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APA Referencing Guide

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The APA style consists of rules and conventions for formatting term papers, journal articles, books, etc., in the behavioural and social sciences. This user guide explains how to cite references in APA style, both within the text of a paper and in a reference list, and gives examples of commonly used types of references.


Reference Citations in the Text:

  • Single author: Use the author's last name, year.
    (Morse, 1996) OR Morse (1996) showed that...
  • Two authors: Use both authors' last names, separated by an ampersand if in parentheses.
    (Ringsven & Bond, 1996) OR In their study, Ringsven and Bond (1996)
  • Three to five authors: Use all authors' names and year, the first time the reference occurs; in subsequent citations, include only the first author followed by "et al." and the year.
    First citation: (Johnson, Brunn, & Platt, 2002) OR Johnson, Brunn and Platt (2002)
    Subsequent citations: (Johnson et al., 2002). Omit the year if the subsequent citation is in the same paragraph.
  • Six or more authors: Use only the first author followed by et al. and the year.
    (Arpin et al., 2001) OR Arpin et al. (2001)
    If two references with the same year shorten to the same form, cite the name of the first authors and as many of the subsequent authors as necessary to distinguish the two references, followed by a comma and et al.
  • Groups as authors: Corporation, association, and government names are given in full in the first citation, and may be abbreviated thereafter if the name is long.
    (The Michener Institute, 2002) OR The Michener Institute (2002) reported that...
  • Personal communication used as a citation should be avoided, unless it provides essential information not available from a public source. Do not include it in the reference list; instead cite the last name and initials of the person and date of communication in parentheses in the text.
    (T. K. Lutes, personal communication, September 28, 1998) OR
    T.K. Lutes (personal communication, September 28, 1998)
  • Internet sources may, in time, be deleted, changed, or moved, so it is a good idea to keep a hard copy for your records. Also, take care to critically evaluate the reliability and scholarly relevance of the information.
  • Direct quotes are to be used very sparingly. Incorporate short quotes of fewer than 40 words into the text and place quotation marks around the quote. Quote 40 or more words in a double-spaced block of text indented 5 spaces from the left margin, without quotation marks. Give specific page numbers.
    "quote" (Miele, 1993, p. 276) OR Miele (1993) found that "quote" (p. 276).


On the References Page

  • The last page of your paper is entitled References.
  • Order of entries: List all references in alphabetical order. Each reference is listed only once.
  • Authors: List the author's last name, followed by a comma and initials separated by periods and spaces. When listing two to six authors, place commas between them and use an ampersand (&) before the last author's name. If the number of authors exceeds six, list the first six followed by "et al." (see the Senden example). For edited books with chapters written by individual authors, list the authors of the chapter first, then the year, and the chapter title, followed by "In", the editors' names, then (Eds.), and the book title (see the Phillips example).
  • Date: The year goes after the authors, in parentheses and followed by a period, for example (2003). If no year is identified, use (n.d.).
  • Title: Capitalize the first letter of the first word in the title, and the first word in the subtitle. The rest of the title is in lower-case, with the exception of proper names. The title is italicized or underlined.
  • Book references: Give the title, edition, city of publication, and publisher. If there is an edition it appears after the title, abbreviated, in parentheses, and followed by a period, for example (3rd ed.).
  • Journal references: Give the journal title written in full, a comma, volume number [all italicized or underlined], issue number in parentheses if available, comma, and the page range, followed by a period. For example: Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 38(10), 1327-33.
  • Pages: For journal articles, give the entire page range of an article, not the specific page on which the information was found. For books, no page numbers are given, with two exceptions: the page number of a dictionary entry is included (see the Dorland's example), as well as the page range of a chapter with its own author in an edited book (see the Phillips example).
  • Reference examples: See next page for examples

For a more complete description of this referencing style and list of examples, see:

  • Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, Reference PE/1475/PUB/2001
  • Mastering APA style: student's workbook and training guide, Reference PE/1475/GEL/2002
  • The American Psychological Association website,
  • The American Psychological Association electronic references,




Notes: Bolded headings are for the purposes of this handout only; they would not appear on an actual reference page.
The entries would be listed in alphabetical order on an actual reference page.

Journal article, personal author(s):
Senden, T. J., Moock, K. H., Gerald, J. F., Burch, W. M., Bowitt, R. J., Ling, C. D., et al. (1997). The physical and chemical nature of technigas. Journal of Nuclear Medicine, 38(10), 1327-33.

