APA Style Citation

APA is a reference and style guide most often used in the social sciences, including psychology, criminology, business, and sociology. As an editorial style, APA is a good choice for those who would like their readers to be able to find sources of information easily.

This guide explains how to provide in-text citations and reference entries for common types of sources in APA 6th Edition. However, APA style covers a number of writing and formatting conventions, including pagination, fonts, heading styles, and the ordering of paper sections. For more in-depth explanation or detail, refer to the Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association, 6th edition.

For APA 7th Edition, take a look at Purdue OWL's APA Guide.

APA Citations: Purpose and Components

Using APA correctly serves a number of purposes. Most obviously, it ensures academic integrity by requiring that you give proper credit to the thoughts, ideas, and words of other thinkers and researchers. However, using APA rigorously also helps you to become a part of your discipline’s community of practice: it places your work into conversation with the work of others, and it allows your readers to easily trace, find, and engage with the sources that you use in your own work. 

APA requires that sources be documented in two places: in the body of the paper (parenthetical citations) and in the reference list (complete reference entries).

Two puzzle peices, labelled "in-text citations" and "reference entries", fit together to make a complete citation entry.

Sometimes sources will not have all the information you need (for example, an otherwise credible website may not have page numbers). Follow the style guide as closely as possible while trying to make it easy for your reader to identify and find your research sources.

Documenting Sources within the Paper

In APA format, in-text citations are required for both paraphrased and directly-quoted material. Where the citation appears depends on how you have structured your signal phrase. The basic constructions for citations are as follows:  

Direct Quotations (Short)

Direct quotations use the (author, year, page) format. 

e.g., It is worthwhile to note that, for Spiegelman, the “active construction of nationalism” is one that is performed through his reflection on “the precise site of a violent event” (Penney, 2010, p.5)  

If you integrate the author’s name into the signal phrase, the citation will appear as follows: e.g., In her paper on Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Penney (2010) observes that New York City effectively functions both “as a domestic space and site of a violent event that is replete with fear and trauma, but also the potential for human connection” (p. 9).

Direct Quotations (Long) 

For block quotations (long quotations of forty words or more), the structure of the parenthetical citation stays the same (author, year, page), but there are some formatting changes: 

  1. There are no quotation marks around the quotation.

  2. The period comes before the parenthetical citation.

  3. The entire quotation is single spaced.

  4. The entire quotation is offset from the left margin (i.e., the entire quotation is “tabbed” in, as with the start of a paragraph). 

Sample long quotation: 

It may have been quixotic, but it was magnificent. Soon the inward meaning of it leaked out, and the great heart of the public was touched. Crowds followed the cab, cheering it lustily; charming girls scaled it to get his autograph; interviews appeared in the better class of papers, and society invited him to dinner. (Barrie, 1911, p. 180)

Whether you are incorporating a long or short quotation into your work, it is important to write clear, well-integrated signal phrases that provide context for your quotation in order to transition from your writing and arguments to the quoted material.


Paraphrases use the (author, year) format. Note that the period is placed to the right of the parenthetical citation (as it is for direct quotations under 40 words). 

  • e.g., Ultimately, it is clear that there is space for opening up and understanding trauma if readers attempt to both listen and see the pain of others (Penney, 2010). 

Or, if you integrate the author in the signal phrase: 

  • e.g., In her paper on the exceptionality of New York City, Penney (2010) observes that both Spiegelman’s and Foer’s texts mediate between different conceptions of trauma: individual and collective. 

In-text Citation Formatting for Different Kinds of Sources

Source Variation Example
Sources by one author (Last name, publication year)   e.g., Dogs with webbed feet do not always enjoy water activities (Choy, 1999).  
Sources by two authors (Last name & Last name, publication year)   e.g., Margaret Laurence’s works feature strong religious symbolism (Marquez & Adams, 2007).  
Sources by three or more authors 

Cite all authors in the first reference, but only the first author followed by et al. and publication year in each subsequent citation (Last name of first author et al., publication year) 

e.g., Crime in Canada has risen in the last decade (Goldstein, Lowe, Jung, & Soo, 2001). It has also become more organized (Goldstein et al., 2011).  

Two or more sources by the same author in the same year  

Place a letter after the year of each citation that corresponds with your reference list. Within your references, list this author’s works alphabetically by title, then assign a letter. 

e.g., Lee has argued that police are more likely to arrest certain demographics (2005a) but has noted elsewhere that the frequency of this occurrence varies by location (2005b).  

Authors with the same last name (First initial. Last name, publication year)   e.g., Although many birds fly south in the summer (J. Singh, 2015), some birds remain in Canada throughout the winter (R. Singh, 2008).  
Classic work

When possible, provide the original year of publication and the year of the version you used. 

e.g., Class struggles are therefore at the centre of human history (Marx and Engels, 1879/2003).  

Multiple sources in the same citation 

Order the sources alphabetically within the citation (Last name, publication year; Last name, publication year). 

e.g., As has been noted by other scholars (Ali, 2009; Jordan, 1999), evidence-based research must be falsifiable.  

