APA Citation Guide (6th edition)

These simple guides (updated in 2018) will show you how to properly cite in APA format (6th edition)

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Introduction to APA

If you are told to write a paper in APA style, what you are actually being told to do is write the style in accordance with the rules outlined in The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

If a teacher assigns APA style, the assumption is that they mean the current edition, unless the teacher specifically states that you are to use a prior addition or your school’s writing guidelines specify using an earlier addition. The current edition for the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is the sixth edition. All information contained in this informational content refers to sixth edition; you can find information about prior editions at the American Psychological Association’s style website: www.APAstyle.org.

If you have never looked through the APA’s style manual, you may think it only covers citation styles. Actually, the APA manual is a complete style guide, which covers all parts of the writing process. In addition to outlining the technical requirements for a paper, such as font, citation style, spacing, margins, headers, and page numbering, it also gives writing tips.

When do you use APA style? The most important answer to that question is that you use APA style when your instructors, professors, or teachers tell you to use APA style, even if APA is not the normal format for that type of writing.

APA style is generally used in the social and behavioral sciences. In fact, if you are looking at potential publication in an academic journal in one of the “soft” sciences, you will almost certainly need to be sure your work is in APA style.

APA style is used in a term papers, research reports, literature reviews, case studies, methodological articles, theoretical articles, case studies, and empirical studies. For the social sciences, APA style is often used for larger works, as well, including dissertations and masters’ theses.

Basics of APA Style

Many people find APA to be intimidating because of all of the rules. They are worried about formatting something incorrectly and being penalized for a technical mistake. This fear is a real one in academic settings, but many people find that, once they grow more familiar with APA, it is actually very simple to master this academic writing style.

Sections in an APA Paper

While not every paper you write in APA style will have all of these sections, these are the sections that you may have in an APA-style paper: Title Page, Abstract, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion, References, and Appendices.

Title Page- On the title page, you give basic information about your paper including: its title, the author’s name, the running head that will be used throughout the paper, and sometimes additional information such as a brief biographical blurb on the author, course name, date, or professor name.

Abstract- The abstract is a brief summary of the contents of the paper. It features at the beginning of the paper and gives the reader a preview of what type of information the paper will contain.

Introduction- The introduction provides readers with background information on the subject matter, as well as introducing the specific issues or questions addressed in the paper.

Method- This section applies to research papers and is where you describe the methodology you chose to investigate your research question.

Results- This section applies to research papers and is where you describe the results of your research. If you have charts summarizing your research results, this section is a great place for them.

Discussion- If you have written a research paper, this is where you discuss the results and how they apply to your research question. For other types of papers, such as essays or term papers, the discussion section may also be known as the body of your paper.

Conclusion- Sometimes this section is included at the end of the discussion section, but the conclusion is an important part of your paper. It sums up the information in your discussion question and addresses the answers to any research questions you posed at the beginning of your paper. If you introduced a thesis statement in your introduction, the conclusion will restate your thesis statement and briefly summarize how the information in that paper supports the thesis statement.

References- The reference page is where you list works you referenced in your paper. It is an alphabetized list that contains works in the correct APA reference list format.

Appendices- An appendix is any addendum to the paper that may help explain the content of the paper, but is included in the body of the paper. Appendices may include full lists of research results, figures, drawings, or any other type of information that the reader might need to fully understand the paper.

Formatting Your Paper


Your font should be serif-type. If you are not sure what fonts are serif-type, you can feel safe using Times New Roman. Generally, you will want to use a 12-point font, though you may be instructed to use a 10-point font. Do not deviate from 10 or 12-point font without express permission or instructions to do so. For figure labels, use a sans serif typeface, such as Arial.


Double space your entire manuscript, including text inside of block quotes, the reference list, and figure captions.

Margins, Indents and Tabs

Your paper should be left justified, with one-inch margins. Each paragraph should begin with a half-inch indent.

Shorter quotations can be included in the body of the paragraph, surrounded by quotation marks, with closing punctuation after the citation information. Longer quotations are defined as quotations that are 40 words or longer, are set apart in a free-standing block of text, which is indented ½ from a new margin. Closing punctuation is at the end of the sentence and additional citation information is found in parenthesis, after the block quotation.


Pagination starts on the title page and is consistent through the whole of the paper, including the appendix. The order of the pages in the paper should be: title page, abstract, paper, references, appendices. Each figure or table begins on a new page and that page should include any captions for the figures or tables. Each appendix receives its own page.


