APA style citation

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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. 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.

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). You can consider the parenthetical citation to be a directional arrow to your reference list, helping your reader find your original source.

Helpful tip: 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.

Documenting Sources with 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).

Helpful tip: 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:

  • There are no quotation marks around the quotation.
  • The period comes before the parenthetical citation.
  • The entire quotation is single spaced.
  • 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)

Helpful tip: 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

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 works 

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.

Helpful tip: 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). 

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.

Chrisjohn, 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.

Helpful tip: 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 
, 8(1), 32-58.

Journal article or periodical article

Last name, First initial. (Publication year). Title of article. Title of
, 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.

Helpful tip: 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, G. (2008). Digital humanities and you! Retrieved from

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. The 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

Sample Reference List

The following link provides a sample reference list

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