A Guide to APA Citation Format

A Guide to APA Citation Format
Table of Contents
  1. A Guide to APA Citation Format
  2. 1. What is APA citation format?
  3. 2. What is the importance / use of APA citation format?
  4. 3. How can I cite in APA format in my current project?
  5. An APA basics consists of the following parts:
  6. GUIDE 1: Writing a reference list
  7. GUIDE 2: Writing an in-text citation
  8. GUIDE 3: citing from different source types

Searching for a proper guide on APA citation format? Need information on what it entails? Plannig to make use of the APA citation format on your current research project or a document you are working on? If your answer to any or all of these questions is 'YES', then, search no further, you have come to the right place. Get your writing materials handy as we are taking you on a guide on how to cite in this format (with examples!).

This article answers three questions and provides three important subguides:

  1. What is APA citation format? 
  2. What is the importance/use of APA citations? 
  3. How can I cite in APA format in my current project?
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1. What is APA citation format?

APA is an acronym for American Psychological Association. The APA Citation format is the designated method to cite documentation of research sources, employed mainly by the American Psychological Association. It is used to describe rules that are required for preparing manuscripts for writers, publishers and students, especially for those in the social science departments and also for business and nursing.

2. What is the importance / use of APA citation format?

The APA format is mostly adopted in the social science fields, for instance, Sociology and Psychology. This is not to say that other fields of study cannot (or should not) make use of the format. So, if your field is one of the 'outside' fields, the format and structure are still relevant and can be used by you. As you must be aware already, failure to properly cite or acknowledge the original author of a book which you use in your own project (as more information in your work) or an application essay is an illegal act known as plagiarism, which is a punishable offense. APA citation curbs this as the author's name and the year of publication for any cited piece. 

3. How can I cite in APA format in my current project?

At this juncture, it is expedient to mention that the APA format includes both the in-text citation and the Reference. 

However, before you start using APA it would be for the best if you become familiar with the basic formatting requirements of this style because it’s quite different from other writing styles. You have to look out for everything from the general paper layout to your choice of words and to the style you’re going to use; and before picking a style for your paper you should double-check the standard for your discipline style to cite in.

Also note that citations are different from references. An in-text citation is any example of a citation (i.e excerpts from another writer's work) which is added to your work in the course of writing your own piece while references are found at the end of the essay. When you quote a writer or a work in verbatim, or you rephrase a statement in the course of your text, then you have an in-text citation. 

Disregarding whether you are about to enroll to a college or a university or you already are a student and need a yet-another essay to be done any type of college essay consists of the title (heading), abstract, the body and references. The heading is an important aspect of a work so you have to make it short and written out clearly and APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font. Let’s move on to knowing about the initial basics in APA.

An APA basics consists of the following parts:


GUIDE 1: Writing a reference list

As stated earlier the examples of references are found in the end of a document / book, so all in-text references should be kept in the reference list in the end of the document. This is done for the sake of the reader so the person can get more information on the topic you wrote on, like a follow up source.

When citing an author, use the author's surname followed by the year of publication, for example: (Yule, 1959). In other words, you should take the following steps:

  • your reference list should have a heading to actually identify that it's a "The list";
  • works with no authors should be listed under the first significant word of the title;
  • use double spacing;
  • the authors' surnames should be arranged alphabetically. If an author has a lot of works then it should be ordered according to the title and alphabetically;
  • and finally - note that all APA reference lists end with a full stop unless there is a URL attached to it or a DOI.

GUIDE 2: Writing an in-text citation

For a direct quotation, inclusion of the page number may suffice, for example: (Yule, 1959, p. 80)

Example of a sentence with an in-text citation:

The domain analysis model associates language behavior to factors like setting, participants and topic (Fishman, 1972). 

It is important to note that for every time you cite in-text in the course of writing, there must be a corresponding reference provided at the end of the work. This brings us to the second aspect of the APA Citation format which is the Reference. 

References are mostly given at the final page of a research project or document. While an in-text citation consists mostly of the author's surname, the year of publication, (and sometimes) the page(s)  of the excerpt quoted, the Reference provides a more comprehensive information, for example - the (full) name of the author, the year of publication, the full title of the book, the page range as well as the web page, if necessary.


GUIDE 3: citing from different source types

When citing from a different source reference list citations are different depending on where the source came from. To cite in-text - doesn’t vary depending on the source type but unless the author is not known. Hence, for every in-text citation, provide a comprehensive reference on the final page of your project. 

Examples of References:

  • Derwing, T. M., Rossiter, M. J., & Munro, M. J. (2002). Teaching native speakers to listen to foreign-accented speech. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 23(4), 245-259.
  • Thomas, H. K. (2004). Training strategies for improving listeners' comprehension of foreign-accented speech (Doctoral dissertation). University of Colorado, Boulder.