Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about APA citation format. Information provided is based on the rules and recommendations set forth in the most recent Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, which you can find at every GCC library.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). (2010). Washington: American Psychological Association.
APA in general
1. Why is APA used?
American Psychological Association (APA) style is a citation format commonly used in academic writing. Its purpose is to establish a uniform style for scientific communication that allows authors to consistently organize their research in a way that allows their readers to quickly locate the sources referenced. APA style is the standard used in APA journals, books, and electronic databases. Thus, it is the standard citation format for academic writing in the behavioral and social sciences.
2. What is the most important thing to remember about APA?
While there are a lot of rules (enough to fill up 262 pages), the most important thing to remember about APA is that its major purpose is to help protect you from unintentional plagiarism while presenting your research in a clear, well-organized manner consistent with that of other scholars. Although it can often take more time to properly format your citations than it did for you to write your paper, proper use of APA is intended to help you, and the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.
3. How does APA differ from MLA?
There are a lot of different citation formats, and which one you use largely depends on which subject or discipline you are studying. APA, which stands for American Psychological Association, is most commonly used in psychology, sociology, and political science classes. MLA format is widely used in humanities classes, like English, writing, foreign languages, etc. The format you use is typically determined by your instructor, so don't assume or guess, ask your instructor. Other commonly used citation formats include Chicago/Turabian (history), American Anthropological Association (anthropology), American Sociological Association (sociology), American Medical Association (nursing & medical), and many more.
The differences between MLA and APA citations are subtle and affect both in-text and references listed at the end of the paper. For example, if you were citing a book using either citation style, it would look like the following:
In-text: Your text, "A quote you used" (Author last name, Publication date, p. #), end of your text.
References page: Author Last name, First initial & middle initial. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.
In-text: Your text, "A quote you used" (Author last name page#), end of your text.
Works Cited page: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.
4. How do I know if I'm doing it right?
This can be really difficult, especially if you are trying to cite less commonly referenced materials, or websites in which it is difficult to identify elements like author or date of publication. There are many online materials and guides available through the library's website, and multiple copies of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association are available at every campus library. Additionally, the librarians are always available to help.
5. What information needs to be included in in-text citations, and in what order?
Generally, you need the author(s) last name, year of publication, and the page number or page ranges where you found the information, e.g. (Stewart, 2009, p.17). If there is no author, you will list the title in quotes, ("Economic Outlook," 2008). If there is no page number, or you are referring to the entire work, omit that element.
6. When do I need to include in-text parenthetical citations?
Whenever you refer to statistics, quotes, ideas, information, images, concepts, facts or anything else that you found from an outside source, you need to let your reader know where you found that information.
7. How do I cite sources other than articles in the text of my paper?
In-text citations will look pretty much the same no matter what your original source of information is. Your in-text citation is just the basic information, typically the author's last name and the page number from where it came (when available or relevant) that points your reader to the full citation on your References page.
8. How do I reference multiple sources in one paragraph?
Several studies indicate...(Miller, 1999; Shafranske & Mahoney, 1998)
If you are referencing two or more sources of information that provided you with similar information within your sentence or paragraph (but not directly quoting), you can combine your parenthetical citations into one. You will still need the authors' last names and page numbers, separated by a semicolon:
9. When referencing the same citation multiple times, do you need to keep citing it in every sentence?
When summarizing or paraphrasing general ideas, you can hold off on inserting a parenthetical citation until the last sentence. However, if you are using quotes or citing statistical information, you will need to include a citation for each sentence.
10. Does the period come before or after the quotation?
Any punctuation directly following a quotation is typically included within the quotation marks, but a parenthetical citation should be placed between the end quote and the period:
The recently approved ballot measure allowing for the distribution of medical marijuana is considered "the first step in getting marijuana to patients with chronic, debilitating pain" (Cole, 2009).
11. Is there a different citation format when paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting?
Nope, the same format is used for paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting: (Author last name, year, and page number).
12. Do I need to capitalize all the words in a title or article?
This depends on whether you are citing a book or a journal. If you are citing a book, only the first word in the title needs to be capitalized.
Helfer, M. E., Kempe, R. S., & Krugman, R. D. (1997). The battered child (5th ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mash, E. J., & Wolfe, D. A. (1999). Abnormal child psychology. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole-Wadsworth.
If you are citing a journal article, all words in the entire journal title should be capitalized.
Walters, G. (2006, June). Appraising, researching and conceptualizing criminal thinking: a personal view. Criminal Behaviour & Mental Health, 16(2), 87-99. doi:10.1002/cbm.50
13. When do I use italics?
In APA format, all book or journal titles should be italicized. For example:
Dixon, W. E. (2003). Twenty studies that revolutionized child psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Viemero, V. (1996, March). Factors in childhood that predict later criminal behavior. Aggressive Behavior, 22(2), 87-97.
14. Do I need to use quotation marks for article titles?
APA does not use quotation marks for article titles in a citation. The only situation that requires use of quotation marks is if you are using an in-text parenthetical citation that refers to an article that has no author. Example: ("Economic Outlook," 2008)
15. How do I cite a person I interviewed?
Interviews conducted by you do not need to be included in your reference list. Instead, cite personal interviews in-text only by identifying the person interviewed, and the exact date of the interview. Example:
Mark Smith believes that....(personal communication, April 21, 2009).
Personal communications may include private letters, memos, emails, in-person interviews, or telephone interviews.
If you are citing an interview conducted by someone else, and published in a periodical, follow the following format:
Spears, B. (2002, December 2). Pop’s baddest good girl [Interview]. Hollywood Reporter, p. S6.
16. How do I properly format a references page?
In a nutshell, it's the last page of your paper, with 1" margins, double-spaced, and the word References centered at the top of the page (do not bold, italicize, or underline these words). Each citation will have a hanging indent for the first line, and will be organized alphabetically by the authors' last names. If you are using Microsoft Word, you can format the hanging indent by selecting your citations, right-clicking, selecting Paragraph, and then under Indentation - Special, select Hanging.
17. When I format my references page, do I alphabetize by the authors' first or last names?
Your References page will be alphabetized according to the authors' last names. If there was no author listed, you will alphabetize according to the title of the book, article, or website used.
18. Do you have any examples of a References page?
Of course! Sample papers including complete References pages are available from the OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab.
Other citation tools
19. Does Microsoft Word cite things properly?
Unfortunately, not always. Tests of the citation feature in word show that sometimes things are not properly formatted. It's okay to use Microsoft Word to format citations, but you will definitely need to review the output and manually fix mistakes if you use this feature.
20. Are there any online citation generators that you recommend?
Yes. There are many available online for free or low cost. Currently, we recommend Noodle Tools Express, which does an excellent job of providing proper citation format.
NOTE: These automatic citations generators are a good place to get your citations properly formatted, but they are not always perfect. Always review your citations to make sure they are consistent with recommended formats for your style.