The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional association that represents those working in the field of psychology in the United States. Just like the Modern Language Association (MLA) is often used in the humanities subjects, the APA has their own citation guidelines that are often used to cite sources within the social sciences. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is the official reference book, or style guide, for all the details of APA style format, though you can find plenty of helpful guides for free online.
In APA style, the list of detailed bibliographic information at the end of the paper or assignment is called “References” and generally, your professors may use the word “references” instead of the word “citations”. The core elements of an APA style citation are as follows (be sure to pay attention to the punctuation used at the end of each element):
APA Core Elements
- List the last name first and the first and middle names as initials.
- Example: Smith, J. M.
- If there are two authors, use the ampersand (&) instead of the word “and.”
- When there are three to 20 authors, list all of the authors by last name and initials and use an ampersand before listing the last author.
- If there are more than twenty authors, list the first 19 authors then use an ellipsis (…) before listing the last author’s name. Do not use an ampersand before the last author and do not list more than 20 authors’ names total.
- Use a complete date (YYYY, Month DD), if given, otherwise use what is given.
- Use “n.d.” if there is no date given.
- Capitalize only the first letter of the first word of the title and subtitle, the first word after a colon or a dash in the title, and proper nouns (except for journal articles, in which you will capitalize all major words in the title.
- Italicize titles of longer works, like books, collections, websites, or journals. Do not put smaller titles in quotation marks or underline (e.g., chapters, articles, web pages).
- For more details and clarification, read this page on the Excelsior OWL website.
- This is where one can retrieve the cited information, like in a book, on a website, or in a journal article. The format of this section depends on the type of information resource it is. Check out this helpful guide for more information on formatting sources.
Compiling & Formatting
The rules for formatting a list of APA references is similar to MLA format, with some small but important differences:
- Center and bold the word “References” at the top of a separate page
- Alphabetize the citations by author’s last name, or by the first main word of the title if there is no author. (When alphabetizing, ignore A, An, and The at the beginning of citations.).
- If you have multiple citations by the same author(s), list the citations in chronological order, from earliest to most recent.
- Make sure all lines are double-spaced.
- Apply “hanging” indents to all citations: The first line of the citation is not indented. All subsequent lines are indented 0.5 inch.
Mancini, C. (2008). Racism in Harper Lee’s To kill a mockingbird. Greenhaven Press.
Schreiber, B. (2019). Music is power : Popular songs, social justice, and the will to change. Rutgers University Press.
Hollmichel, S. (2013, April 25). The reading brain: Differences between digital and print. So Many Books. https://somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/the-reading-brain-differences-between-digital-and-print/
Academic Journal Article:
Grauer, J., Löwen, H., & Liebchen, B. (2020). Strategic spatiotemporal vaccine distribution increases the survival rate in an infectious disease like Covid-19. Scientific Reports, 10(1), 1–10. https://doi-org.whccd.idm.oclc.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78447-3
For more examples of APA style citations, visit Excelsior OWL.
This section includes material from the source book, Introduction to College Research, as well as the following:
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association : The Official Guide to APA Style. 7th ed., American Psychological Association, 2021.
Original material by book author Sarah Burkhead Whittle.