APA Style is a writing style and format for academic documents such as scholarly journal articles and books, and is commonly used for citing sources within the field of social sciences. It is described in the style guide of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is titled the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The guidelines were developed to aid reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences, for clarity of communication, and for "word choice that best reduces bias in language".
APA style is widely used, either entirely or with modifications, by hundreds of other scientific journals (including medical and other public health journals), in many textbooks, and in academia (for papers written in classes). Along with AMA Style and CSE Style, it is one of the major styles for such work.
The APA got involved in journal publishing in 1923. In 1929, an APA committee had a seven-page writer's guide published in the Psychological Bulletin. In 1944, a 32-page guide appeared as an article in the same journal. The first edition of the APA Publication Manual was published in 1952 as a 61-page supplement to the Psychological Bulletin, marking the beginning of a recognized “APA style.” In response to the growing complexities of scientific reporting, subsequent editions were released in 1974, 1983, 1994, 2001, and 2009.
Primarily known for the simplicity of its reference citation style, the Manual also established standards for language use that had far-reaching effects. Particularly influential were the "Guidelines for Nonsexist Language in APA Journals," first published as a modification to the 1974 edition, which provided practical alternatives to sexist language then in common usage. The guidelines for reducing bias in language have been updated over the years and presently provide practical guidance for writing about race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, and disability status (APA, 2009, pp. 70–77; see also APA, 2009b).
Sixth edition of the Publication Manual
The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is the most current. It was released in July 2009 after four years of development. The Publication Manual Revision Task Force of the American Psychological Association established parameters for the revision based on published critique; user comments; commissioned reviews; and input from psychologists, nurses, librarians, business leaders, publishing professionals, and APA governance groups (APA, 2007a, 2007b). To accomplish these revisions, the Task Force appointed working groups of four to nine members in seven areas: bias-free language, ethics, graphics, Journal Article Reporting Standards,references, statistics, and writing style (APA, 2009, pp. XVII–XVIII).
The APA explained the issuing of a new edition only eight years after the fifth edition by pointing to the increased use of online source or online access to academic journals (6th edition, p. XV). The sixth edition is accompanied by a style website, apastyle.org as well as the APA Style Blog, which answers many common questions from users.
Errors in the first printing
Sample papers in the first printing of the sixth edition contained errors. APA staff posted all of the corrections online for free in a single document on October 1, 2009, and shortly thereafter alerted users to the existence of the corrections in an APA blog entry. These errors attracted significant attention from the scholarly community and nearly two weeks later, on October 13, 2009, the article "Correcting a Style Guide" was published in the online newspaper Inside Higher Ed that included interviews with several individuals, one of whom described the errors as "egregious". All copies of the printing with errors were soon after recalled in 2009 (including those from major retailers such as Amazon.com) and all manuals currently in circulation are unaffected.
Characteristics of APA Style Citation
APA Style uses an author-date reference citation system in the text with an accompanying reference list. That means that to cite any reference in a paper, the writer should cite the author and year of the work, either by putting both in parentheses separated by a comma (parenthetical citation) or by putting the author in the narrative of the sentence and the year in parentheses (narrative citation).
Example narrative citation: Schmidt and Oh (2016) described a fear among the public that the findings of science are not actually real.
Example parenthetical citation: In our postfactual era, many members of the public fear that the findings of science are not real (Schmidt & Oh, 2016).
In the APA reference list, the writer should provide the author, year, title, and source of the cited work in an alphabetical list of references. If a reference is not cited in the text, it should not be included in the reference list. The reference format varies slightly depending on the document type (e.g., journal article, edited book chapter, blog post), but broadly speaking always follows the same pattern of author, date, title, source.
|Journal article||Author, A., & Author, B. (year). Title of article. Journal Title, Volume, page range. DOI||Schmidt, F. L., & Oh, I.-S. (2016). The crisis of confidence in research findings in psychology: Is lack of replication the real problem? Or is it something else? Archives of Scientific Psychology, 4, 32–37. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/arc0000029|
|Whole book||Author, A., & Author, B. (year). Title of book. Publisher location: Publisher Name. DOI||Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you're supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, MN: Hazelden.|
|Edited book chapter||Author, A., & Author, B. (year). Title of chapter. In E. Editor & A. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (pp. xx-xx). Publisher location: Publisher Name. DOI||Singh, A. A., Hwahng, S. J., Chang, S. C., White, B. (2017). Affirmative counseling with trans/gender-variant people of color. In A. Singh & L. M. Dickey (Eds.), Affirmative counseling and psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming clients (pp. 41–68). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. https://dx.doi.org/10.1037/14957-003|
|Website||Group Author. (year). Title of page. Retrieved from http://xxxxxxx||American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Divisions. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/|
- Note that the title of a website reference may be italic or not italic. If the work stands alone, italicize the title; if it is part of a greater whole, do not italicize the title.
|Wikiversity has learning resources about APA style|
- ^The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4338-0562-2.
