How to Cite a Theory in APA Format

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When you are citing a scientific or academic theory in American Psychological Association, or APA, style, the theory is noted based on the source in which it appears. If you are quoting or paraphrasing a theory in your paper, note whether the source you are referencing is written by the theory's author or by a secondary author commenting on the theory.

Citing a Theory as Written by the Author

Whenever you reference a theory in your paper, include a description of the source in which it appears in your reference list. The basic APA format for citing a book source is as follows:

Author Last Name, First Initial(s). (Year). Book title: Subtitle if applicable. Publisher Year, Publisher Location.

For example:

Eliade, Mircea. (1987). The sacred and the profane: The nature of religion. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

If you reference or quote a theory in the body of your work, include an in-text citation. This notes the author and year of the source in which the theory appears and the page number if a direct quote. For example:

The sacred, as located in relation to the notion of myth and ritual, is defined as "the opposite of the profane" (Eliade, 1987, p. 10).

Citing a Theory in a Secondary Source

When you are citing a scientist's or academic's theory as described in a work by another author, only the information for that work appears in your reference list. There is no need to note that you are using it as a secondary source.

When you reference the theory in the body of your text, the in-text citation should note the source from which the theory was described. For example:

Eliade's theory of the sacred and the profane is identified as a "distinction between mundane and mythic time" (as cited in Conuel, 2000, p. 25).


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.

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