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The Ultimate Guide To APA Referencing Style


Most students firmly believe that after successfully completing their assignment, they have nothing left to be worried about. That is not the case. Assignment writing is only half the battle won. The other half is referencing the assignment. Multiple citation styles exist for this purpose and often the subtle differences between them can confuse most students, rendering them unable to distinguish one style from another.

One such referencing style that is commonly confused is the APA referencing style. However, it is quite different from the others and has its own set of rules, which must be followed if you want to score well. In this blog, we’ll present to you a comprehensive guide on the APA referencing style, which will clear all your confusion.

The basics of APA referencing style

The APA style of citation is an author-date based one and derives from the 6th edition of the American Psychological Association’s published manuals. This referencing style is quite similar to the Harvard style and is as common as well. That said, it has its own set of formatting rules, which are very specific and make all the difference. So let’s discuss the formatting rules of this style before we go in-depth into how to use the style and its examples.

The formatting rules of APA citation style

  • ✍ To begin a reference list in the APA style, you must start at a new page with the heading ‘References’ in the center alignment
  • ✍ Every single reference entry made should be double-spaced
  • ✍ The entries should be equally indented to a measurement as specified by your university
  • ✍ All entries made should be in alphabetical order only based on the surnames of the authors
  • ✍ In case you need to cite more than a single book of one author, you should start with the earliest publication of the said author first and then move on in a chronological order
  • ✍ In case you need to cite more than a single work of one author and both works have been published in the same year, you should add an alphabet in the lower case just after the year so the two can be differentiated; typically you need to start with the alphabet ‘a’, eg. 1928a, 1928b
  • ✍ If the work you intend to cite doesn’t have an author, put the title of the work in the position of the author’s name; in this case if the title starts with a number, spell the number instead of putting numerals
  • ✍ When mentioning the location of the publication, use abbreviations of the name of the state such as Berkeley, CA in which CA stands for California; however, country names should be mentioned in full and not in an abbreviated form
  • ✍ If the work used has been published by a university and the name of the university mentions the state, the name of the state should not be repeated in the location segment
  • ✍ Unless the reference is a URL or of an online book, all references should end with a period.


These are the basic rules of APA citation style that are best memorized if you do not wish to make a mistake while referencing your assignment. As for the font style you should reference in, you need to ask your university as each institution may have a different preference.


How to cite different kinds of works in the APA referencing style

Now begins the major challenge and that is of referencing your entire assignment in the APA style. Why this can be difficult is because different kinds of sources need to be referenced in different ways. For example, the referencing format of a book in the APA style will be different from that of a journal. Similarly videos, websites etc. will have different formats too. So will books with two authors!

However, there is nothing to worry about as in the following section, we will be listing examples of each type so you can get a thorough grasp on the APA citation style. Let’s get started.

✅ In-text APA citation

For in-text citations in APA style, the surname of the author(s) along with the date of publication in round brackets has to be given.
E.g.: Single author - (Brown, 1999), more than one author – (Nelson & Smith, 2007)

The above is applicable if you’re paraphrasing and giving an in-text citation for the paraphrased portion. If you directly quote from a book or a journal etc., you will have to mention the page number as well.
E.g.: (Nelson & Smith, 2007, pp.34-35)

✅ Citing journals

To cite a journal you must mention the surname of the author(s) followed by the initial of their first name. The year of publication, the title of the article and of the journal along with the volume and issue of the journal have to be mentioned as well. Mentioning the page number and DOI (if any) are also necessary.
E.g.: Jackson, B (2014) Sun and Cancer. The Journal of Dermatology, 24(6),
43-44. doi: 10.6699/phc2014.e1252
The DOI should be indented as given in the example and the name of the journal should be in italics.

✅ Citing books

The basic rules of citing a book are more or less the same as that of the journal with the difference being that mentioning the page number is not always necessary and there’s no DOI. Also, the name of the book needs to be italicized and the place of publication as well the as publishing house mentioned.
E.g.: Abernathy, D. G. (2001) Why Bionic Men Are The Future Of The Planet, Long Island, NY:
Harmony Press.
Indentation as given above is necessary if you move on to the next line.

