How to Cite an Observation in APA Format

The American Psychological Association style guide is used to format papers and cite references for the social sciences. Writers may use sources such as newspapers, books, websites, articles from magazines and TV shows and films. One kind of source an author may use is an observation. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association offers guidelines for citing observations in your research papers.

Creating an In-Text Citation

Create an in-text citation when you refer to, summarize, paraphrase or quote from another source. For an observation, include the name of the person you observed and when you conducted the observation.

For example: Dr. Jones examined the patient thoroughly and took notes (observation, March 3, 2012).

Another example would be:

The scientist inspected the lab work carefully and wrote down his conclusions (N. Merrill, observation, January 15, 2013).

If you did not observe a person, do not include a first or last name.

For example: The lion approached its prey cautiously and pounced (observation, January 22, 2013).

Reference Page Unnecessary

Normally, for each in-text citation in a paper, you need to create a reference in your lists of references at the end of your paper. However, according to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, no reference page listing is needed for observations used in your paper. Only the in-text citation is required.