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APA Referencing and Citation Guide: How to Write in APA Format?

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APA is a preferred referencing style for social sciences and several other disciplines like business, education and nursing. The APA style was first developed by American Psychological Association way back in 1929 to establish a set of rules and regulations for writing academic papers. A group of psychologists, anthropologists and business managers realized the need for certain regulations that could ease the complexity of scientific writing and hence came up with the APA guide. The guide comprises a set of rules and regulations that a publisher or examiner expects in the writing for consistent presentation and authenticity of the written material.

At present, the APA writing guide has been upgraded to 6th Edition in the APA style manual. The APA referencing style concerns the following elements in writing:

• Tone of writing and length of headings

• Punctuations and abbreviations

• Presentation of numbers or statistics

• Involvement of tables and figures

• Citing references.

How to use APA Referencing Style in Writing?

Students are often asked to write academic papers using the APA referencing style. So they need to have comprehensive knowledge about the dos and don’ts of using APA writing style. Like in any referencing style, the APA style also requires the use of information to be cited in two different places:

• Within the writing (in-text)

• At the end of the writing (reference list).

General Guidelines for Writing APA Academic Papers

Here we introduce our readers to the basic obligations that should be fulfilled by the writers. The research papers with APA style should include four major parts:

• Title page

• Abstract

• Body paragraphs and

• Reference list.

Each page of the paper should have the page number at the top. You need to insert the page number at extreme right of the page and the title of your paper (also known as running head) on the extreme left of the paper. The running head is mainly the shortened version of the original title of your paper. It should not exceed 50 characters, including spacing and punctuation.

Title Page:

The title page should include the following elements:

• Title of the page

• The Name of the Author

• The Name of the institution.

You need to include running head at extreme left, whereas page number should be placed at the extreme right. Both running head and page number should be inserted at top of the page. The actual title should have both upper case and lower case and must be placed at the centre of the page. It is recommended that the title should not exceed 12 words. In title, do not use any abbreviations or symbols or words that do not serve any purpose. But in general, title takes up two sentences in the title page.

Under that title, type your name (name of the author). Write the name in the following manner: first name, middle initial(s) and last name. There is no need to use titles such as Dr or degree such as PhD.

Below the name, write the name of the institution including the location of the institution and the place where the research has been conducted.


This section should begin in a new page. As mentioned before, each page of the paper should have the running head. Beneath the running head, type the ‘abstract’ word in the centre of the page. You don’t need to make it bold, italicize, use quotation marks or underline that word.

Keeping the ‘abstract’ word at the centre, include a concise summary of the major points that you plan to elaborate in your paper. This should not be one or two paragraph long, including the research topic, methods, results, data analysis and conclusion of the paper.

Main Body:

• When you are writing a paper; be it an essay or research paper or a term paper, the writing should be typed, double-spaced while keeping 1 inch margin on all four sides of a standard paper.

• The APA style does not restrict using any font, but the paper should be readable enough to the audience. So the writer should use the font that has high readability. In APA citation style, it is recommended to use 12pt and Times New Roman font.

• While borrowing ideas from other authors, you require citing the sources in your writing. The APA referencing style follows parenthetical citations rather than footnotes and endnotes at the end of each page. The in-text citations provide brief information to the readers so that they can refer to the sources later. The same references are then explained in the reference list in the detailed manner.

• In-text Citation – The APA referencing style uses Author-Date method for citing the sources. It usually includes the initial of the author and date of the publication. While referring to other authors’ ideas or summarizing a source, the student need to provide the author’s name and the year. Moreover, while quoting or summarizing a single passage, the writer needs to involve the page number or paragraph number as well.

• One important thing to remember is when you quote less than 40 words in your writing, you need to use quotation marks. On the other hand, when your quote exceeds 40 words, you don’t need to use quotation marks around the text. Make the text indent-free.

Here are few Examples to make you Understand the Practical use of APA In-Text Referencing Style.

• Citing One Author’s Work

E.g. In comparison study (Cooper, 1991), children learned…

In the study by Cooper (1991) school children…

In 1991, Cooper’s comparison study of primary school children…

• Citing Multiple Authors’ Work

While citing a work by two authors, you need to mention both their names every time you refer to the source. If a work has three to five authors, you need to mention all the name of the authors when the first time you refer to the sources, subsequently mention the name of the first author followed by et al.

E.g. Lewis and Jones (2001) found…

Williams, Jones, Smith, Davies and Moore (2003) analyzed…

Williams el al. (2003) further presented…

• Citing an Unidentified Author’s Work

When a work has no named writer, you need to include the initial few words of the source (usually the title of the work). Place double quotation marks while mentioning the work title such as chapter, article, or web page. Italicize the title of book, brochure, report or periodical.

