Buntinas, Carol Busch, Beth Etter, Laurel Nesbitt, Nick Carbone, Heidi Scott, Jill Salahub, & Peter Connor. (2022). Citation Guide: American Psychological Association (APA). Writing@CSU. Colorado State University. https://writing.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=8