How to Document Sources in APA Style

A word of advice: This text is intended to be a how-to on citing and formatting research and scholarly essays according to the APA style manual. This how-to is not intended to be a sample research paper, although a link to an exemplary essay is provided. This text should prove useful in guiding writers, editors, researchers, and students to a better understanding of what the APA style of documentation is, when, and how to use it. Examples of proper APA citation and formatting are given below along with other useful tips about word processing and third-party software.

Bibliographic Information
The APA style is used for in-text and bibliographic citations for source and reference material used in the social sciences and in business. It’s a style quick to recognize what researchers in these disciplines need to further studies and to understand complex problems in these fields.

Essay Formatting and Organization
The APA style also provides specific guidelines for organizing research papers and manuscripts. Everything you need to know about formatting and laying out a publishable paper is covered in the APA style manual.

Tip: If you are looking for something that does not appear in the APA style manual, it probably isn’t important to the field. This tip might sound apathetic when in fact, it can help writers and editors focus on what matters most. Use professional and scholarly judgment whenever an unanswered question arises.

Useful Resources
Writers, editors, students, and researchers in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and business should have access to a current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. For more information, visit The Web site contains updates to the ever-expanding proliferation of electronic sources. Computer users can also download a copy of the APA-Style Helper software and other useful references.

In addition to the APA Web site, third party software designed to help researchers locate, download, and maintain bibliographies can provide accurate APA-style formatting and ready-to-go bibliographies. Endnote, for example and quickly becoming a popular choice among researchers and students, can be integrated with Microsoft Word to update references and bibliographic information as you type. Available at college bookstores, you can also try for more information.

Access to a current APA style manual and third-party bibliography software, such as Endnote, should be part of every serious writer’s bookshelf. The APA also recommends the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as a first choice and the more comprehensive Webster’s Third New International Dictionary as a backup for serious writers. APA reference guidelines are also available in the MLA standard stylebook called A Writer’s Reference (see for more information.)

Grammatical and ethical concerns such as author bias are covered in APA’s Concise Guide. But to be sure, basic grammar and punctuation is used throughout an essay. To see frequently asked questions about grammar to avoid common grammatical errors, visit the APA’s Style Tips at

Generally speaking, the APA style of writing is clear and concise without the use of poetic devices such as alliteration, end-rhymes, or other literary embellishments.

In-Text Citation
Citing sources in the main body of your essay points readers to your reference list (bibliography). The reference list, attached to the end of your essay, will provide all the information required for someone to read the texts you have used to inform your work.

The rules: Credit an author and date of publication in a parenthetical note. Include page numbers if quoting the author. Here’s how it works.

Basic format with quotation
In a recent study by Petyova (2007), anthropologists agree that “misconceptions surrounding the theory of evolution should be clarified” (p. 217).

Or. . .

In a recent study, anthropologists agree that “misconceptions surrounding the theory of evolution should be clarified” (Petyova, 2007, p. 217).

Notes: The punctuation in the preceding examples is precise. Periods occur after the parenthetical notes and commas separate name, date, and page number. Also notice that the author’s name can be placed grammatically in the text or in the parenthetical note, but not both. (See below what the bibliographic entry looks like for this citation.)

Here is the bibliographic reference for the above citation. (This reference is fictitious, designed for instructional purposes only.)

Petyova, C. E. (2007). Origins of Misunderstanding: Teaching Darwin in Schools. New
York: Blackwell.

Notes: This is an example of a hanging indent. Unless instructed otherwise or unless preparing a final copy for a publisher, the hanging indent is preferred. Unfortunately, some versions of Microsoft Word will not allow you to space or tab the second line of text over. To easily create a hanging indent in Word, highlight text, go to Format � Paragraph � Indents and Spacing � Click on the Special Indentation drop down menu and select Hanging. This should help you format your hanging indents in Word without too much frustration. If you plan on writing several research papers using hanging indents, consider learning how to integrate Endnote software with MS Word.

Writer Resources
For every instance of book, a book with two or more authors, anthology, unknown author, journal paginated by issue, journal paginated by volume, and so on, there are specific guidelines. Details regarding print and online sources can be found at the following addresses and bookmarked for future reference: This site provides details on each type of publication that you want to cite. This is a comprehensive explanation of APA citation rules for electronic sources.

Sample Essay
To see a sample cover page, body-text, and bibliography written in exemplary APA style, you can bookmark the following PDF:

Final Words on Formatting

âÂ?¢ Use 81/2″ x 11″ white paper.
� Use a legible font.
� Title page pagination begins one-half inch from the top and is right-aligned (see sample).
� One-inch margins on all sides except the top. Use half-an-inch from the top for pagination. The hard return to begin body-text one inch from the top.
� Do not justify right margin.
� Double space the entire paper.
� Indent the first line of every paragraph five spaces.
� Indent every line of a quotation containing more than 40 words.
� Use one space after all punctuation (including commas).
� Create a dash by typing two hyphens without spaces before, between, or after the hyphens.
âÂ?¢ Abstracts, if required, begin after the title page with the word “Abstract” one inch from the top, centered. Double space the abstract as you will the entire paper.
� Headings are not necessary, but sometimes encouraged. Main headings are centered, subheadings are aligned left. Do not bold or italicize headings. Titular punctuation is used.
� Visuals should be simple labeled as Table 1, Figure 2, etc.

The links and suggestions mentioned here provide enough information for you to format an essay or manuscript according to the APA guidelines. But a well-crafted paper requires skill and hard work. Attention to detail is the crowning attribute to a perfectly composed research paper. If, however, you take the time to craft your paper to perfection, it will stand out and make the mark.

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