APA Style Made Positively Simple

Using APA Style isn’t hard at all. Just follow the steps below, one at a time, for each of your research sources.

NOTE: These guidelines are based on the 6th edition of the APA Style Manual and were last updated in November 2009.

1. What kind of source do you have?

The most common research sources are the following:
A book
A magazine article
A journal article
A newspaper article
A page from a website

If you aren’t sure what type your source is, ask your instructor or a librarian.

CAUTION: if you’re using an article from a database, the publication information may contain a tag that says “Journal.” This is just a standard label placed on ALL sources. It doesn’t indicate that this particular source is a journal. See APA Style Helper: Magazine or Journal for help.

2. Follow the appropriate pattern for the type of source you have.

A book.

• The author’s last name. Comma.

• The author’s first initial. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list each the same way. Place & before the final one. If there are more than six authors, list only the first six, then write et al.

• The year of publication in parenthesis. This will be found on the reverse of the title page in most books. Period.

• The book’s title (and subtitle if any) in italics Capitalize only the first word of the title (and subtitle if any). Please a colon between the title and subtitle if there is one. Period. The city where the book was published. Don’t include the state unless the city is somewhat obscure. Colon.

• The name of the publisher.

• End the reference with a period.

Smith, E. (2008). APA style citation isn’t hard at all. New York: Random House.

The in-text citation for a book contains the author’s last name, comma, the year of publication. If you are quoting directly from the book, also include the page number as shown in the example below. If there are multiple authors, list up to five. Place an & before the final one. If there are six, list only the first and write et al after it.

(Smith, 2008) or (Smith, 2008, p. 3)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the other information in the parenthesis.

According to Smith, “Using APA style is really quite easy” (2008, p. 3).

A magazine article.

• The author’s last name. Comma. (If the article lists no author, begin with the title, then the date, then the rest of the reference as shown below.)

• The author’s first initial. Period. If there are multiple authors, list each the same way. Place & before the final one. If there are more than six authors, list only the first six, then write et al.

• The date of the magazine issue in parenthesis. Year first, then month, then day (if any). Don’t abbreviate the month. Period.

• The title of the article. Capitalize only the first word of the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Period.

• The name of the magazine in italics. Capitalize every important word. Comma.

• If the magazine includes a volume number, place it after the name in italics. Comma.

• The page numbers on which the article appears. This will be found on the magazine pages or in the information you get from the database. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, you may include a DOI number if you choose, but it isn’t required. (This would appear in the information you get from the database.) You don’t need to include the name of the database or retrieval date unless the article may be hard to locate.

• End the reference with a period.

Jones, B. (2008, March 12). How to use APA style documentation correctly: One student’s experience. Student Success Magazine, 4, 39-41.

Getting help with APA style citation. (2008, March 12). Student Success Magazine, 4, 41.

The in-text citation for a magazine article contains the author’s last name, comma, the year of publication. If you are quoting directly from the article, also include the page number as shown in the example below.

(Jones, 2008) or (Jones, 2008, p. 40)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the other information in the parenthesis.

According to Jones, “Using APA style is really no problem” (2008, p. 40).

If the article lists no author, use the first word or two of the title in quotation marks or use the full title in your sentence. If there are multiple authors, list up to five. Place an & before the final one. If there are six, list only the first and write et al after it.

“Using APA style citations isn’t hard at all” (“Getting Help,” 2008, p. 41).

The article “Getting Help with APA Style Citation" claims that “Using APA isn’t hard at all” (2008, p. 41).

A journal article.

• The author’s last name. Comma.

• The author’s first initial. Period. If there are multiple authors, list each the same way. Place & before the final one. If there are more than six authors, list only the first six, then write et al.

• The year of publication in parenthesis. Period. The title of the article. Capitalize only the first word of the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Period.

• The name of the journal in italics. Capitalize every important word. Comma.

• The volume number in italics. This will be found on the journal pages or in the information you get from the database.

• The issue number in parenthesis. Also found on the journal pages or in the information you get from the database. Comma.

• The page numbers on which the article appears. Found on the journal pages on in the information you get from the database.

