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A Detailed Guide To ASA Referencing & Formatting

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The ASA (American Sociological Association) citation style is a common referencing format in humanities. Primarily used by sociology and social science scholars & researchers, it is different from the more popular formats like APA and Harvard. ASA citations have quirks and nuances that can become problematic for those unfamiliar.

 If you are working with the ASA format and need some guidance, then this guide can help you. It covers all aspects of the ASA reference and in-text citations with precise detail.

Let us get started right away.

A Brief Introduction to the ASA Style

ASA format citations are brought to you by the American Sociological Association. The ASA is a non-profit group from the United States of America. Its members are eminent scholars from across the country and the rest of the world. The ASA conducts active research in the field and receives papers & articles from all over. The ASA referencing style acts as a referencing & formatting standard for scholars, enabling ease of communication among peers.

Like its counterparts APA & MLA, the primary purpose of the ASA citations is to make things easier to understand. Proper citations prevent plagiarism, showcase the depth & breadth of the writer’s investigations, and aid in further research.

The ASA reference and citations emphasize clarity and simplicity. The design aspect of the format focuses specifically on voice, tense, and wordiness. Other key aspects are gender-neutral, all-inclusive, and bias-free vocabulary & writing.

Why Do We Have Distinct Citation Styles?

A specific referencing style allows clearer information exchange. Referencing and formatting styles set communication standards that make interaction and research much easier. Apart from ease of communication, citation styles counter plagiarism, help writers acknowledge the contribution of others, improve credibility & weight, and aid in further research.

What Are The Rules For ASA Paper Formatting?

The ASA paper formatting revolves around clarity, transparency, and swift reading. That is why the rules are so easy to follow. Below is a quick breakdown of the rules.

  • You will need to have double spaces between every word on the paper. This includes footnotes as well but excludes words in block quotes.
  • Choose a common font style and size. Size 12 Calibri or Times New Roman work best.
  • The words in block quotes can have single spaces in between.
  • Leave gaps of 1.25 inches from the edges of the page on all sides.
  • There must be a separate title page. Write the title of the paper, your name, and the name of your institution/organization. If there are other contributors, list all their names vertically.
  • ASA formatting also requires a separate abstract page. However, at any time, your instructor’s guidelines hold priority over these rules.
  • Always start your paper with the title page.
  • The ASA paper formatting also requires a list of key terms and words. Add this list on a separate page after the title page. The purpose of this list is to help writers understand the content of your paper better.

The ASA Title Page Format

Mention the title in full. Add an asterisk next, and then mention your name. After your name, mention the name of your institution, the total word count, and then a footnote. You can add the address of your institution, credits, and other relevant info in the footnotes.

ASA Format For Headers

There are specific rules for headers and sub-headers in ASA. As headers and sub-headers help in clarity and structuring, it is vital to add them. And, if you are following ASA rules, keep the points below in mind.


  • Any and all first-level headers must be in full caps.
  • Keep them left justified.
  • Do not bold them, and never start the paper with them.

This is how to write Second-Level Headings

  • Write the second-order headings in italics.
  • Do not bold anything.
  • Write second-order headings in the title case. Capitalize the first letter of all major words and the first word in the sentence.

This is the third-level heading.

  • Write sub-headers in italics here as well.
  • Left justifies everything.
  • Right indent third-order headings by 0.5 inch.
  • Do not write in bold.
  • Follow the sentence case for these sub-headers. Capitalize the first letter of the first word and proper nouns only.

ASA Formatting Rules For The Abstract Page

If your teacher asks you to add an abstract page, then do so on a separate page. Add it right after the title page. The paper’s title must appear on the page’s top. The length of the abstract should be not more than 200 words.  

Footnotes & Endnotes in the ASA Format

You can add both footnotes and endnotes in ASA. Use them for citing sources, providing supplementary information, pointing to works not included in the reference list, etc.

Endnotes are much more common than footnotes. However, the ASA format warns you against using them too much. Use either of the two, and do not mix them up.

The title page and tables must have footnotes. Use endnotes everywhere else.

You will have to number the footnotes/endnotes. Use Arabic numerals and add them as superscripts.

Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page. As for endnotes, reserve a page for them at the end, right after the reference list. Arrange all endnotes numerically and add double spaces between every word. Add ‘Notes’ or ‘Endnotes’ at the top of the page.

Page Numbers

You will have to number your pages. Do so using Arabic numerals. Start numbering right from the title page until the reference list page.

