How to Cite an Observation in APA Format

The method of citing an observation made by an author in American Psychological Association, or APA, style varies depending on where the observation is found. Citing an observation in an outside text uses a different format than referencing your own observations. Check the source of your observation to determine the proper citation format.

Citing an Observation in an Outside Source

If you reference another author's observations in your paper, include the text that those observations are found in in your reference list. For example, say you are referencing an observation found in a book. The basic APA reference list format for a book is:

Author Lastname, First Initial(s). (Year). Title of book: Subtitle if applicable. Publication Location: Publisher.

So a reference might appear as follows:

George, J. (1965). The jungle, firsthand. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

In-Text Citation

When referencing or quoting an observation in the body of your paper, include an in-text citation to let your reader know its source. This should include the author name, year of publication and page number, if applicable.

The lions appeared to be more interested in "socializing like a team of high schoolers" than in direct aggressive behavior (George, 1965, p. 183).

Citing a Personal Observation

If you are referencing a personal observation, you do not include a source in your reference list; the only exception is if you are referencing a previous paper or book you have written. Otherwise, your observation is cited in text only as a "personal communication." The personal communication in-text citation does not require an author name. However, include the month and day of the observation in your citation:

The cars appeared to be turning around the corner more quickly than they had yesterday (personal communication, July 24, 2008).

Personal communication citations can also be used for interviews you have conducted or notes you have taken.

About the Author

Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.

Photo Credits
  • Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images