Summary of APA Style: from Purdue OWL (Online Writing Laboratory)
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors:Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2013-03-01 08:28:59
APA Format Overview
APA format is one of the two formats most commonly assigned for papers at the City Colleges. APA is used primarily for papers in the sciences, while MLA is used primarily for papers in the humanities. There is not just one element that causes a paper to be in APA format or MLA format. In fact, the two formats have many elements in common — primarily, margins, font, spacing and font size. Both MLA and APA require Times New Roman font in 12-point size, double spacing, and one-inch margins at the top, bottom, and both sides.
There are significant differences between the two styles, though.
A major difference is the basic structure of the paper: In APA papers, there is a cover page, an abstract page, the main body, and a References page, while MLA has no cover page or abstract, and the main body is followed by a Works Cited page. The format by which works used in research are cited differs between the two styles as well.
A minor difference between APA and MLA is the header: in APA, there is a running head that includes the title and the page number, while in MLA, only the writer’s name and page number appear in the header.
When information from a source other than the author’s own knowledge is used in a paper, the reader is alerted to that fact and guided to the References page by the use of an in-text citation. This is generally the name of the author and enough information to distinguish it from other works in the References list by the same author, or authors with similar names. There are various ways to structure an in-text citation. Purdue OWL gives many examples.
From Purdue OWL (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03/):
In-Text Citations: Author/Authors
APA style has a series of important rules on using author names as part of the author-date system. There are additional rules for citing indirect sources, electronic sources, and sources without page numbers.
Citing an Author or Authors
A Work by Two Authors: Name both authors in the signal phrase or in the parentheses each time you cite the work. Use the word "and" between the authors' names within the text and use the ampersand in the parentheses.
Research by Wegener and Petty (1994) supports...
(Wegener & Petty, 1994)
A Work by Three to Five Authors
List all the authors in the signal phrase or in parentheses the first time you cite the source. Use the word "and" between the authors' names within the text and use the ampersand in the parentheses.
(Kernis, Cornell, Sun, Berry, & Harlow, 1993)
In subsequent citations, only use the first author's last name followed by "et al." in the signal phrase or in parentheses.
(Kernis et al., 1993)
In et al., et should NOT be followed by a period.
Six or More Authors: Use the first author's name followed by et al. in the signal phrase or in parentheses.
Harris et al. (2001) argued...
(Harris et al., 2001)
If the work does not have an author, cite the source by its title in the signal phrase or use the first word or two in the parentheses. Titles of books and reports are italicized or underlined; titles of articles, chapters, and web pages are in quotation marks.
A similar study was done of students learning to format research papers ("Using APA," 2001)
Note: In the rare case the "Anonymous" is used for the author, treat it as the author's name (Anonymous, 2001). In the reference list, use the name Anonymous as the author.
Organization as an Author
If the author is an organization or a government agency, mention the organization in the signal phrase or in the parenthetical citation the first time you cite the source.
According to the American Psychological Association (2000),...
If the organization has a well-known abbreviation, include the abbreviation in brackets the first time the source is cited and then use only the abbreviation in later citations.
First citation: (Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD], 2000)
Second citation: (MADD, 2000)
Two or More Works in the Same Parentheses
When your parenthetical citation includes two or more works, order them the same way they appear in the reference list (viz., alphabetically), separated by a semicolon.
(Berndt, 2002; Harlow, 1983)
Authors With the Same Last Name
To prevent confusion, use first initials with the last names.
(E. Johnson, 2001; L. Johnson, 1998)
Two or More Works by the Same Author in the Same Year
If you have two sources by the same author in the same year, use lower-case letters (a, b, c) with the year to order the entries in the reference list. Use the lower-case letters with the year in the in-text citation.
Research by Berndt (1981a) illustrated that...
Introductions, Prefaces, Forewords, and Afterwords
When citing an Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Afterwords in-text, cite the appropriate author and year as usual.
(Funk & Kolln, 1992)
For interviews, letters, e-mails, and other person-to-person communication, cite the communicator's name, the fact that it was personal communication, and the date of the communication. Do not include personal communication in the reference list.
(E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).
A. P. Smith also claimed that many of her students had difficulties with APA style (personal communication, November 3, 2002).
Citing Indirect Sources
If you use a source that was cited in another source, name the original source in your signal phrase. List the secondary source in your reference list and include the secondary source in the parentheses.
Johnson argued that...(as cited in Smith, 2003, p. 102).
Note: When citing material in parentheses, set off the citation with a comma, as above. Also, try to locate the original material and cite the original source.
If possible, cite an electronic document the same as any other document by using the author-date style.
Kenneth (2000) explained...
Unknown Author and Unknown Date
If no author or date is given, use the title in your signal phrase or the first word or two of the title in the parentheses and use the abbreviation "n.d." (for "no date").
Another study of students and research decisions discovered that students succeeded with tutoring ("Tutoring and APA," n.d.).
Sources Without Page Numbers
When an electronic source lacks page numbers, you should try to include information that will help readers find the passage being cited. When an electronic document has numbered paragraphs, use the abbreviation "para." followed by the paragraph number (Hall, 2001, para. 5). If the paragraphs are not numbered and the document includes headings, provide the appropriate heading and specify the paragraph under that heading. Note that in some electronic sources, like Web pages, people can use the Find function in their browser to locate any passages you cite.
According to Smith (1997), ... (Mind over Matter section, para. 6).
Note: Never use the page numbers of Web pages you print out; different computers print Web pages with different pagination.
Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.
If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source: Permanence and Change. Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs: Writing New Media, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
(Note: in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized: Writing new media.)
When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word: Natural-Born Cyborgs.
Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's Vertigo."
Italicize or underline the titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums: The Closing of the American Mind; The Wizard of Oz; Friends.
Put quotation marks around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles, articles from edited collections, television series episodes, and song titles: "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds"; "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."