menu

How to Cite Sources in APA Format


The American Psychological Association notes that APA format allows writers and researchers to organize their work in such a way that readers can easily find key information when reviewing it. APA format provides uniformity to the presentation of statistics, tables, figures, headings, subheadings, punctuation and abbreviations, according to the APA style website. APA format is best known for guiding the in-text and reference list documentation of sources.

In-Text Citations

Follow APA style's author-date system for citing sources in the text of your document. By listing the author's last name and date of publication next to--or close to--the information you have borrowed from someone else, you not only credit that source, but you direct your reader to the corresponding full-length citation in your reference list.

Enclose the complete citation information in parentheses when it appears at the end of a sentence. Follow this example, adapted from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL):

A majority of infections occurred due to unsanitary conditions (Jones, 1999).

Place the date in parentheses when including the author's name as part of your sentence, as shown below.

Jones (1999) points out that most infections occur due to unsanitary conditions.

Use the word "and" to separate the names of two authors within the text of your document. Purdue's OWL advises using an ampersand when enclosing their names in parentheses. For example:

(Jones & McCoy, 1999)

List all authors the first time you cite a source with three to five authors. Use the phrase "et al." for all subsequent citations, according to Purdue's OWL:

(Jones et al., 1999)

Use "et al." for all citations where there are six or more authors for a source.

Reference List Citations

Alphabetize your reference list by the author's last name followed by the first name. The second line of each entry should be indented one-half inch. Double-space the text in your reference list.

List the last name followed by initials for works with three to seven authors. If a work has more than seven authors, list the first six followed by an ellipses after the sixth author. After the ellipses, insert the final author of the source:

Jones, R., Johnson, T., McCoy, S., Sandy, T.; Montgomery, C., Bellings, A... & Jones, D. S. (1999).

Start with the earliest publication date when you have multiple articles written by the exact same author or set of authors.

Tips
  • If a source does not have an author, cite it in-text by using the first word or two of its title. In the reference list, begin the citation with the work's complete title.
  • If an organization is the author, use it in place of a person's name both in-text and in your reference list. If the organization is well-known (Purdue's OWL uses Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD] as an example), list it in its complete form the first time you cite it in-text. Subsequent citations can use the acronym. In your reference list, include the full name of the organization in lieu of a person's name.
  • Electronic sources and documents other than books or articles are handled in the same fashion. Cite the source using the author's name if available. If the organization is the author, use it. Resort to using the title of the work if no author or organization is listed.
  • For details on using APA format and special situations, get the latest edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, available at most libraries and from most book retailers.
About the Author

As a writer since 2002, Rocco Pendola has published numerous academic and popular articles in addition to working as a freelance grant writer and researcher. His work has appeared on SFGate and Planetizen and in the journals "Environment & Behavior" and "Health and Place." Pendola has a Bachelor of Arts in urban studies from San Francisco State University.

Photo Credits
  • student with papers image by Petro Feketa from Fotolia.com