Specific parts of a source (Last name, publication year, page/chapter/figure/table/equation number)  

e.g., Some researchers have correlated alcoholism and crime (Murray, 2004, figure 3.4).  

Indirect or secondary sources 

Try to consult original material, but if absolutely unavailable, use “as cited in” to indicate where you found the information. 

e.g., O’Neil noted a heightened sense of smell after his accident (as cited in Russo, 2007). 

Reference List Formatting for Different Kinds of Sources

The reference list is an alphabetical listing of sources at the end of your document on a page of its own. It itemizes the material you cited in your text. Sources that you consulted, but did not cite, are not included in this list.  

Reference entries for APA use hanging indentations. The first line of a reference entry is left-justified (i.e., on the left margin), and all subsequent lines in the entry are indented (usually by using the tab button).

IMPORTANT NOTE: APA 6th edition uses hanging indents which the following entries do not contain. They should be used as an example of the information to include in your reference list. For page formatting, see the sample reference list at the end of this resource.

Books with one author

Last name, First initial. (Publication year). Title. Location: Publisher. 

Akenson, D. (1985). Being had: Historians, evidence, and the Irish in North America. Toronto: P.D. Meany Publishers.  

Books with two authors  

Last name, First initial, & Last name, First initial. (Publication year). Title. Location: Publisher. 

Nelson, S. J., & Ash, M. M. (2010). Wheeler’s dental anatomy, physiology, and occlusion. St. Louis, MO: Saunders/Elsevier. 

Books with more than three authors  

Either list the authors individually within the entry, or use et al. 

Chris John, R.D., et al. (2006). The circle game: Shadows and substance in the Indian residential school experience in Canada. Penticton: Theytus Books. 

Sources by a government branch or institution  

Organization. (Publication year). Title (publication number). City: Publisher. 

Engineers Canada. (2013). Canadian engineering accreditation criteria and procedures (Report no. 2).  Ottawa: Canadian Council of Professional Engineers. 

Books compiled by an editor 

Last name, First initial (Ed.). (Publication year). Title. Location: Publisher. 

Schwartz, J.M., & Ryan, J.R. (Eds.). (2003). Picturing place: Photography and the geographical imagination. New York: I.B. Tauris. 

Section within an edited collection 

Last name, First initial. (Publication year). Title of section. In First initial. Last name (Ed), Title of Book. (pages of chapter). Location: Publisher. 

Clives, J. (2012). Crafting professional identity: Learning from the ground up. In F. Tristram & T. Qixing (Eds.), Rethinking Professionalism: Women and Agriculture in California, 1850-1970 (pp. 135-167). San Francisco: Dolores Press. 

APA has some very specific capitalization rules for titles. For larger works containing smaller works (journals, overall websites), you will capitalize all major words in the title (excluding articles, prepositions, etc.). Shorter works (essays, chapters, and articles) are capitalized differently. For such works, the first word in the title, the first word after a colon, and proper nouns are capitalized.

Multiple sources published by the same author in the same year 

Use the lettering format (year/letter) identified in the in-text citation rules above. 

de Vecchi, V.M.G. (1984a). Science and scientists in government, 1878-1896 – Part I. Scientia Canadensis: Canadian Journal of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, 8(2), 112- 142.

de Vecchi, V.M.G. (1984b). The dawning of a national scientific community in Canada, 1878- 1896. Scientia Canadensis: Canadian Journal of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, 8(1),  32-58.

Journal article or periodical article 

Last name, First initial. (Publication year). Title of article. Title of Journal, Volume number(Issue number), pages. DOI 

Ahern, A., O’Conner, T., McRuairc, G., McNamara, M., & O’Donnell, D. (2012). Critical thinking in the university curriculum: The impact on engineering education. European Journal of Engineering Education, 37(2), 125-132. doi.org/10.1080/03043797.2012.666516  

A digital object identifier (DOI) is a string of letters and numbers assigned to individual pieces of content. Its purpose is to provide a permanent link to content that is available online.

Web source 

Last name, First initial. (Date of publication). Title of document. Retrieved from URL. 

Smith, J. (2008). Digital humanities and you! Retrieved from www.url.ca. 

Newspaper article 

Last name, First initial. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Newspaper, pages. 

Walker, P. (2014, March 19). Move over STEM: Why the world needs humanities graduates. Guardian, p. B2. 

Image in an art database 

Artist. (Year). Title [description]. Institution, Museum, or Collection, Location. Available from Database Name or Retrieved from URL. 

Karsh, Y. (1962). Martin Luther King (1929-1968) [gelatin silver print]. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Retrieved from https://www.gallery.ca/en/see/collections/artwork.php?mkey=36526

Sample Reference List

The following file is a sample list of references (PDF). It includes information about the placement of other elements of APA style such as a running head and pagination. See APA Style Guide, 6th edition for more detailed information.