Formatting Tables & Figures

You will also have to number any table and figure that you add. Use Arabic numerals here as well. All illustrations and tables should have their page and their title. This makes it easy for readers to grasp their purpose.

Table headings should be full in every row and column. Spell out all words and avoid abbreviations of any sort.

That wraps our look at the general rules for ASA formatting. Now, let’s dive straight into ASA citations & referencing pages.

How To Create The ASA Reference List?

Before we dig in, know that citations in ASA follow the author and publication date system. As for the referencing list, there are particular guidelines to follow. The referencing page comes at the end, after the main content.

Below are the specifics rule to keep in mind.

  • Write ‘References’ at the top of the page. This is the primary heading.
  • There must be double spaces between every line and every reference source.
  • Have a five-space hanging indent for the first line of every entry.
  • Headers and sub-headers in the list follow a specific formatting rule—more on that in the formatting section.
  • Every title of the source must be in the title case. Capitalize minor words if the title starts with them.
  • Alphabetically list everything.
  • Invert author names and start all entries with the surnames of the first author.
  • For two or more authors, invert only the first author’s name.
  • Write the names of all authors in full. Do not write any initials unless present.
  • Add all the names. The ASA format does not allow writing er al. in the reference list.
  • If there are multiple works by the same author, arrange them chronologically.
  • Add letters at the end of the year for sources with the same author and publication date. (e.g., 2009a, 2009b, 2009c, …) This helps distinguish different sources that came out in the same year.
  • Write the full name of an author every time you mention it in the list.
  • If an author’s name appears in both singly-authored and multiple-authored sources, list the singly-authored sources first.
  • If the same author appears in multiple references, arrange by the second author’s surname.
  • The names of books and periodicals need to be in italics.
  • Write “N.d.” in case there’s no publication date.
  • Shorten the names of relatively unknown cities.
  • For foreign cities, include the country name as well.

Things will become easier to understand with examples. Read on for a list of fictional reference list entries.

Things To Note

As you do research with various sources, take note of the following details à 

  • The names of all the authors in a source
  • The title and sub-title of the source
  • The date of publication
  • The place of publication
  • Edition and volume numbers
  • The overall container for articles, chapters, thesis, etc. (books, research journals, periodicals, etc.)
  • Page numbers
  • Chapter numbers
  • Access Date and URL for online sources
  • DOI

Take note of all available data.

Let’s look at sample reference entries for the most common sources.

Examples of Reference Entries


Single Author à Bergen, Alan. 2008. The Depth of Wallow Vulture: The High Dart of Woes, Anchovies, Shovels, Spinsters, and Boys. Boulder, CO: Discipline Publishers

Write ‘eds.’ After the name of the editor, if present. Add ‘Vol.’ in front of volume numbers. Mention ‘Translated by’ if the work is translated from a source. For compilations, write ‘comp.’

Two or More Authorsà, Corbin, Baron, and Hansel Gauss. Basics of Quantity Research. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Rage Publishers

No Authorà List sources alphabetically using the first word of the source title.

Miriam-Mobster’s College Dictionary. 2005. 11th ed. Miami, FL: Mobster Publication

Online Edition à Rules remain the same as that of printed sources. Just remember to add the URL in parentheses at the end. Also, mention the DOI number, where available.

Chaptersà Hausen, Ron B. 1974.” The Course of Life.” Pp. 475-541 in Raging and Community. Vol. 3, A Community of Rage Clarification, edited by W.W. Werner, J. Jackson, and B. Rourke. New York: Whistle Mage

Academic Journal Articles

When crafting entries for this kind of source, follow the rules below:

  • Inver the name of the author.
  • Insert ‘and’ in between the names of the last two authors if there are multiple authors.
  • If there is more than one, separate each author’s name with a comma.

Print Journal Article  

Garc, Alm M. 1998. “An Intellectual in the 21st Century.” Journal of American History 18(1):109.

Two Authors

Kun, Exar H. and Rob I. Men. 1984. “Making It at the Top: Labor Market.” American Boral Sign 27(3):301-324.

More than Two Authors

Alle, Nen, Sona Havez, Ara Des, and Ser Janders. 2006. “Americans’ Attitudes 1936-2002.” Journal of Social Warfare 33(2):5-23.

No Author

“A New Law through Florida, Spanish Becomes Vital in Public Schools” 2005. National Review 57(22):12-13.


Sweet, Larry, Shaw D. Bush, and Ray Pat. 2009. “Does School Help?” Oology 47(1):47-91. doi:10.1111/j.1745- 9125.2009.00139.x.