Journal article, organization as author:
The Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. (1986). Clinical exercise testing. Safety and performance guidelines. Medical Journal of Australia, 164, 282-4.

Book, personal author(s):
Ringsven, M. K., & Bond, D. (1996). Gerontology and leadership skills for nurses. (2nd ed.). Albany (NY): Delmar.

Book or pamphlet, organization as author and publisher:
College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Ontario. (1995). The registration process. Toronto: Author.

Book, editor(s):
Berkow, R., & Fletcher, A. J. (Ed.). (1992). The Merck manual of diagnosis and therapy. (16th ed.). Rahway (NJ): Merck Research Laboratories.

Book, editor(s); chapter has own author:
Phillips, S. J., Whisnant, J. (1995). Hypertension and stroke. In J. H. Laragh, & B. Brenner (Eds.), Hypertension: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and management (pp. 465-78). New York: Raven Press.

Dictionary entry:
Saunders. (1997). Dorland's illustrated medical dictionary. (28th ed.). Philadelphia.

Newspaper article:
Lee, G. (1996, June 21). Hospitalizations tied to ozone pollution: Study estimates 50,000 admissions annually. The Washington Post;Sect. A:3 (col. 5).

Legal material:
Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, Stat. Of Ontario, 1991 Ch.18, as amended by 1993, Ch.37: office consolidation. (Queen's Printer for Ontario 1994).

Electronic journal article:
Borman, W. C., Hanson, M. A., Oppler, S. H., Pulakos, E. D., & White, L. A. (1993). Role of early supervisory experience in supervisor performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78, 443-449. Retrieved October 23, 2000, from PsycARTICLES database.

Document available on a web page:
Chou, L., McClintock, R., Moretti, F., Nix, D. H. (1993). Technology and education: New wine in new bottles: Choosing pasts and imagining educational futures. Retrieved August 24, 2000, from Columbia University, Institute for Learning Technologies Web site:

Monograph in electronic format:
Reeves, J. R. T., & Maibach, H. (1995). CDI, clinical dermatology illustrated. (2nd ed.) [CD-ROM]. San Diego: CMEA Multimedia Group


Avoiding Plagiarism: Why Use References?

Plagiarism is taking, using, and submitting the thoughts, writings, etc., of another person as one's own. Often students are uncertain when to acknowledge sources, or when to assume that a concept or theory belongs to the domain of general knowledge. If in doubt, include a reference. Types of concepts that require a reference include: discoveries, theories, controversies and opinions. Don't forget to acknowledge the source of illustrations, charts, and tables of data.

There are several reasons for including a reference:

  • it is ethical to credit others for their contributions to your writing;
  • it may be a legal obligation in the case of copyright;
  • to protect you in the case of questionable allegations;
  • to reflect your prior reading effort;
  • to show the sequence of events involved in the resolution of a scientific problem, as part of your argument.

Paraphrases: It is often necessary to reduce a concept or theory into a few sentences. While the words may be your own, the concepts or theories are not; and you must give credit to your sources. The use of paraphrasing, rather than direct quotes, is often preferred because it helps with creating flow in building logical arguments.

Quotations: Direct quotations are to be used very sparingly. The chief drawback is that the text becomes choppy and difficult to read. Using the author's own words in a direct quote is usually justified for only the following reasons:

  • credibility, an argument gains credibility by quoting a known authority;
  • power, an argument gains power by the skillful weaving-in of knowledge into the text;
  • eloquence, an argument gains eloquence by using a direct quote that illuminates the concept.

Checklist for Paper Writing

  1. Are the problem statement and objectives clearly and concisely written?
  2. Have the objectives, hypotheses, and research questions been adequately addressed?
  3. Are the findings, conclusions, and recommendations clearly stated and do they match the objectives, hypotheses, and research questions?
  4. Where necessary, are significant or potentially controversial statements supported by the literature?
  5. Are there weaknesses in logic or mistakes in spelling or grammar?
  6. Are concepts and technical terms adequately explained?
  7. Could a major point be better presented by a table or graph?
  8. Is the report/article objective in tone?
  9. Does the title adequately describe the contents?
  10. Is the use of headings and subheadings consistent throughout the paper?
  11. Is each paragraph essential? Does one paragraph flow naturally into the next?
  12. Are pages, tables, and charts numbered correctly?
  13. Are all the references necessary?
  14. Are quotations correct?
  15. Have you included a table of contents?
  16. If needed, have you included an abstract or summary of the report?


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