✅ Citing quotes

If the direct quote you’ve mentioned is less than 40 words, you can cite it in-text. In this case the quote should be within double quotation marks.

E.g.: According to Maximillian et al. (2002, p. 524), “the topic of sexuality and gender stereotypes in movies might be more tastefully handled now but it’s far from gone. It’s going to take centuries for something like that to be entirely erased.”

If the said quote goes beyond the limit of 40 words, you will need to begin a new paragraph with left indentation and double space the entire quote. In such a scenario, you don’t need to use quotation marks.

E.g.: Other critics don’t entirely agree with Maximillian:
Gender stereotyping and sexuality in movies from all over the world definitely still exist but they are not of the same nature as they used to be. Not only has the filmmaker matured over the course of time but so has the audience. The audience is no longer interested in watching cringe-worthy scenes of women being portrayed as pretty faces with no brains, whose sole job is to appease the man in her life. People now prefer to see women in power with meaningful roles. (Fisher, 2005, pp. 100-101).
In case page numbers are not given, mention the paragraph number you picked up the quote from.

✅ Citing figures and tables

Before we mention that, let’s clear the air on what tables and figures stand for. Tables refer to any type of numerical values that are mentioned in the form of columns or rows. Figures on the other hand are of a wide variety and range from maps, graphs, charts, pictures and diagrams.

While citing figures and tables, you should remember to include the two in the main body of your assignments. You should number each figure and table in the order in which they appear in your assignment and you should refer to them in your text. For instance, “as we can see from Table 2…” and so on and so forth. Each table or figure you insert in your text should be followed by a brief description of it.

E.g. Table 1. This table quite aptly portrays the price fluctuations that have taken place through the course of the centuries. While its natural for prices to increase, sudden and steep rises can point to a problem with the nation’s economy. From “The Price Problem,” by H. Wellington, 2002, The World’s Greatest Economies, 32, p. 39. Copyright by Harold Wellington. Reprinted with permission.

Note that you can only mention the last bit of ‘reprinted with permission’ if you’ve sought permission and received it from the author concerned.

The above example was of in-text citation of a table or figure. Here’s how you should put it in your reference list-
E.g.: Wellington, H. (2002). The Price Problem. The World’s Greatest Economies, 32(2), 35-45.

In case you adapt the figure or table, you should still give credit to the original source right at the bottom of the said table or figure. The reference list entry in this case remains unchanged.

E.g. Table 1. This table quite aptly portrays the price fluctuations that have taken place through the course of the centuries. While its natural for prices to increase, sudden and steep rises can point to a problem with the nation’s economy. From “The Price Problem,” by H. Wellington, 2002, The World’s Greatest Economies, 32, p. 39. Copyright by Harold Wellington. Adapted with permission.

If you don’t reproduce the table or figure in your assignment but just talk about, you can make a standard in-text citation and mention the number of the figure or table as in the original document. Here too the reference list entry remains unchanged.
E.g. (Wellington, 2002, p. 39, fig. 1)

✅ Citing URLs

In the APA style while citing URLs, you have to follow the typical author-date fashion and give the link of the article preceded by the words “retrieved from”. This is done to include the date of access when you first referred to the concerned online article.
E.g. Parker, M. (2003). Dealing with depression. Retrieved July 24, 2009, from
http://www.depression.org/managingdepression/notes.asp
In case the name of the author is not given, putting in the title of the work followed by the year will do.

As you can see from the examples given above, citing in the APA style is not that difficult. As long as you remember to put in the name of the author first followed by the date and then the other details, you will be just fine. That said, ensure that you always cite your papers correctly and fully. If you don’t, your paper and all the ideas you’ve put in them will be considered as plagiarism and you will end up with a failure grade. So if that’s not the fate you want your hard work to suffer, reference your paper correctly every time.

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