Headings are helpful because they allow a writer to break a paper down into more easily-digestible chunks. There are five levels of headings in an APA paper.

Heading Level 1 – Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase
Heading Level 2 – Flush Left, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase
Heading Level 3 – Indented, Boldface, Lowercase, Ending with a Period.
Heading Level 4 – Indented, Boldface, Italicized, Lowercase, Ending with a Period.
Heading Level 5 – Indented, Italicized, Lowercase, Ending with a Period.

Citing References in APA

One of the most common questions that we get is: “When should I cite a reference?” You cite a reference whenever the information you have included in your paper is the result of another person’s work, theories, or findings. You cite the information, even if you do not directly quote it. There are exceptions for commonly known information. For example, you can discuss gravity without citing Isaac Newton, but you would want to cite Newton is discussing any of his specific theories.

Author-Date Citation Format

The basic in-text citation format for APA references is known as the author-date format. It is the author’s last name, followed by the year of publication: (Last Name, Year). For direct quotations, include the page number or other method of finding the quotation in the work: (Last Name, Year, p.#).

There are a few ways you can use the author-date format, including using the year or the author’s name as a signal phrase:

According to Smith (2003),

Smith determined that…(2003).

In 2003, Smith found that…


Simple Book Format:

Author Last Name, A.A. (Year of Publication). Title of work: Subtitle. City, State: Publisher.

Reference List Example:

Stoker, B. (1897). Dracula: A mystery story. New York, N.Y.: W.R. Caldwell & Co.

In-Text Citation Example:

“Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania” (Stoker, 1897, p.1).

Book with Multiple Authors:

When there are multiple authors for a source, each author is mentioned, in the order that they are listed on the book. This rule applies up to 7 authors. After that point, after the sixth author’s name provide ellipses and then conclude with the last author’s name.

Last, A. A., & Last, B. B. (Year). Title: Subtitle. City, State: Publisher.

Reference List Example:

Pratchett, T. & Gaiman, N. (2006). Good omens: The nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch. New York, NY: Harpertorch.

In-Text Citation Example:

For example, Pratchett and Gaiman (2006) describe God as playing games with the universe in a way that suggests more of a cruel indifference than actual malice (p. 14).

Books with No Author or with a Corporate Author:

Organization Name. (Year of Publication). Title of work: Subtitle. City, State: Publisher.

The in-text citation format becomes:
(Organization Name, Year, p. xx).

Translated or Edited Books with Authors:

The basic format for an edited book with an author is:

Author, A. A. (Year). Title. E. E. Editor (Ed.). City, State: Publisher.

The basic format for a translated book is:

Author, A. A. (Year). Title. (T. T. Translator, Trans.) City, State: Publisher. (Original work

published 1814)

Reference List Example:

Marquez, G.G. (2003). 100 years of solitude. (G. Rabassa, Trans.) New York, NY: Harper Collins. (Original work published 1970).

In-Text Citation Example:

“On the first contact the bones of the girl seemed to become disjointed with a disorderly crunch like the sound of a box of dominoes” (Marquez, 2003, p.33).


Books accessed through Kindle or Nook have their own citation format:

Author, A. A. (Date of publication). Title of book [Kindle DX version].

Retrieved from Amazon.com

Author, A. A. (Date of publication). Title of book [Nook DX version].

Retrieved from Barnes and Noble

If you are directly citing from an E-book, it will not have page numbers like a normal book and the locations marked in the book do not translate to page numbers in other versions. You will have to use other identifying information, such as the chapter, section, and/or paragraph number. Your citation might then look like this:

(Smith, 2010, Chapter 1, Section 4, para. 6).

To avoid this problem, you can try to avoid directly citing to an E-reader because indirect citations only require the author name and date format.

Basic APA website citation format:

Generally, websites are easier to use for in-text citations because they do not have page numbers; the URL can take you directly to the page.

While there are some types of information that requires a specialized format, the basic APA website citation format is very simple:

Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Article title. Retrieved from URL

Reference List Example:

Chemaly, S. (2014, December 8). 50 actual facts about rape. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-facts-rape_b_2019338.html

In-Text Citation Example:

“Remember facts about rape? Because it turns out that a whole lot of people know less than nothing about the subject” (Chemaly, 2014).