- ^"APA Style". Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- ^ abcVandenBos, Gary R. (1992). "The APA Knowledge Dissemination Program: An overview of 100 years". In Rand B. Evans, Virginia Staudt Sexton, Thomas C. Cadwallader (eds.). The American Psychological Association: A Historical Perspective. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. pp. 347–390. ISBN 978-1-55798-136-3.
- ^Bentley, M.; Peerenboom, C.A.; Hodge, F.W.; Passano, Edward B.; Warren, H.C.; Washburn, M.F (February 1929). "Instructions in regard to preparation of manuscript". Psychological Bulletin. 26 (2): 57–63. doi:10.1037/h0071487. ISSN 0033-2909.
- ^"APA Style Blog: The Origins of APA Style". blog.apastyle.org. Retrieved 2016-12-14.
- ^APA Publications and Communications Board Working Group on Journal Article Reporting Standards (December 2008). "Reporting Standards for Research in Psychology: Why Do We Need Them? What Might They Be?"(PDF). American Psychologist. 63 (9): 839–851. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.63.9.839.
- ^APA Task Force on Issues of Sexual Bias in Graduate Education (June 1975). "Guidelines for nonsexist use of language". American Psychologist. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 32 (6): 487–494. doi:10.1037/h0076869. ISSN 0003-066X. OCLC 696450842. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- ^APA Publication Manual Task Force (June 1977). "Guidelines for nonsexist language in APA journals [Change Sheet 2]". American Psychologist. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. 30 (6): 682–684. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.32.6.487. ISSN 0003-066X. OCLC 696450842. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- ^"Supplemental materials: Chapter 3: Writing Clearly and Concisely". Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
- ^American Psychological Association (April 13–14, 2007). Meeting of the Council of Editors (Agenda book). Washington, D.C.: APA Archives.
- ^American Psychological Association (May 18–20, 2007). Meeting of the Publications and Communications Board (Agenda book). Washington, D.C.: APA Archives.
- ^APA Publications and Communications Board Working Group on Journal Article Reporting Standards (2008). "Reporting Standards for Research in Psychology: Why Do We Need Them? What Might They Be?"(PDF). American Psychologist. 63: 839–851. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.63.9.839.
- ^Skutley, Mary Lynn (October 8, 2009). "Note to APA Style Community: Sixth Edition Corrections". APA blog.
- ^Epstein, Jennifer (October 13, 2009). Jaschik, Scott; Lederman, Doug, eds. "Correcting a Style Guide". Inside Higher Ed. Washington, DC: Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved October 27, 2011.
This guide provides a basic introduction to the APA citation style. It is based on the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association published in 2010 (2009). Copies of the manual are available at the Vanier and Webster Libraries' Reference Desks, Reference Collections and on 3-hour Reserve. The call number for the manual is BF 76.7 A46 2010.
The Publication Manual is generally used for academic writing in the social sciences. The manual itself covers many aspects of research writing including selecting a topic, evaluating sources, taking notes, plagiarism, the mechanics of writing, the format of the research paper as well as the way to cite sources.
Another useful resource is the APA Style Guide to Electronic References (restricted to Concordia users).
This guide provides basic explanations and examples for the most common types of citations used by students. For additional information and examples, refer to the Publication Manual.
In-text citations - overview
When using your own words to refer indirectly to another author's work, you must identify the original source. A complete reference must appear in the Reference List at the end of your paper.
Further examples and explanations are available in Sections 6.05, 6.11-6.21 and Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual.
- In most cases, providing the author's last name and the publication year are sufficient:
Smith (1997) compared reaction times...
Within a paragraph, you need not include the year in subsequent references.
Smith (1997) compared reaction times. Smith also found that...
- If there are two authors, include the last name of each and the publication year:
...as James and Ryerson (1999) demonstrated...
...as has been shown (James & Ryerson, 1999)...
3 - 5 authors
- If there are three to five authors, cite all authors the first time; in subsequent citations, include only the last name of the first author followed by "et al." and the year:
Williams, Jones, Smith, Bradner, and Torrington (1983) found...
Williams et al. (1983) also noticed that...
