APA: The References Section
In APA style, the sources you cite in your paper are listed all together at the end, in the References section.
Arrange the References section in APA style
- In APA style, all the sources you cite throughout the text of your paper are listed together in the References section.
- The References section has its own special formatting rules, including double-spaced text and hanging indentation.
- How you should format each individual citation differs differs slightly based on source type; there are different citation styles for books, online resources, journals, and many others.
- hanging indent: A formatting style for citations in APA Reference pages in which every line except the first is an inch away from the left margin.
In APA style, all the sources you cite throughout the text of your paper are listed together, and more fully, in the References section, which comes after the main text of your paper.
Formatting the References Section
The top of the page, as the rest of your paper, should still include the running header on the left and the page number on the right. On the first line, the title of the page—“References”—should appear centered and not italicized or bolded. (As is the case with the “Abstract” page title, this does not count as an actual heading, so it is not formatted per the heading guidelines.) And, like the rest of your paper, this page should also be double-spaced.
Starting on the next line after the page title, your references should be listed in alphabetical order by author. Multiple sources by the same author should be listed chronologically by year within the same group.
Each reference should be formatted with what is called a hanging indent. This means the first line of each reference should be flush with the left margin (i.e., not indented), but the rest of that reference should be indented one inch from the left margin. Any word-processing program will let you format this automatically so you don’t have to do it by hand. (In Microsoft Word, for example, you simply highlight your citations, click on the small arrow right next to the word “Paragraph” on the home tab, and in the popup box choose “hanging indent” under the “Special” section. Click OK, and you’re done.)
Constructing a Citation
The first step in building each individual citation is to determine the type of resource you are citing, since in each citation style formatting differs slightly based on source type. Some common types are a book, a chapter from a book, a journal article, an online book or article, an online video, a blog post, and personal communication such as an email or an interview you conducted. (You’ll notice that “website” is not a category by itself. If the information you found is online, you want to determine if you’re looking at an online book, an online article, or some other type of document.)
As an example, let’s look in detail at the process of citing three particular sources in APA style: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (i.e., a book by one author), Project Gutenberg’s online text of the same book (i.e., an online book), and an online journal article about the book.
You always want to start with the author information. You should present the author information in the following order and format: the author’s last name (capitalized), a comma, the author’s first initial, then a period, and finally their middle initial and period (if given):
- Conrad, J.
Date of Publication
After the author’s name, you provide the year, inside parentheses, in which the source was published, followed by a period. It may look odd, but make sure your period is outside the parentheses.
Title of Source
Next, you should include the title of the source in sentence case. For a book, the title is italicized.
- Heart of darkness.
City of Publication
Next, you want to provide the location of the publisher’s office. The location is generally a city, such as “London” or “New York, NY.”
Next, provide the publisher’s name, followed by a period:
- Everyman’s Library.
All together, then, the citation looks like this:
- Conrad, J. (1993). Heart of darkness. London: Everyman’s Library.
Now let’s take a look at the citation for the online version of the same book, available online through Project Gutenberg (gutenberg.org). Much of the citation is the same:
- Conrad, J. (2006). Heart of darkness. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219-h/219-h.htm
Journal Articles and Multiple Authors
- NooriBerzenji, L. S., & Abdi, M. (2013). The image of the Africans in Heart of Darkness and Things Fall Apart. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 5(4), 710–726.
Much of this citation will look familiar to you now that you know the basics. Again, we start with the author information. This article has multiple authors, so we list them in the same order in which they are listed in the source, and in the same format as before (last name, first initial, middle initial), separated by commas. The last author should also have an “and” sign, or ampersand (&), before it. Here we have only two authors, but if we had five, the ampersand would come before the fifth author’s last name, after the comma following the fourth author’s name.
The date of publication and title are formatted the same. Note that even though APA style says that the article title should not be italicized, the book titles “Heart of Darkness” and “Things Fall Apart” within the article title are still italicized.
The new information here begins with citing the journal this article is from. Include the title of the journal in italicized title case (all major words capitalized, as in the title of a book), followed by a comma:
- Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business,
Then include the journal volume, also italicized:
If the particular journal you’re citing lists an issue number in addition to the volume number, as this one does, include it in parentheses immediately after the volume, and do not italicize it. Then follow it with a comma.