Online Encyclopedias:

In many online encyclopedias, there is no author information. Therefore, the article name takes the place of the author name. The generic format is:

Article name. (Date). In Encylopedia name. Retrieved from URL

Reference List Example:

William Shakespeare. (2017, May 9). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare

Article from an Online Periodical (Magazine or Non-Scholarly Journal):

Author, A.A., & Author, B.B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical,

volume number (issue number). Retrieved from URL

Reference List Example:

Scherer, M. & Altman, A. (2017). Trump’s loyalty test. Time Magazine, 189 (20). Retrieved from http://time.com/4783929/president-trump-loyalty-test/?xid=homepage&pcd=hp-

In-Text Citation Example:

Scherer and Altman point out that “The West Wing’s thick walls, even with the TV turned up, cannot muffle the sounds of staffers shouting behind closed doors” (2017).

Article from an Online Scholarly Journal:

The basic way of citing an article from an online periodical with an assigned DOI is:

Author, A.A. & Author, B.B. (Date of publication). Title of article, Title of Journal, volume

number, page range. doi: xxxx/xxxxx or http://dx.doi.org/xxx.xxx.xxx

Reference List Example:

Yardimci, V. H. & Yardimci, A.H. (2017). An unusual first manifestation of Hodgkin Lymphoma: Epitrochlear lymph node involvement- A case report and brief review of literature. J Investig Med High Impact Case Rep, 5(2). doi: 10.1177/2324709617706709

In-Text Citation Example:

Yardimci & Yardimci noted that “in the histopathological examination of the bone marrow biopsy, no finding in favor of lymphoma was detected” (2017).

*Did you notice something about this in-text example? It did not include a page number, even though it is a direct citation. That is because this direct citation would have included a page number, but this publication was not yet available in print and had not been paginated.

Scholarly Journal with No DOI:

The basic format for an online scholarly journal with no doi is:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume

number. Retrieved from URL

Reference List Example:

Kovan, M. (2017). Capital punishment: a Buddhist critique. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 21. Retrieved from http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/

In-Text Citation Example:

According to Kovan (2017), “Capital punishment is irreversible and so requires a degree and kind of justification not necessary for non-lethal punishment” (p.64).

Newspaper Articles:

Newspapers are another popular online resource. The basic citation for a newspaper article is simple:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper.

Retrieved from URL

Reference List Example:

Takahashi, J. (2017, May 19). Judge dismisses Ahmed Mohamed ‘Clock Boy’ suit against Irving ISD. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Judge-dismisses-Ahmed-Mohamed-Clock-Boy-suit-11159334.php

In-Text Citation Example:

“On Thursday, the U.S. District Judge granted Irving and Irving ISD’s motions to dismiss the Mohamed family’s lawsuit, saying there was no evidence Ahmed faced religious or racial discrimination” (Takahashi, 2017).

Videos available on the internet:

While you can find videos in a number of different locations, it is now probably the most common to find videos on the internet using services like YouTube.

The basic format for citing a video available on the internet in APA format is very simple:

Author, A. A. [Screen name]. (Year, month day). Title of video [Video file]. Retrieved from

http://url or https://url

Reference List Example:

Rainbow, R. [Randy Rainbow]. (2017, May 15). The Russia connection [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2OuJYaz_oE

In-Text Citation Example:

Randy Rainbow uses political satire to make a point, singing, “Someday we’ll find it, the Russia connection” (2017), to the tune of The Rainbow Connection song made popular by the Muppets.

Motion Pictures:

Motion pictures are relatively easy to cite. The basic reference list citation format for a motion picture or video is:

Producer, P. P. (Producer), & Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of Publication). Title of motion

picture [Motion picture]. Country of origin: Studio or distributor.

Reference List Example:

Lear, N. (Producer), & Reiner, R. (Director). (1987, October 9). The princess bride [motion picture]. United States: Act III Communications.

In-Text Citation Example:

In the movie, The Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate Roberts reveals himself to be the farm boy Wesley, when Buttercup pushes him down a hill and he cries out, “As you wish” as he tumbles down the hillside (Lear, 1987).


APA style refers to the rules outlined in the 6th Edition of the The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. It is used for all types of papers when writing about the social and behavioral sciences, or when instructed to use APA style by a professor or instructor. Some colleges and universities have students use APA style for all academic writing.

While APA style can initially be difficult to master, it is a straight-forward, easy style that allows you to maintain a consistent format throughout your academic writing and cite your resources in an easy-to-use manner.

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