The APA System of Referencing

The American Psychological Association, or APA, has a manual titled The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which details the rules for formatting and referencing papers. APA style is designed for work in the business, nursing and social science fields. An APA-style paper's organization, style and rules for reference citation are defined within the rules of APA's system. Within the fields that use APA style, reports and reviews are the two main types of papers written.

In-Text Citations

APA in-text citations are parenthetical citations. The last name of the work's author and the date the work was published are placed in parentheses in the text of the paper after a resource is referenced.

The reference list at the end of the paper lists citations in alphabetical order. Readers of the paper can look at the author in the in-text citation and use that to find the corresponding work on the reference list.

Reference List

The reference list, which is also called the bibliography or works cited page, is the full list of sources used in your research. Citing all the sources used in your research is important.

Plagiarism, which is using a source without giving credit, is against all school policies and is frowned upon ethically.

A reference list citation needs to include the following pertinent information: author and editor details, publication information and the title of the book. You can choose to write an annotated bibliography to give several analytical sentences about each source as well.

Types of Sources

Nearly anything can be used as a research source, but there are some things that are used as common sources. Books, periodicals and electronic sources tend to be the most referenced sources. Each source has slightly different rules on how to cite it so that readers could find the resource on their own if necessary.

Basic Examples

When citing sources, a basic standard for citing books, periodicals and online sources exists. Each has variations but knowing the basics is a good start. Electronic sources technically follow the same rules as other sources for the most part, but should include the URL. Websites and web pages are cited with the author, title, URL and date only.

In-Text example:

(Smith, 2003).

This shows the author's name and resource publication date.

Book example:

Smith, B.E. (2003). APA Citations. New York: Random House.

The information included are the book's author, the publication date, location and publishing house and the title of the book.

Periodicals example: Jones, C. (1999). Citations. APA Journal, 23(19), 84-89.

Periodicals need to include the same author, date and title information as book sources, and should also include page, issue and volume numbers. The extra details are important a journal contains multiple articles and you need to show exactly which one you are referencing.

Electronic example:

Robins, S. (2011, April 8). Electronic Citation Rules. Retrieved from