APA Style – or American Psychological Association Style – is the preferred method of citation and formatting for science-related papers and research. The APA Style 7th edition provides a standardized approach to make your writing clear, straightforward, and simple to track references and sources.
Use this basic APA citation guide as a quick reference for all the critical areas of in-text citing and reference page formatting.
General Guidelines for APA Citations
- Page Setup: Essays should be typed, double-spaced with a legible font such as 11-pt Calibri, Arial, or 12-pt Times New Roman and 1” margins.
- Running Head: You should add a running head on the top header of every page in the essay, which includes the page number justified right and the title of your paper — fully capitalized — next to it on the left. Keep the running head abbreviated to 50 characters or less.
- Paper Sections: A paper should contain four sections: the title page, the abstract, the paper body, and the references. More specific information about each of these can be found here.
In-Text: How Do You Structure a Citation?
In-Text APA Formatting
APA citations within your paper follow the in-text format for referencing your sources. This means that you must include the author’s last name and the publication year of the source in parentheses like this:
- (Smith, 2005)
A source with two authors is cited as follows:
- (Smith & Jones, 2008)
For citations with three or more authors, only include the first author’s name with an ‘et al.’ to denote additional authors:
- (Smith et al., 2015)
No Author Name
If the source is something like an organization, use that organization name in lieu of an author name:
- (Organization of Paper, 1978)
If there is no author organization or other denotation, include the first word or two of the title in the citation:
- (“Title of Paper,” 1980)
Remember, the goal is to connect these in-text citations clearly to their corresponding entry on your reference page. Make sure your format creates a clear connection.
You do not need to include page numbers in your in-text citation unless you’re adding a direct quote from the reference text. Format these as follows:
- “Quoted text from just one page of an author’s text” (Smith, 2005, p. 40).
- “Quoted text from many pages of an author’s text” (Smith, 2005, pp. 41-50).
You can also separate the reference and page number from a quote if you introduce the author in your paper body:
- According to Smith (2005), “this is what Smith said in her book” (pp. 35-36).
If your quote is greater than 40 words, separate it from the body of your text and indent the entire quote 1/2” to distinguish it as a blockquote. You do not need to add quotation marks for block quotes, but make sure to add the page numbers at the end of the passage.
Connecting In-Text Citations to Reference Page
In-text citations should correspond to exactly one reference on the reference page at the end of the paper. Make sure to clearly denote which source you're referencing if it could become confusing. For example, ensure you cite the source with the proper year or title if you're using multiple references from the same author.
Paraphrasing and When to Cite
Even if you do not include a direct quote, paraphrasing another author’s work must also include an in-text citation and corresponding reference.
Unsure whether or not you should include a source? The general advice to follow is simple: when in doubt, cite your source.
References Page in APA Citation
Basic Structure of the APA Style References Page
A references page appears at the end of your paper, starting on a separate page. Title it with References in bold at the top of the page. Double-space the text like the rest of your paper.
Organize your sources alphabetically by author's last name, title, or organization. Use the first listed author’s last name for sources with multiple authors.
- Indent any lines after the first 1/2” for each reference.
- Author’s first and middle names should be abbreviated — e.g., “Smith, J.” for John Smith.
- For sources with multiple authors, list all authors the same in the order they are presented on your source — e.g. “Smith, J., Jones, R., Johnson, B. (2000).” for three authors.
Examples of References
Here are a few examples of common sources and how to capitalize them.
One Author, Book:
- Smith, J. (2005). Title of book: Capitalize the first letter of the book and any letter after a colon. Publisher Name. DOI.
- Smith, J., Johnson, T. & Jones, R. (1990). Title of Book. Publisher Name. DOI if available.
- Organization Name if Present (2000). Title of Publication. Publisher Name. DOI if available.
Remember the tricky part of periodicals: The title of the article is in sentence case (only capitalize the very first letter and proper nouns). The journal name is in title case (capitalize all words, and follow any particularities based on the journal).
- Smith, J., Richards, E. & Montague, O. (2007). Title of the journal article in sentence case. Title of The Journal in Title Case (issue or volume number), 1-5. DOI if available.
Again, this guide represents a very abbreviated version of APA formatting. If you need help on how to cite a specific source, you can refer to the APA’s Style Guide.
Citing Miscellaneous Online and Video Sources
Here are several citation examples for commonly used sources beyond books or academic journals.
What is the correct APA citation for a website or webpage?
If an author or group organization name is available, lead your citation with that. Otherwise, go with the title of the page you’re referencing. Include the date you accessed the online resource.
- “According to the American Psychological Association (2021), ...”
- American Psychological Association. (2021, September 1). Title of the page in sentence case. URL to the website.
How do I cite an online article?
Online articles, such as news articles, should include the name of the associated news site.
- “Based on a report from the New York Times (Smith, 2020) ...”
- Smith, J. (2020, September 1). Title of article in sentence case but not italicized. The New York Times. URL to the article.
How do I cite a video in APA?
Citing an online video from a site like YouTube should include all relevant details you can find, including the name of the channel/uploader and when you accessed it.
- YouTuber J. Jones (2022) discussed this topic in a YouTube video published earlier this year.
- Jones, J. (2022, January 5). Name of video in sentence case [Video]. YouTube. URL to the video.
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We hope you found this APA citation beginner’s guide useful to get you started.
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