Finally, list the page numbers of the article, followed by a period [note that the dash between the first and second numbers is an en-dash (–), not a hyphen (-) or em-dash (—)]:
Multiple Publications by the Same Author in the Same Year
If you are referencing multiple publications by the same author (or group of authors) that were published in the same year, there is a special rule for denoting this. You should first order those articles alphabetically by source title in the References section. Then, append a lowercase letter in alphabetical order to the end of each year of publication:
- Achenbach, T. M. (2012a). Bibliography of published studies using the ASEBA. Retrieved March 25, 2012, from Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment: http://www.aseba.org/asebabib.html
- Achenbach, T. M. (2012b). School-age (ages 6–18) assessments. Retrieved March 18, 2012, from Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment: http://www.aseba.org/schoolage.html
A Note on Capitalization
In the guidelines for citing different types of sources in APA style, you will notice several different patterns in capitalizing source titles. A work that stands on its own—a book, a painting, a film, etc.—should be written in italicized title case (every major word capitalized). A source that is part of a larger work—a chapter in an anthology, an article in a journal, a web page, etc.—should be written in sentence case and not italicized. (Recall that sentence means that just the first word and proper nouns are capitalized, as well as the first word after a colon, if there are any). As an example, compare the citations of Heart of Darkness and the NooriBerzenji & Abdi (2013) article.
APA: How to Reference Different Types of Sources
In APA style, there are different formats for citing sources at the end of your paper depending on the type of source.
List the ways to cite different source types in APA style
- In your References section, you will have to create a citation for every source you used in your paper; these citations will be formatted differently depending on the source type.
- There are different citation styles for books, depending on how many authors they have.
- There are different citation styles for articles, depending on where you found them.
- There are ways to format sources that are not books or articles.
- ellipsis: A punctuation mark consisting of three periods in a row, used to indicate an omission, a pause, or additional, unmentioned list items.
Now that you know the different components of a book citation in APA style and how they should be formatted, you will be able to understand the citation formats for other source types. Here are some example citations for the most common types of resources you will use.
Book by One Author
Sherman, R. D. (1956). The terrifying future: Contemplating color television. San Diego: Halstead.
Book by Multiple Authors
Kurosawa, J., & Armistead, Q. (1972). Hairball: An intensive peek behind the surface of an enigma. Hamilton, ON: McMaster University Press.
Three to Seven Authors
Brown, T. E., LeMay, H. E., Bursten, B. E., Murphy, C., & Woodward, P. (2011). Chemistry: The central science. London: Prentice Hall.
More than Seven Authors
List the first six authors, then an ellipsis, then the final author.
Hughes-Hallett, D., Gleason, A. M., McCallum, W. G., Lomen, D. O., Lovelock, D., Tecosky-Feldman, J.,… Lock, P. F. (2008). Calculus: Single variable. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Article in an Edited Book
Stanz, R. F. (1983). Practical methods for the apprehension and sustained containment of supernatural entities. In G. L. Yeager (Ed.), Paranormal and occult studies: Case studies in application (pp. 42–64). London, England: OtherWorld Books.
Article in a Journal with Continuous Pagination
Rottweiler, F. T., & Beauchemin, J. L. (1987). Detroit and Sarnia: Two foes on the brink of destruction. Canadian/American Studies Journal, 54. 66–146.
Article in a Journal Paginated Separately
Crackton, P. (1987). The Loonie: God’s long-awaited gift to colourful pocket change? Canadian Change, 64(7), 34–37.
Article in an Internet-Only Journal
Blofeld, H. V. (1994, March 1). Expressing oneself through Persian cats and modern architecture. Felines & Felons, 4, Article 0046g. Retrieved October 3, 1999, from http://journals.f+f.org/spectre/vblofeld-0046g.html
Page on a Web Site
Pavlenko, A. (2015, October 7). Bilingual minds, bilingual bodies. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual/201510/bilingual-minds-bilingual-bodies
Page on a Web Site, No Author Identified, No Date
Bilingual minds, bilingual bodies. (n.d.). Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-bilingual/201510/bilingual-minds-bilingual-bodies
APA: In-Text Citations and Parentheticals
In APA style, there are different formats for citing sources in text depending on the type of source.
