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APA Format Citation Guide

APA citation

APA format is one of the most common formats for citing sources. Other well known citation styles include MLA and Chicago. This citation guide will help you cite sources flawlessly and efficiently in APA format.

APA citations consist of two parts:

  1. In-text citation: brief citation included in the sentence where the information is used. The in-text citation only contains the author’s last name and year of publication, e.g. (Smith, 2019). It identifies and helps locate the full source in the reference list.
  2. Reference list entry: full publication details listed alphabetically on the reference page, which appears right after the main body. The reference provides all information that is required to find the source, e.g. Smith, P. (2019, April 18). Citing Sources in APA Format. Retrieved April 21, 2019, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/

APA in-text citations

An in-text citation is a concise way to show the reader where the original idea came from and to give credit to the original author.

According to the APA citation guidelines, you should write down the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication. When quoting a source it is also required to include the page number(s). This can be done in multiple ways:

  • An earlier study in which X and Y were compared revealed that … (Smith, 2017).
  • Smith (2017) shows how, in the past, research into X was mainly concerned with …
  • In 2017, research was carried out by Smith that indicated that …

Multiple authors

When there are two authors, separate their last names with an ampersand.

When there are three or more authors, separate their last names using commas. The last two authors’ last names should be separated by both a comma and an ampersand (in a citation) or “and” (in the running text).

Two authors

  • Research shows that there is a great need for … (Reynolds & Thomas, 2014).
  • Reynolds and Thomas (2014) write that there is a great need for …

3-5 authors

  • Recent research suggests that there is … (McGuire, Morrison, Reynolds, & Thomas, 2014).
  • McGuire, Morrison, Reynolds, and Thomas (2014) argue that …

As you can imagine, citing a source with 3–5 authors takes up a lot of space in the text.

That is why you shorten the citation when you use the source a second, third or fourth time.

How? Instead of writing down all authors’ last names, write only the last name of the first author, followed by “et al.,” which means “and others.”

  • In this research, many participants made use of … (McGuire et al., 2014).
  • McGuire et al. (2014) noticed that …

6 or more authors

When your source has six or more authors, simply use the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” in your in-text citation:

  • Lunott et al. (2015) see the …

Organization as author

When the source is published by an organization instead of a person, cite the organization’s name as the author.

  • According to new research … (Microsoft, 2014).

Quotes

When you copy an excerpt of a text from another source and place it between quotation marks, you are quoting. When you quote sources, you are required to add the page number to the in-text citation.

  • This is also true from the business plan: “making an APA Citation Generator is a lot of work, but many students benefit from it” (Swan, 2014, p. 5).

Multiple sources in one citation

Sometimes, it’s necessary to cite multiple sources in one sentence. You can do this by citing multiples sources and separating them using semicolons.

  • Various studies show that … (Docker & Vagrant, 2002; Porter, 1997; Lima, Swan, & Corrieri, 2012).

Full in-text citation guide

APA reference page

The APA reference page, included after the main text, contains the full reference of all sources cited in the text. Sources are ordered alphabetically based on the author’s last name (or on the title for sources with no author).

The reference format differs depending on the source type (e.g. a website, journal, book). The format also changes when information about a source is missing (e.g. an unknown author or publication date) or when information is added (e.g. a second edition book).

More APA citation examples APA reference page guide

APA formatting

There are certain formatting rules you must adhere to when writing a paper in apa format.

The basic requirements are:

  • Text must be double-spaced
  • Margins must be set to one inch (or 2.54 cm)
  • You must use a left-aligned running head with a shortened title on all pages
  • It is strongly recommended to use Times New Roman in 12 pt (if your university allows it, you might be able to use a different font)

In addition to these general rules that apply for every part of an APA style paper, each section has its own requirements. Learn about the requirements by looking at the interactive formatting examples of the title page, running head, abstract, reference page and headings and subheadings. Also, don’t forget to carefully check for language mistakes. In our guide to proofreading you’ll find some useful tips and tricks for revising your document.

Avoid plagiarism

Plagiarism means copying someone else’s work, without giving that author credit. This is not only unfair for the original author, but also considered cheating which can have severe consequences.

Tips for avoiding plagiarism:

  • Save your sources. This way, you can keep track of them. You don’t necessarily have to have the citation perfectly formatted from the beginning.
  • When you quote or paraphrase text, temporarily highlight it to remind yourself that you need to add the correct citations.
    Check whether you’ve cited all your sources correctly, both in the text and in the reference list.
  • Quote, paraphrase and summarize other’s work correctly.
  • Run a plagiarism checker.

Scribbr Plagiarism Checker

APA Generator FAQ

Why should I use the Scribbr Citation Generator?

The Scribbr Citation Generator is easy to use, accurate and accessible for all students. Some features you’ll definitely like are:

  • Lightning fast Autocite using a URL, DOI or ISBN
  • Customized citation forms that help you avoid incorrect citations
  • Quick tips that make citing easier
  • No costs, no ads, no limitations
Do I have to create an account?

Creating an account is not required to use the Scribbr Citation Generator. However, it does have some benefits:

  • Safely store your reference list in a Scribbr account
  • Create multiple reference lists
  • Work from multiple devices

Note that if you’re not signed in, your reference list is stored as a cookie on your browser, which means you can easily lose your work. Be sure to download a backup on a regular basis.

Can I download my reference list to Word?

Yes, after creating your citations you can download your reference list to Word. You can find the ‘Export to Word’ button in the top right corner when viewing your reference list.

To save you some time, we already applied the correct APA reference page formatting, with one-inch margins, double line spacing and a hanging indent.

What citation styles does the Scribbr Citation Generator support?

We currently support citing sources in:

Scribbr uses industry-standard citation styles from the Citation Styles Language project.

What do I do if information is missing?

If information about a source is missing or unknown, and our explanatory tooltips (?) cannot help you, you can either check the ‘unknown’ checkbox (if available) or skip the field. The citation will still be generated for you with the information you have provided.

More information and examples

Where can I give feedback?

On the right side of your screen you’ll find a purple feedback button. It works like this:

  1. Rate your experience
  2. Select the element you want to give feedback on (optional)
  3. Provide your feedback

We take your feedback very seriously, and we’ll do our best to fix issues as soon as possible.