How to Document Sources in APA Style

The American Psychological Association, or APA, style of citing sources in academic papers is mainly used in the social sciences. It is similar to MLA style, although there are a few differences that writers will need to pick up on.

When citing sources, there are three rules:

1. Use the last name of the author and the year of their publication in a signal phrase in your paper. Khoddam (1998) argues that children need to be introduced to structure early in their lives.

2. Put the page number in parentheses after the quote. Johnson (1992) acknowledged that “cats are independent creatures” (p. 132).

3. At the end of the paper, include a reference list. The list should be arranged alphabetically by author. The format for each entry varies depending on what kind of reference it is (book, magazine, etc.). The most commonly used reference types are listed below.

Author’s last name, first initial (date of publication). Title of Book. State published in: Publisher.

Example: Johnson, M. (2000). Self-Publishing Poetry. New York: Ace Books.

For two or more authors, join the authors’ names with an ampersand: Johnson, M., & Smith, J. If an organization is the author, simply list the organization’s name in place of the author’s. If you have more than three authors, you can use the format “Nicholson et al.” in your signal phrase. However, be sure to list all of the authors on your reference page.

If you’re citing a book that has editors as opposed to a single author, simply place (Eds.). after the editors’ names and before the date of publication.

If you have two or more sources by the same author, you must always use the author’s full name. Do not use a line like you would in MLA style.

Articles in Periodicals:
Author’s last name, first initial (date of publication). Title of article. Journal Title, volume# (issue #). pages.

Example: Brooks, K. (2005, May 17). Exploring the World of Science Fiction. Writer’s Weekly, 12(3), 17 – 25.

Some periodicals may not have an issue number. If they don’t, leave it out. For newspapers, omit both the volume and issue number. Be sure to italicize the volume number.

Online Articles:
Use the same format as above with one exception: add the date you retrieved the article and the web address.

Example: Brooks, K. (2005, May 17). Exploring the World of Science Fiction. Writer’s Weekly, 12(3). Retrieved August 8, 2005, from

If you got the article from a database (like JSTOR or ERIC), use the database name instead of a website. (Retrieved August 8, 2005, from JSTOR database).

If your website is not part of a periodical, omit the journal title and volume/issue information.

A Few Other Things:

If you paraphrase an author, be sure to give them credit! It is still considered plagiarism if you don’t.

Example: Gregory repeatedly states that exposure to harmful aerosol fumes can cause breathing difficulty (p. 110-112).

Block quotes of 40 or more words. Indent the entire quote five spaces from the left-hand margin. Keep the right margin the same (do not indent it) and do not single space.

These are the three main types of articles used in research papers. Be sure to try to collect all of the needed information for each source, including date of publication. Once you have created your reference list, double check the formatting for each reference to make certain it is correct. Once you’ve done that, your paper should be ready to turn it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

7 × eight =