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How to Cite Sources in APA Style: A Comprehensive Guide

Citing sources in APA (American Psychological Association) style is essential in academic and professional writing to give credit to the original authors and to allow readers to locate the sources you used. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the basics of APA citation for various types of sources. Always consult the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual or your institution’s guidelines for the most up-to-date information. As of my last update in September 2021, the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual was the latest version.

General APA Citation Format:

In APA style, citations typically include the following elements:

  1. Author(s): Include the author’s last name and initials. For multiple authors, list up to 20 names. If there are more than 20 authors, use “et al.” after the 19th author’s name.
  2. Publication Date: Enclose the publication date in parentheses. Use the year only and place a comma after it.
  3. Title of Work: Italicize book and journal titles, and use quotation marks for article and webpage titles.
  4. Source: Indicate where the source was found (e.g., book, journal, website).
  5. URL or DOI: Include a URL for web sources or a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) if available.
  6. Page Numbers: For direct quotations, include the page number(s) in the in-text citation.

Here are some common source types and their corresponding citation formats:

  • Books:

Format: Author(s). (Year of Publication). Title of Book. Publisher.

Example: Smith, J. A. (2019). The Art of Writing. Academic Press.

  • Journal Articles:

Format: Author(s). (Year of Publication). Title of Article. Title of Journal, Volume(Issue), Page numbers. DOI

Example: Johnson, S. M. (2020). The effects of mindfulness meditation on stress. Journal of Psychology, 25(3), 123-136.

  • Websites:

Format: Author(s) or Organization. (Year, Month Day of Publication or Update). Title of Webpage. Website Name. URL

Example: American Psychological Association. (2021, March 15). APA Style.

  • In-Text Citations:

In-text citations are used within the body of your paper to credit the source of specific information or quotations. They typically include the author’s last name and the publication year. If there are multiple authors, use an ampersand (&) when citing within parentheses and “and” when citing in the narrative.

  • (Smith, 2019)
  • Smith (2019) argued that…
  • (Smith & Jones, 2018)
  • Smith and Jones (2018) found that…
  • In-Text Citations for Electronic Sources:

When citing webpages without page numbers, you can use paragraph numbers or headings.

  • (Smith, 2020, para. 3)
  • According to Smith (2020, para. 3)…
  • Secondary Sources:

When you need to cite a source that you found cited in another work, use “as cited in” or “as quoted in.”

  • (Smith, 2010, as cited in Jones, 2021)
  • Multiple Works by the Same Author:

Distinguish between multiple works by the same author by adding lowercase letters (a, b, c) to the publication year.

  • (Smith, 2017a)
  • (Smith, 2017b)
  • Reference List:

List all the sources you cited in your paper on a separate page titled “References” at the end of your paper. Arrange entries alphabetically by the author’s last name.

Ensure that your citations are consistent, accurate, and properly formatted throughout your paper. Always consult the latest APA guidelines for any updates or changes in citation style.

  • Corporate Authors:

When the author of a source is an organization or corporation, use the full name of the organization as the author in the citation.

  • (World Health Organization, 2020)
  • World Health Organization (2020) stated that…
  • No Author:

If a source has no identifiable author, use the first few words of the title in the in-text citation. If it’s a long title, use a shortened version.

  • (“Study Finds,” 2018)
  • In the study “Effects of Sleep Deprivation” (2018)…
  • Multiple Authors in a Parenthetical Citation:

For sources with three or more authors, list the first author followed by “et al.” for in-text citations. However, in the reference list, include all authors up to 20.

  • (Johnson et al., 2017)
  • Quoting:

When quoting directly from a source, enclose the quotation in double quotation marks and provide the page number.

  • According to Smith (2015), “This is a direct quote” (p. 23).
  • Personal Communication:

Cite personal communication (e.g., interviews, emails) within the text but not in the reference list.

  • (D. Johnson, personal communication, April 15, 2022)
  • DOI (Digital Object Identifier):

A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string assigned to some electronic documents. Include the DOI in the citation if available.

  • (Smith et al., 2018, doi:10.1234/xyz)
  • No Date:

If a source has no publication date, use “n.d.” in the citation.

  • (Brown, n.d.)
  • Translated Works:

When citing a translated work, include the translator’s name in the citation.

  • (Dostoevsky, 1866/2015)
  • Editions:

If you’re citing a specific edition of a book, include the edition in the reference.

  • Smith, J. A. (2019). The Art of Writing (2nd ed.). Academic Press.
  • Multiple Works within Parentheses:

When citing multiple sources within parentheses, arrange them in alphabetical order, separated by semicolons.

  • (Smith, 2017; Johnson, 2018; Brown, 2019)
  • Electronic Sources with No DOI:

If a webpage has no DOI, provide the URL, but be cautious about citing web addresses that might change.

  • (Smith, 2020,
  • Legal Citations:

Legal sources such as statutes and court cases have their own citation formats. Consult the APA manual for details on citing legal documents.

Remember that accurate and consistent citation is crucial in academic writing. Always verify the specific requirements of your institution or publication and consult the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual for the most up-to-date guidance on citation.

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