Difficulty in Citing Sources in APA Style

If it is your first time using the American Psychological Association style to cite sources, it can be difficult to know the correct place for each comma, colon and period. The sixth edition of the “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” advises you how to cite sources within your text and in your reference list. Different sources, such as Internet websites or books, each have different formats, which can lead to some confusion.

In-text Citations

APA style makes it difficult to cite sources within your text because it switches its format based on the length of the title and the size of the work. Unlike your references list, where you capitalize only the first word of a title, capitalize all words that are four letters long or longer. If it is the title of a shorter work, such as an article, place the title within double quotation marks. If it is a longer work, such as a book or movie, italicize the title.

When you directly quote or paraphrase an outside source, APA style requires that you include the author, year of publication and page number in a parenthetical reference. Include this information immediately following the referenced text. For example:

She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style" (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.

Reference List

Your reference list or bibliography must include all outside sources that you used within your text. For APA style, you arrange your bibliography by the author’s last name. Any source that does not feature an author should be sorted by title within the same list. When you list an author’s name, write out the last name but only use initials for first and middle names. When listing a work that has more than one author, use an ampersand instead of writing out the word “and.” For any source that is more than a single line long, indent all subsequent lines by five spaces. Your citation may appear like this:

Folse, K. S., Solomon, E. V., & Smith-Palinkas, B. (2004). Top 20: great grammar for great writing. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

General Citation Format

APA style requires that you include the author’s name, date of publication, title, place of publication and the publisher’s name within all of your references, regardless of whether you are listing a book, journal or magazine. For books with a single author, APA format is author’s last name, a comma, first initial and a period. Write the publication year within parentheses followed by a period. Write the title of the book in italics and then a period. Write the city of publication, a comma, the state, a colon, the publisher’s name and a period. Your reference may appear like this:

Chitty, D. (2008). Do lemmings commit suicide? Beautiful hypotheses and ugly facts. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Internet Sources

Citing Internet sources can lead to some confusion. APA style is different from other styles because it advises you to include a digital object identifier when citing Internet sources. A DOI is an alphanumeric string that acts as a stable link because URLs are prone to change. An example of a DOI is "doi:10.10.1038/nphys1170."

Many publishers provide a DOI on the first page of an article. If a DOI is not present, use a stable URL. To determine if a link is stable, past the link into your Internet browser’s address bar. If the site loads, then your link is stable. If no stable URL exists, use the website’s homepage. APA style requires that you include a date with any online source. If the work has a final publication date, use that. If there is no date or it may change, use the date that you accessed the information.

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