Cover image of the APA Publication Manual 6th editionThe Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition) outlines the rules for APA style. APA is widely used across the social and behavioral sciences, including education and business.

APA style prioritizes the publication date and the author's surname. This reflects the importance placed on recent information in the fields that use this system.  In fact, this system requires you to include a publication date in in-text citations, right in the body of the paper.

In addition, the single author is less important in these fields; co-authoring is a common occurrence. And finally, because it does not require the author's first name (only a first initial) it is usually gender-neutral.

Basic rules

Obviously, to correctly format a citation in APA, you need to know the type of source.  But there are certain rules that apply to all APA citations in your reference list:

  • Authors' names are always written as Lastname, First Initial 

EXAMPLE:  Smith, J.

  • Reference lists are alphabetized by the authors' last names.
  • Format each entry in your reference list using a hanging indent.  This means that every line after the first line is indented 1/2 inch.

Smith, J. (2002). The title of a really interesting book. Los Angeles, CA: Great Books Publishers.

  • Most titles (article titles, chapter titles, web page titles, or book titles) should be written with the first letter of the first word capitalized, and all subsequent words should be written in lower case (with the exception of proper nouns).  

EXAMPLE: A tale of two cities  or  I know my first name is Steven

  • Journal titles should be written with every major word capitalized.  

EXAMPLE: Journal of Nuclear Engineering

  • Book and journal titles should be italicized.  All other titles (article, chapter, web pages) should not be.  Do not use quotation marks to indicate titles in APA.

In-text citations

APA style provides guidelines to help you integrate sources into your written work.  When you use a source to support a quotation, a paraphrase or a summary, you should provide the author's name(s), the year of publication and the page number.  The page number is required when you directly quote a source, but it is encouraged in paraphrases or summaries as well.

In APA style, sources are usually introduced directly in the text using what is called a signal phrase that includes the author's name and the publication year.

Here's an example of a paraphrase using a signal phrase:

Brookfield (1995) defines a reflective thinking process as one that focuses on revealing the assumptions that shape behaviors (p.2).

And here's the same idea, without the signal phrase: 

A reflective thinking process focuses on revealing the assumptions that shape behaviors (Brookfield, 1995, p. 2).

Works Cited lists

Journal

or

Magazine

article

Citation formatted in APA style with components labeled

Book

 Book citation formatted in APA style with components labeled

 

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