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Citation Guides: Basic APA

Formatting papers using APA or MLA styles

APA Citations

What does an APA citation include?

There are two parts to every APA citation: an in-text reference in brackets, which occurs directly after every instance in which a source is quoted or paraphrased, and a complete citation, occurring in an alphabetized reference list at the end of your paper.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations usually consist of the last name of the author(s) followed by the publication date (Jones, 2012). In rare instances, such as when the work has no author, the title will be used in its stead. See this page for more detailed information on formatting in-text citations.

Reference List Entries

The format for Reference List Entries changes depending on the type of source you are citing. Generally, they will include bibliographic information, such as author names, titles, editors, and publication information. Electronic works will also include retrieval information, such as a DOI or a URL. The rest of this guide contains information on how to format reference list entries for a variety of sources.

Putting it Together 

Check out this link to see a sample paper written in APA citation style. 

When do I exclude a source from my Reference List?

Every source cited in the text of your paper should have a corresponding entry in your reference list, with a few exceptions: personal communications, entire websites, and social media feeds. To cite a personal communication (such as a letter, email, text, or message you've received), include an in-text citation formatted as follows: (Author, personal communication, June 15, 2012). There is no need for a reference list entry, as readers will not be able to access the cited source. To cite a website, or a social media feed, such as a Facebook or Twitter page, simply include the URL in brackets ( 

What is APA?

APA (or American Psychological Association) style is used predominantly in the fields of Education, Management, and Social Sciences for formatting papers and citing sources.This guide gives citation examples for many different types of sources, as well as providing links to other guides and infomration about APA.

We provide information on:

  • Using in-text citations
  • Citing books,journals or e-books
  • Citing web resources

If you have an APA question not covered by the guide, feel free to ask a librarian or send us an email at: with your question.

APA References

General Guidelines for Creating APA References

The following are guidelines for creating an APA reference list. Always consult the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, for definitive APA style information. The APA Manual is located in all University College of the North Libraries (BF 76.7 .P83 2010), usually in the Reference section of the library or at the service desk. Details for Reference List elements appear in the APA manual pp. 180-192.

  • List all (and only) the sources you quoted or paraphrased in the text of the paper
  • Electronic sources require a DOI or URL as part of their retrieval information 
  • Double-space all entries. For papers not intended for publication, single-spacing within entries is also permissible, with double spaces between entries
  • Use hanging indent paragraph style (align the first line with the left margin and indent next lines three to five spaces from the left margin

Author notes

  • Authors' names are entered surname first, with initials only for first and middle names, separated by commas, with an ampersand (&) before the last author's name
  • References are arranged alphabetically by the authors' last names
  • When several works by one author appear, they are listed from oldest to newest
  • One author entries file before multiple author entries for the same surname
  • When works with multiple authors appear, file alphabetically by the first author, then the second, third, etc. If all authors are identical, then list them in chronological order from oldest to newest
  • When there is no author, the first main title word goes in the author position and is interfiled among the authors (ignoring initial articles such as A, The, An, etc.)
  • When the author's name and the publisher are the same, use the author's name to begin the reference, and use the word Author as the name of the publisher at the end of the reference
  • Spell out corporate/group authors in full; no acronyms
  • When authors number 7 or more, list the first six, insert an ellipsis, and conclude with the last author

Editor notes

  • Editors' names go in the author position when you reference an edited book, with (Ed.). or (Eds.). following the name(s)
  • When you are referencing an authored chapter in an edited book, the author is listed at the front of the reference. The name of the editor comes after the chapter title, preceded by the word In and with the name not inverted.  For example, In J. Smith (Ed.), Title of book (pages)

Title notes

  • For titles of chapters and journal articles, capitalize only the first word in the title and subtitle following a colon, and all proper nouns
  • Titles of books follow the same capitalization rules, and are italicized
  • For titles of periodicals, capitalize all significant words, and italicize the title and volume number
  • Occasionally the title needs to be enhanced to describe its format, such as a special issue of a periodical, a DVD or Motion picture.  Include this information in square brackets.  For example, Sophie's choice [Motion picture].

Publication notes

  • Electronic sources require a URL or DOI; do not include a retrieval date unless the content is likely to change over time
  • Give the full names of book publishers, omitting endings such as "Co.," "Inc." Include the name Books or Press, if they occur
  • Dates: include the year the item was published or produced; for newspapers and magazines give the year and exact date (2008, June 5); if there is no date available, use (n.d.), if there is a date range provided for a series, enter it is a range (2004-2009)
  • Use the abbreviation "p." or "pp." before page numbers for book chapters. Page numbers for journal articles do not use p. 
  • If each issue of a journal begins with page 1, include the issue number in parentheses (but not italicized) after the volume number in the reference list entry
  • If the journal volume page numbers run continuously throughout the year, regardless of issue number, do NOT include the issue number in your reference list entry
  • Place of publication for books and chapters generally includes the city name, followed by 2-letter state/province code. For countries other than the United States (or Canada, since our work at the U of A is here), also include and spell out the country name
  • Muliple publisher locations? Give the location mentioned first, or if the home office is mentioned, use that

APA Paper Format

General APA Guidelines

Your essay should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. You should use a clear font that is highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.

Include a page header  (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page.  The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.

Major Paper Sections

Your essay should include four major sections: the Title PageAbstractMain Body, andReferences.

Title Page

The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and theinstitutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page. Please note that on the title page, your page header/running head should look like this:


Pages after the title page should have a running head that looks like this:


After consulting with publication specialists at the APA, OWL staff learned that the APA 6th edition, first printing sample papers have incorrect examples of Running heads on pages after the title page. This link will take you to the APA site where you can find a complete list of all the errors in the APA's 6th edition style guide.

Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.

Beneath the title, type the author's name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).

Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.


Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).

Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.

You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.