Add DOI if available. If there is no DOI for online sources, add the URL and retrieval date.


Also, note that chapter/article names are within quotations.

Theses and Dissertations

Queen, Donna I. 1985. “Raw and Ripe Fruit Dissection in Chicago.” PhD Dissertation, Department of Botany, University of Williamson.

Online Blogs, Books, and Articles

Follow the above rules and formats for all online sources. Just omit page numbers and add the URL& the access date.

Zambu, Lelle. 2008. “The Crisis.” The Lelle Zambu Blog, February 11, 2008. Retrieved May 22, 2010 (

Web Sites

Again, follow the same rules above. Just remember to add the URL in brackets and the retrieval date.

Centre for Immoral Studies. N.d. “About the Center for Immoral Studies.” Retrieved October 25, 2010 (

Magazines and Newspapers

Print Articles

Gooden, Owen. 2003. “How Parents Help Children.” Atlantic Monthly, May 2004, pp. 17-36

Gold, Mary. 2007. “Bulbs Glow in Roots.” Washington Post, May 14, p. A6.

Online Articles

Jelly, Aina. 2007. “Pounds for Collars” Newsweek, September 3, pp. 39, 42. (Retrieved on April 4, 2011)

Harris, Guvner. 2008. “More teens getting pregnant.” New York Times, December 6, pp. 62. Retrieved March 12, 2011 (

Public & Government Documents

There are no standard rules for public and government documents. Just provide as much information as possible.

General Defense Office. 1989. Self-defence learning in schools. GDD-89-63. Washington, DC: General Defense Office

U.S. Bureau of Space Warfare. 2090. Nature of Warfare. Vol. 4. Washington, DC: U.S. Constitution, Article 5006, Section 6005

YouTube Video

BBC News Online. 2051. “U.K. Abolishes the Crown.”  YouTube Web site. Retrieved March 9, 2051 (https://

Always remember that if the source is electronic, DOI or URL is essential; if the source is found in print format, then DOI and URL are not vital.

Those were the rules and tips for listing some major sources in the reference list. Now, it’s time to take a look at the in-text citations.

How To Do Citations In The ASA Style?

ASA in-text citation rules are nothing too complex. As already stated, in-text citations appear in parentheses. They contain the name of the author, the year of publication, and often, the page numbers. If the author’s name is used in the narrative, only the year and page number/s appear in parentheses.

Here’s a quick look at the guidelines for in-text citations à 

  • Add the page number/s after the publication year. Separate both by a colon but with no spaces in between.
  • For two authors, write ‘and’ between the author’s surnames.

(Jackson and Will 1999:44)

  • For three authors, here’s the format à 

(Jackson, Will and Twose 1998:55)

  • Write the first author’s name for more than three authors and then add et al. There should be no punctuation anywhere.

(Jackson et al. 2002)

  • If you used multiple sources in a section, you can mention all of them in parentheses. Just make sure to separate each author-year combination with a semi-colon.

Arrange them alphabetically by author surname or by year.

(Burton 1991; Camden 1995; Hart and Melvin 2001)

  • Add minimal info in the citation if any group, organization, company, or institution is the author. The audience should be able to gauge who’s the author, though.
  • Short quotes must be enclosed within single quotes. Add the citation parentheses at the end, after the end quotation mark.

If you use the author and year in the quote, write only (p. xx) in the citation parentheses.

  • If you can’t find the page numbers, use other locators such as chapter and section numbers.
  • If you draw information from them, write table or figure numbers in the citation parentheses.
  • Turn them into separate paragraphs for longer quotes and indent them by 0.5 inches—no need to enclose long quotes in quotation marks. Remember to add the citation at the end.

And those were key rules to follow when crafting in-text citations in the ASA style.

And, with that, we wrap up this guide to the American Sociological Association referencing and formatting rules. Hope it was an informative and in-depth guide for everyone. Use this guide for quick reference, and if you think you need some expert help, connect with urgently.

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Hi, I am Ethan, a nerd by nature, a data scientist by profession and, a gadget lover at heart. Thanks for stopping by and sparing a few minutes to know me. I would like to let you know, apart from being a Maths lover and a tech freak I have a fetish for English writing. I am into everything that spells maths, technology, and essays. I have an experience of 10 years as a data scientist and that of 5 years as a freelance English essay writer at I like sharing my experiences with people, which further makes me an occasional blogger. 

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