APA (American Psychological Association) style is used to cite sources in the field of social sciences. It can be used for research papers in the subjects of social anthropology, sociology, social psychology, political science, and economics.
In this guide, we will provide you with specific directions on how to organize and properly cite different types of sources in APA format — along with citation examples. This article is a good aid for anyone who wishes to live up to high academic standards, avoid plagiarism, and cite their sources in accordance with the latest APA style rules.
The following guide is based on the most recent 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological association.
APA Referencing Basics: Reference List
A reference list is a list of all the sources one has used in their essay. Everything in other citation styles, such as the bibliography or works cited page, are simply called a reference list in the APA format. In order to make it easier for a reader to navigate your essay and look for cited sources, there are specific rules to follow to organize it:
- First, the reference page is always the last page in your essay. At the top of the page, place the word “References”. Do not make it bold or underline it. All the text on this page should have the same spacing as the rest of your essay.
- In the reference list, the author's last name goes first and then the first name.
- Each source on the reference page must start on a new line. If the source takes up more than one line, all the lines following the first one must be indented one-half inch from the left.
- If there are multiple works by the same author, they should be listed in chronological order, from earliest to latest.
- On the reference page, the sources should be alphabetized according to the last names of the authors (or the first author, if there are multiple authors for one source).
- Always write out every title in full, and make sure to stick to the punctuation and capitalizations used by the author.
- Titles of longer sources, like books and journals, should be italicized.
APA Referencing Basics: In-Text Citation
- Two authors. In order to do the in-text citation, both authors should be named in parentheses after the thought is finished. Instead of using “and”, use an ampersand to combine the two last names. Then, put a coma and include the year of publication.
Example: (Smith & Jones, 2002)
If you choose to use a signal phrase, you should use “and”, and only put the year of publication in parentheses:
Example: According to Smith and Jones (2002), the circumstances of…
- Three, four or five authors. All of the authors should be listed regardless of whether you choose to do an in-text citation or signal phrase while citing your quote or information. List them all except the last one—using commas. The last one should have a comma AND ampersand in front of it, followed by the year:
Example: (Brooks, Jones, Smith, & Orozco, 2009)
In any follow-up citations throughout the text, instead of listing all of the authors, you should simply include the first name followed by “et al.” and the year:
Example: (Brooks et al., 2009)
- Six or more authors. In this case, you should not list all of the authors in the in-text citation. In parentheses, or in a signal phrase, put the last name of the first author and “et al.”, along with the year. This is the correct way to do an in-text citation for a publication with multiple authors:
Examples: Brooks et al. (2009) suggested…
(Brooks et al., 2009)
- No authors. If it appears that some of your sources do not have an author, the in-text citation should be done using the name of the publication. In parentheses, you should include the two first words from the name of the publication in quotation marks, followed by the year. The same goes for a signal phrase in-text citation, but without the use of parentheses:
Example: The research was conducted in a suitable environment (“Deduction Methods”, 1996)
- Citing authors with multiple works from the same year. In the rare case you are citing multiple works by the same author, that also have the same publication date, you should use lower-case letters after the year (a, b, c, etc.)—depending on the order the sources are put in the reference list:
Examples: Findings of this research were outstanding (Brooks, 1972a)…
The finding of Brooks’ research (1972a)…
- Citing multiple works in one parentheses. If a statement you created was composed out of several different sources, you need to include all of them in the parentheses of your in-text citation. You should list them alphabetically, the same way they are rendered in the reference list:
Example: (Brooks, 1995; Gandhi, 2004)
- Citing a group or organization. If the author of a publication is not a person, but rather an organization or a group, you should include the full name of the organization, along with the year of publication, in the parentheses of your in-text citation:
Examples: The laws followed by Internal Revenue Service (2002)…
The laws followed by this organization (IRS, 2002)…
- Citing a secondary source. In order to cite a source that you have found within another source, you should name your source in the signal phrase. Then, mention the secondary source in parentheses, followed by the phrase “as cited”, the year of publication, and the page number:
Example: Brooks suggested that…(as cited in Smith, 2002, p.459)
How to Cite Different Source Types
In this section you will discover how to cite different printed and digital sources.
How to Cite a Book in APA Format
- Citing a book in print. Citing a book follows this specific format:
Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letters also for subtitles. Location: Publisher.
First, put the last name of the author, followed by a comma, then initial(s). In parentheses, put the year of publication. Next, the title of the book. Italicize the title — although the only capitalized letters are the first letters of the title and subtitle. Then, you should include the location of where the book was published, along with the publisher, separated by a semicolon:
Citation example: Smith, A. J. (2009). Economic in modern life: Guide to success. New York City; Manhattan press.
- Citing an e-book from an e-reader. If your source is a book from an e-reader like a Kindle, the following information has to be included: the author, date of publication in parentheses, title, e-book version, and the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number or place where you downloaded the book. This information is used instead of the information about the publisher.
Citation example: Salinger, J. J. (1897). Glass Family [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
- Citing a book found in a database. If the book you are using in your essay comes from a school library database or and online database, you should cite it in the following format: Last name of the author, initial(s), italicized name of the publication, and “retrieved from”, followed by a link to the website. If the book you are using has to be purchased, it is suggested to put “available from”, rather than “retrieved from”.
