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Why Is it Important That We Use a Citation Style Such As APA?


Using a consistent citation style comes with many advantages, including the assurances that your research contains clear credits to others’ work, uniform documentation of those sources, and an easy-to-follow reference guide for ideas presented in your writing. The APA style is one such citation method, outlined by the American Psychological Association and used primarily by those working in the behavioral and social sciences.

Basic APA Citation Style

The basic format for APA citations includes a brief reference in the body of your text along with an accompanying full citation in your works cited or reference page. The in-text citation should include the last name of the author and the date of that author's publication, for example, “ (Smith, 2005),” along with page number if you are quoting directly from the text. The basic format for the accompanying sources in the reference list should be as follows: “Author last name, first initials. (Publication Year). Title of work with only first word capitalized: Subtitle follows the same rule. Publishing Location: Publisher.” An example of a full citation for a book might be: Duncan, J.J. (1997). Guide to selling bricks and mortar. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

You must be aware that, while most of the information provided stays the same, the exact format for these reference list citations changes depending on the source, for example between a book, journal, or online publication.

Identifying Others’ Research and Ideas

One of the most important reasons to employ a citation style such as the APA method is to ensure you are giving due credit to others for the ideas that you are using as a basis for your essay. Any ideas or research you incorporate that is not your own must be cited, otherwise you risk being accused of plagiarism. Providing adequate citations also supports your own writing by illustrating how well you have researched your topic and how your unique ideas are set apart from previous scholarship.

Ease of Reference

Citation styles such as the APA method are also important because they allow the reader to easily locate and track your references. This ability to follow sources is important if your reader wishes to consult the source directly. In the case of APA style, the reader can also easily follow the date of publications, which can help assess the chronological relevance of your sources as well as trace the development of an idea over time, an element particularly relevant to those in the social sciences.

Maintaining Uniformity

Relying upon a specific citation style also ensures that the information that you provide for each source, as well as the ordering of that information, is consistent and uniform throughout your essay. For the APA citation style, this uniformity must be maintained with the citations within the text as well as in the final reference list at the end of your writing.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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