- The names of groups that serve as authors (e.g. corporations, associations, government agencies, and study groups) are usually spelled out each time they appear in a text citation. If it will not cause confusion for the reader, names may be abbreviated thereafter:
First citation: (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 1999)
Subsequent citations: (NIMH, 1999)
Citing specific parts (pages, sections, & paragraphs)
- To cite a specific part of a source, indicate the page, chapter, figure, table or equation at the appropriate point in the text:
(Czapiewski & Ruby, 1995, p. 10)
(Wilmarth, 1980, Chapter 3)
- For electronic sources that do not provide page numbers, use the paragraph number, if available, preceded by the ¶ symbol or abbreviation para. If neither is visible, cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following it to direct the reader to the quoted material.
(Myers, 2000, ¶ 5)
(Beutler, 2000, Conclusion section, para. 1)
- For electronic sources such as Web pages, provide a reference to the author, the year and the page number (if it is a PDF document), the paragraph number if visible or a heading followed by the paragraph number.
"The current system of managed care and the current approach to defining empirically supported treatments are shortsighted" (Beutler, 2000, Conclusion section, ¶ 1)
- When citing a work which is discussed in another work, include the original author's name in an explanatory sentence, and then include the source you actually consulted in your parenthetical reference and in your reference list.
Smith argued that...(as cited in Andrews, 2007)
Direct quotations of sources
Direct quotations allow you to acknowledge a source within your text by providing a reference to exactly where in that source you found the information. The reader can then follow up on the complete reference in the Reference List page at the end of your paper.
Short direct quotations
- Quotations of less than 40 words should be incorporated in the text and enclosed with double quotation marks. Provide the author, publication year and a page number.
She stated, "The 'placebo effect,' ...disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner" (Miele, 1993, p. 276), but he did not clarify which behaviors were studied.
Miele (1993) found that "the 'placebo effect,' which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when [only the first group's] behaviors were studied in this manner" (p. 276).
Long direct quotations
- When making a quotation of more than 40 words, use a free-standing "block quotation" on a new line, indented five spaces and omit quotation marks.
Miele (1993) found the following:
The "placebo effect," which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner. Furthermore, the behaviors were never exhibited, even when reel [sic] drugs were administered. Earlier studies were clearly premature in attributing the results to a placebo effect. (p. 276)
Further examples and explanations are available in Section 6.03 of the Publication Manual.
Reference list - overview
The alphabetical list of references that appears at the end of your paper contains more information about all of the sources you have used allowing readers to refer to them, as needed. The main characteristics are:
- The list of references must be on a new page at the end of your text
- The word References should be centered at the top of the page
- Entries are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name or by the title if there is no author
- Titles of larger works (i.e. books, journals, encyclopedias) are italicized
- Entries are double-spaced (for the purposes of this handout, single-spacing is used)
- For each entry, the first line is typed flush with the left margin. Additional lines are indented as a group a few spaces to the right of the left margin (hanging indent)
Below are some examples of the most common types of sources including online sources (Web and databases).
Book with one author
Bernstein, T. M. (1965). The careful writer: A modern guide to English usage (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Atheneum.
- Replace place and publisher information with the DOI.
Anderson, C.A., Gentile, D.A., & Buckley, K.E. (2007). Violent video game effects on children and adolescents: Theory, research and public policy. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195309836.001.0001
Work with two authors
Beck, C. A. J., & Sales, B. D. (2001). Family mediation: Facts, myths, and future prospects. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Two or more works by the same author
- Arrange by the year of publication, the earliest first.
Postman, N. (1979). Teaching as a conserving activity. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.
Postman, N. (1985). Amusing ourselves to death: Public discourse in the age of show business. New York, NY: Viking.
- If works by the same author are published in the same year, arrange alphabetically by title and add a letter after the year as indicated below.
McLuhan, M. (1970a). Culture is our business. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
McLuhan, M. (1970b). From cliché to archetype. New York, NY: Viking Press.
Book by a corporate author
- Associations, corporations, agencies, government departments and organizations are considered authors when there is no single author
American Psychological Association. (1972). Ethical standards of psychologists. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Anthologies, Coursepacks, & Encyclopedias
Anthology or compilation
Gibbs, J. T., & Huang, L. N. (Eds.). (1991). Children of color: Psychological interventions with minority youth. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Work in an anthology or an essay in a book
Bjork, R. A. (1989). Retrieval inhibition as an adaptive mechanism in human memory. In H. L. Roediger III, & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.), Varieties of memory & consciousness (pp. 309-330). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Work in a coursepack
Goleman, D. (2009). What makes a leader? In D. Demers (Ed.), AHSC 230: Interpersonal communication and relationships (pp. 47-56). Montreal, Canada: Concordia University Bookstore. (Reprinted from Harvard Business Review, 76(6), pp.93-102, 1998).