Citation example: De Puff, E. W. (n.d.). Indian Lifestyle: Traditions and myths. Retrieved from https://digital.library.sdsu.edu/indians.html
How to Cite a Journal Article in APA Format
- Citing a journal article in print. For a printed article to be cited, the following format should be used: author with initial(s), date of publication in parentheses, title, title of journal (italicized), volume number (italicized), issue number, and page range:
Citation example: Scraton, J. (1993). The eclipse of understanding. The New Yorker Style, 21(4), 5-13.
- Citing a journal article found online. According to the APA format guide, if the journal article was found online, the following format should be followed: author with initial(s), date of publication in parentheses, title, title of journal (italicized), volume number (italicized), issue number, page range, and DOI.
A DOI, or Digital Object Identifier, is a tool used in the APA format, instead of a URL. URLs tend to change; therefore, the reader is not always able to retrieve a certain online source. DOIs, on the other hand, have a long-lasting link that is unique to a specific article. If a DOI is unavailable, the use of a URL is permitted.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number (issue number, if available), page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or https://doi.org/10.0000/0000
Citation example: Brownie, D. (2007). French economics: An annotated bibliography. European Journal of Marketing, 41, 1245-1283. doi:10.1108/03090560710821161
How to Reference a Newspaper in APA Format
- Citing a newspaper article in print. According to the APA format guide, an article retrieved from a newspaper in print should be cited as follows: author, year and month of publication, the name of the article, the name of the newspaper (italicized), and pages:
Citation example: Curtis, S. (2005, October 22). Fields grown to thrive. The Country Today, pp. 1A, 2A.
- Citing a newspaper article found online is identical to a printed version, although the home address should be added. APA style format guidelines suggest using the homepage instead of the URL itself:
Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from https://www.homeaddress.com/
Example: Galveston, T. (2008, August 6). Psychology newsletter. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/
How to Reference a Magazine in APA Format
- Citing a magazine article in print. A magazine article in print is required to have the following structure (according to the APA format guide): author, year and month of publication in parentheses, the name of the article, the name of the magazine (italicized), issue number (italicized), and page range:
Citation example: Henry, W. A., (1990, April). Making the grade in today's schools. Time, 135, 28-31.
- Citing a magazine article found online. For a magazine article found online, you need to have the following components, in accordance with the APA format guide: author, year and month of publication in parentheses, the name of the article, the name of the magazine (italicized), issue number (italicized) and page range, followed by the DOI:
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Magazine, issue number, page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or https://doi.org/10.0000/0000
Citation example: Henry, W. A., (1990, April). Making the grade in today's schools. Time, 135, 28-31. doi: 10.1108/03090560710821161
How to Cite a Movie/Film in APA Format
- Citing a film / Citing a movie. If a film is one of the sources of your essay, it might be challenging to cite. In order to do so in accordance with the APA format guide, you need to put the following information on the reference page: producer’s name—followed by “producer” in parentheses, director’s name—followed by “director” in parentheses, date of publication in parentheses, title (italicized)-followed by “motion picture” in brackets, country of origin, and finally, studio.
Producer, P. P. (Producer), & Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of publication). Title of motion picture [Motion picture]. Country of origin: Studio or distributor.
Citation example: Carroll, G., Giler, D., & Hill, W. (Producers), & Scott, R. (Director). (1979). Alien [Motion Picture]. United States: Twentieth Century Fox.
- Citing a film from YouTube. If you find a YouTube video that looks like a credible academic source, do not hesitate to include it. According to the APA format guide, you should start off with the name of the person who published the video, followed by their nickname or username is brackets, date of publication in parentheses, italicized name of the video and the type of media in brackets, and the URL for it.
Last Name, F.M. [Username]. (Year, Month Date). Title of video [Video File]. Retrieved from URL
Citation example: Apolon, M. [marsolon]. (2011, October 9). The tape 14 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nyGC848/
How to Cite a TV/Radio Broadcast in APA Format
- Citing an episode from TV or a radio show. Citing an episode from a TV or radio show should be done in the following format: writer’s last name and initial(s), followed by (Writer); director’s last name and initial(s), followed by (Director); the year of publication in parentheses; the name of the episode; type of series; producer’s name, followed by (Producer); italicized title; city and state of origin; and studio or distributor’s name:
Writer, W. W. (Writer), & Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of publication). Title of episode [Television series episode]. In P. Producer (Producer), Series title. City, state of origin: Studio or distributor.
Citation example: Dick, L. (Writer), & Yaitanes, G. (Director). (2009). Simple explanation [Television series episode]. In P. Attanasio (Executive producer), House, M.D.. Los Angeles, CA: Fox Broadcasting..
How to Cite a Website in APA Format
- Citing a website article with an author. If you find an article online that is not from a newspaper, magazine, or any kind of periodical, the best way to cite it is as follows (according to the APA format guide): author, date of publication in parentheses, title, format description, and “retrieved from” with the URL:
Author, A. A. & Author B. B. (Date of publication). Title of page [Format description when necessary]. Retrieved from https://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Citation example: Eco, U. (2015). How to write a thesis [PDF file]. (Farina C. M. & Farina F., Trans.) Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/How_to_write_a_thesis/.../Umberto+Eco-How+to+Write/
- Citing a website article without an author. If the article does not have an author, cite it with the name of the page, date in parentheses or “n.d” for “no date”, and “retrieved from” with the URL:
Citation example: Spotlight Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/about/information/spotlight_resources.html/