E.g. The article presents the supporting argument in the favour of homeopathic drugs (“Power of Medicines” 2008)

The report puts up an argument to present the advantages of homeschooling (Future Education, 2006).

• Citing Several Authors’ Works in the Same Parentheses

If you need to refer to two or more works at the same time, you need to cite the author’s name in the same parentheses in alphabetical and chronological order.

E.g. Through several researches (Anderson & Harris, 1996, Lopez, 2006, William, 1993) found that….

• Citing Specific Parts of a Source

While citing specific parts of a source, you need to provide the page number while quoting others’ words or to present specific information from a chapter, chart, page or graph. Mention the page number and chapter in your writing. Page number is used as ‘p’ while chapter remains the same.

E.g. The study was conducted to analyze the scenario (Perez, 2001, Chapter 5)…

The analysis (Wright, 1998, p. 87) showed that…

If the reference is taken from the internet and it has neither paragraph nor page number, you need to include the heading and the number of the cited paragraph. Hence, the readers can locate the source easily.

E.g. Cooper, 2001, Expenses in Hospital, para. 4)

Reference List:

• As mentioned before, references are cited in two places. First in the text and second in the reference list.

• In the reference list section, you need to mention name of the author, publication date, title and publication information. While citing more than two authors in a work, you need to mention all their initials and surnames in the reference list. Mention the issue number of the journal if it is divided by issues.

• In case, you referring to an online source, provide DOI (an unique alphabetical sting) to identify the content. If any content has no DOI, then provide URL of the homepage. Do not use hyphen in the middle of the URL if the URL takes more than two lines.

Here are a few examples to make you understand how to cite sources in reference list using APA style.

Citing a Book:

Gorter, D. (Ed.). (2006). Linguistic landscape: A new approach to multilingualism. Multilingual Matters. New York, NY: Macmillan

Citing Journal Article with DOI:

Scott, J. (2006) Designing Brain-compatible Learning. Memory and Cognition, 3, 501- 523 doi: 10.1056/6057-6133.24.3.255

Citing Journal Article without DOI:

Carter, H. (2001), Young, K (1999). Welcome to the Energy Crisis. Journal of Social Issues, 37(3), 1-5.

Citing Online Newspaper Articles:

Asthana, A. (2016). People who felt marginalised drove Brexit vote, study finds. The Guardian, p. 10. Retrieved from

Citing Encyclopaedia Articles:

Habermas, J., Lennox, S., & Lennox, F. (1974). The public sphere: An encyclopedia article (1964). New German Critique, (3), 49-55.

Citing Technical and Research Reports:

Jadad, A. R., Moore, R. A., Carroll, D., Jenkinson, C., Reynolds, D. J. M., Gavaghan, D. J., & McQuay, H. J. (1996). Assessing the quality of reports of randomized clinical trials: is blinding necessary?. Controlled clinical trials,17(1), 1-12.

Online Source:

(2016). Retrieved from

Citing Book Reviews:

Nelson, K., & Mitchell, L. (2001) Is Modelling Knowing? [Review of the book Models of Cognitive development by H. Richardson] American Journal of Psychology, 114, 111- 123.

Citing Blog Post:

Clark, R. (2016). Who’s at the ‘back of the queue’ now, Obama?. The Spectator. Retrieved from

Website with Author:

Jacobs, B., Woolf, N., & Bixby, S. (2016). Trump confirms trip to Mexico for talks with President Peña Nieto. the Guardian. Retrieved 31 August 2016, from

Website with No Author:

Law Assignment Help|Law Essay Writing Help| Help with Law Essays and Assignments. (2016). Retrieved 31 August 2016, from

These are the primary instructions for citing an academic paper using APA style. Hope these examples helped you to understand the essentials of citing your sources correctly. You just have to remember the order of placing crucial elements such as referencing, name of the author, date of publication, place of publication and name of the publication.

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Hi, I am Mark, a Literature writer by profession. Fueled by a lifelong passion for Literature, story, and creative expression, I went on to get a PhD in creative writing. Over all these years, my passion has helped me manage a publication of my write ups in prominent websites and e-magazines. I have also been working part-time as a writing expert for for 5+ years now. It’s fun to guide students on academic write ups and bag those top grades like a pro. Apart from my professional life, I am a big-time foodie and travel enthusiast in my personal life. So, when I am not working, I am probably travelling places to try regional delicacies and sharing my experiences with people through my blog. 

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