Work in a dictionary
- Indicate whether you are citing a noun, verb, adjective, etc., if there are multiple types of the word. The in-text citation would be (Protest, 1971).
Protest, v. (1971). Compact edition of the Oxford English dictionary (Vol. 2, p. 2335). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Article in a reference book or an entry in an encyclopedia
- If the article/entry is signed, include the author's name; if unsigned, begin with the title of the entry
Guignon, C. B. (1998). Existentialism. In E. Craig (Ed.), Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy (Vol. 3, pp. 493-502). London, England: Routledge.
Article in a journal - for electronic articles retrieved online, see below
Mellers, B. A. (2000). Choice and the relative pleasure of consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 910-924.
- Note: List only the volume number if the periodical uses continuous pagination throughout a particular volume. If each issue begins with page 1, then list the issue number as well.
Klimoski, R., & Palmer, S. (1993). The ADA and the hiring process in organizations. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 45(2), 10-36.
Article in a newspaper or magazine
Semenak, S. (1995, December 28). Feeling right at home: Government residence eschews traditional rules. Montreal Gazette, p. A4.
Driedger, S. D. (1998, April 20). After divorce. Maclean's, 111(16), 38-43.
Article from an electronic source
- Provide the same information as you would for a printed journal article and add a retrieval statement that will identify the source of this information.
- In general, it is not necessary to include database information (APA, 2010, p. 192).
- You can identify your source by including ONE of the following:
- DOI (digital object identifier)
A DOI is a standardized method for identifying an electronic object. They look something like this: doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.02.012. DOIs often appear in the citation or the abstract of an article or at the top or bottom of the first page of the article. You may find the DOI for your article by using CrossRef.org.
Find out more about DOIs.
Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5), 1816-1836. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2008.02.012
- URL for an online periodical
If there is no DOI for an article found in an online periodical, include the URL for the journal home page.
Cooper, A., & Humphreys, K. (2008). The uncertainty is killing me: Self-triage decision making and information availability. E-Journal of Applied Psychology, 4(1). Retrieved from http://ojs.lib.swin.edu.au/index.php/ejap/
NOTE: For more information about electronic sources, please refer to the APA style guide to electronic references(restricted to Concordia users)
Television or radio program
MacIntyre, L. (Reporter). (2002, January 23). Scandal of the Century [Television series episode]. In H. Cashore (Producer), The fifth estate. Toronto, Canada: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
Film, videorecording or DVD
Kubrick, S. (Director). (1980). The Shining [Motion picture]. United States: Warner Brothers.
YouTube videos (For more information see the APA Style Blog)
With author's name and screen name
Apsolon, M. [markapsolon]. (2011, September 9). Real ghost girl caught on Video Tape 14 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nyGCbxD848
With only screen name
Bellofolletti. (2009, April 8). Ghost caught on surveillance camera [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v =Dq1ms2JhYBI&feature=related
Online Lecture Notes and Presentation Slides (such as Moodle)
Cress, C. M. (2009). Curricular strategies for student success and engaged learning [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.vtcampuscompact.org/2009/TCL_post/presenter_powerpoints/Christine%20Cress%20-%20Curricular%20Strategies.ppt
NOTE: For more information about electronic sources, please refer to the APA style guide to electronic references (restricted to Concordia users)
Web pages & non-periodical documents on the Internet
- Include the author, title of the document, and if available, always include the date the material was updated or posted online. If the page may be changed or moved, include the date of retrieval. Include the URL of the document cited.
- If there is no author, place the title in the author position.
- If there is no date, replace the date with (n.d.) to signify that there is no date for the material.
- Add a description of the source in square brackets after the title, if this is necessary to clarify the type of source e.g. [Bibliography] [PowerPoint slides] [Multimedia presentation]
Library and Archives Canada. (2008). Celebrating women's achievements: Women artists in Canada. Retrieved from http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/women/002026-500-e.html
- If the source material is likely to change over time (e.g. wikis), include the retrieval date.
Geography of Canada. (2009, September 29). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 30, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_Canada
Further examples and explanations are available in sections 6.22-6.26 (basic rules), sections 6.31-6.32 (electronic sources) and chapter 7 (examples and more information) of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
Garner, F. D. (1991). U.S. Patent No. 05058369. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Note: The in-text citation for the above patent would be:
(U.S. Patent No. 05058369, 1991)