Arrange in-text citations in APA style
- In-text citations are where you tell the reader, within the text of your paper, the author ’s name and the date the source was published.
- The correct formatting for an in-text citation varies depending on how many authors created the work being cited.
- Formatting also varies depending on whether you cite the same source more than once, or whether you cite multiple works by the same author.
- in-text citation: Giving the name and year or other identifying information of the author of a source within the text of a paper.
In your paper, when you quote directly from a source in their words, or when you paraphrase someone else’s idea, you need to tell the reader what that source is so the author gets credit for their words and ideas. When you tell the reader the author’s name and the date the source was published in the text of your paper, this is called an in-text citation.
Source by a Single Author
To cite this type of reference in the text, you should use what is known as a parenthetical —the citation information enclosed in parentheses—at the end of the relevant sentence. The parenthetical should include the author’s last name (with no first or middle initial), followed by a comma, followed by the year the source was published. If you’re citing a direct quote, you also need to include the page number. For example:
- Social representations theory posits that reified scientific knowledge that exists at the boundaries of a given society will be interpreted in meaningful and often simplified forms by the majority (Pauling, 2005).
- Social representations theory “proposes a new hypothesis …” (Pauling, 2005, p. 113).
If you choose, you can integrate the author’s name into the sentence itself—this is known as a ” signal phrase “—and provide just the year in parentheses:
- Pauling (2005) posits that…
Source by Two Authors
Authors should be presented in the order in which they are listed on the published article. If you include the authors’ names in the parenthetical, use an ampersand (&) between the two names. For example:
- Social representations theory posits that reified scientific knowledge that exists at the boundaries of a given society will be interpreted in meaningful and often simplified forms by the majority (Pauling & Liu, 2005).
If you choose to use a signal phrase instead, use the word “and” rather than an ampersand:
- Pauling and Liu (2005) posit that…
Source by Three to Five Authors
For an article with three to five authors, the first time you cite the article in the text of your paper, you should include the names of all the authors (in the same order in which they appear in the article) followed by the year of publication. After that, to save space and to make your paper easier to read, you should use only the first author’s name followed by “et al.” and the year of publication. (“Et al.” is short for “et alia,” which means “and other people” in Latin—much like “etc.” is short for “et cetera,” which means “and other things” in Latin.)
- Social representations theory posits that reified scientific knowledge that exists at the boundaries of a given society will be interpreted in meaningful and often simplified forms by the majority (Pauling, Liu, & Guo, 2005).
Using a signal phrase:
- Pauling, Liu, and Guo (2005) posit…
Subsequent Instances in the Same Document
- (Pauling et al., 2005)
Using a signal phrase:
- Pauling, et al. (2005) posit…
Source by More than Five Authors
For an article with more than five authors, include only the first author’s name followed by “et al.” and the year of publication in each in-text citation.
- (Hughes-Hallett et al., 2008)
Using a signal phrase:
- Hughes-Hallett et al. (2008) claim that…
Multiple Publications by Different Authors
If you need to cite multiple publications by different authors in the same sentence, you should list the multiple sources in alphabetical order by author and use a semicolon to separate them.
- … majority (Alford, 1995; Pauling, 2004; Sirkis, 2003).
If within this citation you also have multiple sources by the same author, after that author’s name separate the multiple dates of publication with a semicolon and order them chronologically (earliest to latest).
- … majority (Alford, 1995; Pauling, 2004; 2005; Sirkis, 2003).
Multiple Publications by the Same Author
If an author has multiple publications which you wish to cite in the same sentence, you use a semi colon (;) to separate the years of publication in chronological order (oldest to most recent).
- … majority (Pauling, 2004; 2005).
Using a signal phrase:
- Pauling (2004; 2005) suggests that…
Multiple Publications by the Same Author/s in the Same Year
If multiple publications by the same author (or group of authors) were published in the same year, there is a special rule for denoting this. In the References section, you would order those articles alphabetically by source title, and then append a lowercase letter in alphabetical order to the end of the year of publication. For example, if you had two publications by Pauling in 2004, the first would be marked as (2004a) and the second as (2004b). You would then include these lowercase letters in your in-text citations as well:
- … majority (Pauling, 2004a; 2004b).