• If the article was accessed through a database, you may include a DOI number if you choose, but it isn’t required. (This would appear in the information you get from the database.) You don’t need to include the name of the database or retrieval date unless the article may be hard to locate.

• End the reference with a period.

Brown, J. (2009). A study of the use of APA style citations by college students. Journal of the Citation Society, 15(7), 20-28.

The in-text citation for a journal article contains the author’s last name, comma, the year of publication. If you are quoting directly from the article, also include the page number as shown in the example below. If there are multiple authors, list up to five. Place an & before the final one. If there are six, list only the first and write et al after it.

(Brown, 2008) or (Brown, 2008, p. 21)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the other information in the parenthesis.

According to Brown, “Many students actually enjoy using APA style documentation” (2008, p. 21).

A newspaper article.

• The author’s last name. Comma. (If the article lists no author, begin with the title, then the date, then the rest of the reference as shown below.)

• The author’s first initial. Period. If there are multiple authors, list each the same way. Place & before the final one. The date of publication in parenthesis. Year first, then month, then day. Don’t abbreviate the month. Period.

• The title of the article. Capitalize only the first word of the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Period.

• The name of the newspaper in italics. Capitalize every important word. Comma.

• The page numbers on which the article appears. This will be found on the article pages or in the information you get from the database. Use p. if the article appears on a single page or pp. if there are multiple pages. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, you may include a DOI number if you choose, but it isn’t required. (This would appear in the information you get from the database.) You don’t need to include the name of the database or retrieval date unless the article may be hard to locate.

• End the reference with a period.

Miller, T. (2009, January 3). Why students love APA style citation. USA Today, pp. C3-4.

“APA style becoming more popular.” (2009, January 3). New York Times, p. A1.

The in-text citation for a newspaper article contains the author’s last name, comma, the year of publication. If you are quoting directly from the article, also include the page number as shown in the example below.

(Miller, 2009) or (Miller, 2009, p. C3)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the other information in the parenthesis.

According to Miller, “It’s fun to cite sources in APA style” (2009, p. C3).

If the article lists no author, use the first word or two of the title in quotation marks or use the full title in your sentence. If there are multiple authors, list up to five. Place an & before the final one. If there are six, list only the first and write et al after it.

Students have many reasons for loving APA citation (Miller, 2009).

The article “APA Style Becoming More Popular, “ claims that “This documentation style is sweeping the nation” (2009, p. A1).

A page or document from a website.

• The author’s last name. Comma. (If the page lists no author, begin with the title, then the date, then the rest of the reference as shown below.) You can also use the sponsoring organization as the author. See the example below.

• The author’s first initial. Period. If there are multiple authors, list each the same way. Place & before the final one.

• The date of publication in parenthesis. Year first, then month, then day, or just the year if that’s all the site shows. Don’t abbreviate the month. Period. If you can’t locate a date, place n.d. in parenthesis. This stands for “no date.”

• The title of the article in italics. Capitalize only the first word of the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Period.

• The words “Retrieved from” and the web address.

• Do NOT end the reference with a period.

Why APA citation is important. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.weloveapa.com/importance.html

American Psychological Association. (2009). APA style. Retrieved from http://apastyle.apa.org

The in-text citation for a web page contains the author’s last name, comma, the year of publication or n.d. if there is none. You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the year in the parenthesis. If there are multiple authors, list up to five. Place an & before the final one. If there are six, list only the first and write et al after it.

If the article lists no author, use the first word or two of the title in quotation marks or use the full title in your sentence.

Citing sources in APA is an important academic skill (“Why APA,” n.d.).

According to the American Psychological Association, “APA Style has been adapted by many disciplines and is used by writers around the world” (2009).

3. Arrange the references correctly on the page.

Center the word “References” at the top of the page.

List the sources alphabetically by author or title, whichever the reference starts with.

Double space throughout the page (type on only every other line). Indent the subsequent lines of each reference by five spaces (tab once).

And that's it. You're done. Citing sources in APA style really isn't so hard now, is it?

For more on how to use MLA style in your research papers, see What is APA Documentation Style and How Does It Work?

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