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APA (American Psychological Association) is commonly used in the Social Sciences. Many classes here require the use of this style. APA provides rules for the general format of a paper, in-text citations within the body of a paper, and the reference list at the end. It is important to note that in most cases every reference should have an in-text citation. Inversely, every in-text citation should correspond to a reference in the reference list.

APA provides the following formatting rules for writing assignments:

  • Double-spaced throughout, even on the Reference page
  • 1″ margins on all sides
  • 12-point sized font
  • Times New Roman font
  • The title page:
    • Title of paper
      • No more than 12 words, no abbreviations, can take up 2 lines
    • Your name
    • Name of school
    • Some professors want to include the course title and/or date
  • The header:
    • First page only, left-hand side
      • Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
    • Rest of pages, left-hand side
    • Right-hand side of every page
      • Page number

In-text citations are found within sentences and paragraphs of assignments to make clear that the information being quoted or paraphrased is coming from a specific source found on the Reference page. IMPORTANT: An in-text citation is necessary whether information is directly quoted from a source or paraphrased.

In-text citations always require two pieces of information: author name(s) and the year of publication. When directly quoting from a source a third piece of information is required: the page number(s) where the quote can be found. Below are examples of in-text citations and how they are formatted.

Works by a Single Author

Placing the author and year at the end of a sentence

admitting you need help is the first step (Considine, 2015).

When the author is mentioned in a sentence

Considine (2015) says the first step is admitting that you need help.

Works by Multiple Authors

Placing the 2 authors and year at the end of sentence

The results of the study were clear (Clarke & Vaid, 2015).

When the 2 authors are mentioned in a sentence

When including both author names in a sentence, use “and” not an ampersand (&) between each name.

As Clarke and Vaid (2015) demonstrated.

The first in-text citation for a work with 3-5 authors

For the first in-text citation for a source with 3-5 authors, list every name.

Results of the study were unclear (Schwartz, Karen, & Paquette, 2015).

Every subsequent in-text citation for a work with 3-5 authors

For every in-text citation after the first, list only the first author’s name followed by “et al.” (see example below).

Participants frequently mentioned being uncomfortable (Schwartz et al., 2015).

For a work with 6 or more authors

For articles with 6 or more authors, list the first author’s last name followed by “et al.”.

Based on fossil evidence, the dinosaur is thought to have been an omnivore (Thompkins et al., 2015).

Works by Associations, Organizations, Corporations, Government Agencies, etc.

The first in-text citation

If an organization has a long name use the following strategy to shorten the in-text citations. Type out the full organization name in the first in-text citation, with an abbreviation in brackets following the name.

(World Health Organization [WHO], 2015).

Every subsequent in-text citation

For every in-text citation after the first one, use the abbreviation.

(WHO, 2015).

Works with No Author

Using a title in place of author name

You should use the title of an article within an in-text citation only if the author is unknown.

If the title is long, use the first few words. If the title is short use it entirely. IMPORTANT: The title is placed in quotes within the in-text citation, but it will be in italics within the reference.

Children who watch more than 12 hours of television a week have an increased risk of becoming obese (“Television watching habits”, 2015).

Specific Parts of a Source

Adding page numbers when quoting directly

When directly quoting from a source, provide the page number(s) where the quote can be found in addition to author name and publication date.

“Climate change has an impact on cost of living” (Strassman, 2015, p. 15).

Direct quotes when there are no page numbers

If there are no page numbers, as is often the case when quoting from a website, provide the paragraph number where the quote can be found.

“The divorce ended amicably” (Strassman, 2015, para. 6).

Citing Indirect Sources

Sometimes a source is cited in another source. For example, in a scholarly journal article they mention the results of a study found in a different article. In this case, the source you are reading cites a different source that you would like to use.

Providing an in-text citation for a source cited in a source on your reference page

In the example below, Johnson is the name of the author of the article you are reading. You will have a reference for Johnson’s article on your reference page. Williams is the author of the source that Johnson is citing. Because you are getting Williams’ information from Johnson’s article, you only will have a reference for Johnson’s article.

Williams argued… (as cited in Johnson, 2014, p.4).

Format the reference page using the following rules:

  • “References” is written at the top-center of the page (do not include the quotation marks).
  • Start at the top of the following page after the paper ends.
  • Alphabetize references by last name, or the title if there is no author.
  • References should use a hanging indentation. This means the first line is flush left and every line thereafter is tabbed in 0.5″. This begins anew for each reference.

Below are examples of references for the types of sources you will commonly use. When creating references pay attention to all of the details. What needs to be italicized? How are things capitalized? When and where do you need a period? All of this is important to creating a properly formatted reference.

Journal, Magazine, and Newspaper Articles

If you don’t see an issue number, don’t assume there isn’t one. The same goes for page numbers. A Google search for the article title can help verify the information needed for the reference.

An article in a scholarly journal with volume numbers but no issue numbers

Cheuk, B. (2008). Delivering business value through information literacy in the workplace. Libri, 58, 137-143.

An article in a scholarly journal with volume and issue numbers

Washington, E.T. (2015). An overview of cyberbullying in higher education. Adult Learning, 26(1), 21-27.

A magazine article

Falco, M. (2010, June 15). Detective work in ancient Rome. Time, 143, 33-36.

A newspaper article

Schirano, M. (2012, June 19). Vidal vows to crack down on crime. The Democrat and Chronicle, pp. 1A, 3A.


When referencing books, be sure to clarify whether someone is an author or editor. This distinction can be unclear when looking at the cover of a book. As stated above, a Google search can be a great place to confirm the information you have, or find the information you are missing.

One author, no editor

Duncan, T. (2014). Winning on and off the basketball court. San Antonio, TX: Russell Sage Foundation.

Multiple authors, no editor

James, L., & Irving, K. (2015). The challenge of teamwork. Cleveland, OH: Cavaliers Foundation.

Author and editor

Vidal, G. (2004). The secret diaries. T. Williams (Ed.). New York, NY: Penguin.

Editor, no author

Curry, S. (Ed.). (2015). Practice makes perfect. San Francisco, CA: Anchor.

An edition other than the first

Jackson, P. (2002). Getting the most out of your employees (3rd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: University of Chicago Press.

An article or chapter in a book

Schirano, M., & Sherman, M. (2014). Library services in higher education. In R. Dowgiert (Ed.), Libraries across the world (pp. 125-143). Bridgeport, CT: Springer.

Encyclopedia or Dictionary Entry

When using multiple entries from an encyclopedia or dictionary, provide one reference for the entire book. This means the same in-text citation is used no matter which entry is used in the assignment. For a single entry from an encyclopedia or dictionary, provide a reference for that specific entry.

Whole encyclopedia or dictionary

Lillard, D. (2015). The Encyclopedia of Sports Terminology. Portland, OR: Trailblazers Publishing.

A specific entry in an encyclopedia or dictionary

Steinberg, A. (2009). Thermodynamics. In The Concise Physics Encyclopedia. (pp. 101-103). Chicago, IL: Springer.


When using multiple pages from a single website, create one reference for the homepage of the website. Do not create separate references for each page used.

Website with an author

Smith, T. (2010, May 7). Copy cataloging for the digital era. Retrieved from

Website with organization as author

United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2005, August 3). Medicaid drug price comparisons: Average manufacturer price to published prices. Retrieved from

Website with no author

How to camp safely with as little equipment as possible. (2015, February 23). Retrieved from