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How to Cite in APA Format

Updated on May 13, 2013

APA Formatting

The most common form of citation is APA style, especially in the social sciences. Writing in APA format can be tricky at times, but is simple to understand and use.

Here you will find sample formats, explanation of headings, how to cite a reference page, and examples of in-text citation.

Image thanks to ~Brenda-Starr~

APA Guidelines

When typing a paper with an APA format you need to:

Double space

Use 12-point font

Use 1" Margins (top, bottom, left, and right)

Use Times New Roman

Arial or Courier font can be used. Ask your professor on their specific requirements

The sections you need to include:

Title page, Abstract, Main Body, and Reference Page

Some professors do not require an abstract.

Concise Rules of APA Style (Concise Rules of the American Psychological Association (APA) Style) I strongly suggest obtaining an APA (6th ed.) book for you to reference to. There is a lot of information on how to cite all sorts of resources, including: electronic sources, podcasts, television, newspapers, indirect sources, and so much more.

Title page


The title page is probably the easiest part of APA formatting. The Running head is flush to the left, and the page number is flush to the right. Make sure that you have all the above information, and you're golden!


Your abstract is the window into the rest of your paper. It tells the readers what they can expect to see in the paper. Summarize your key points. In order to do this properly, you need to make sure that the following points are included: topic, participants, methods, results, and conclusion in 150 to 250 words.


(No Indent)There is no extra spacing between the heading (Abstract) and the actual abstract. Also remember to keep the Abstract heading simple. Centered. No bold and No italics. Then continue on with your spectacular writing skills! Remember to write between 150 to 250 words.

Abstract is written on a page of it's own.


Title of Paper

Introduction is not used as a heading. Use the title of your paper as the beginning to your text. No bold and No italics

Indent the first line of each paragraph. This portion of your paper is your introduction.

The abstract and the introduction are completely different. An introduction leads into your paper and provides a thesis statement.Level one headings are centered and bolded.

Level One Heading

Level Two Heading

Level three heading. No extra space between level two and level three heading. Continue wording like this after a level three heading. No extra spacing or indent.

Level four heading.

Level two headings are flush to the left and boldface. Level three headings are indented, boldface, and only the first letter is capitalized. Level four heading is indented, boldface, italicized, and only the first letter is capitalized. Don't forget the period at the end for level 3 and 4 headings!

Headings always go in order

You do not need to use all the levels, but when you do use more than one level make sure they are in order.

For example, do not jump from level one to level three heading.


Reference Page Basic Rules

1. All references need to have a hanging indent. (Indentation after the first line of your reference)

2. References are alphabetized by the last name of the first author.

3. If there are references with the same author, list by year of publication.

4. Capitalize all proper nouns in journal titles.

5. When citing more than six authors, list the first six authors, then ellipses (...), and then the final author.

Image thanks to D Sharon Pruitt

APA 6th Edition

Keep your citation book handy. I know that when I was working on my degree it was really nice to have close by.

Reference Page


References are written on a separate page. The heading is centered. No bold and No italics. Continue with double-spaced format.

Multiple authors are always written the same. The first author is written first, subsequent authors are added with a comma. The last author listed has a , & before their name.

Example: Last name, A., Last name, B., & Last name, C. (year)


Author's Last Name, A. (Year of publication). Title of book: Capitalize first letter after colon

also. Location: Publisher.


Hall, E.T. (1983). The dance of life: Other dimensions of time. New York: Doubleday.

Book with Edition

Author's Last Name, A. (Year of publication). Title of book: Capitalize first letter after colon

also. (ed.). Location: Publisher.


Harris, P.R., & Moran, T. (1996). Managing cultural differences: Leadership strategies for a

new world business (4th ed.). London: Gulf.

Journal Article

Last Name, A. (Year). Title of journal article: Capitalize first letter. Title of Periodical, volume

number(issue number), pages.


Pearlsmutter, S. (1998). Self-efficacy and organizational change leadership. Administration in

Social Work, 22(3), 23-38.

Online Periodical

Last name, A. A., & Last name, B. B. (Year). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume

number(issue number). Retrieved from


Copeland, L. (2006). Managing and multicultural workforce. California Job Journal. Retrieved


Citing DOI

Last name, A. (year). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume, page range. doi: 0000/000000


Sigel, T. (2009). How passive voice weakens your scholarly argument. Journal of

Management Development, 28(5), 478-480. doi: 10.1108/02621710910955994

In-text Citations

One to Two Authors

Introduce the author with something like: According to Cain (1996), "quotation" (p. 130).

If you do not cite the author prior to the quotation you can do this: "quotation" (Cain, 1996, p. 130).

The same method is used with two authors, simply put in both of the last names instead of one.

Three to Five Authors

The first time you introduce this reference, cite all authors. For the next citation, use the first author's last name and et al.

First: According to Byington, Fischer, Walker, and Freedman (1997), continue with wording

Subsequent: Byington et al. (1997)

Six or More Authors

Always use the first author, et al. Example: Boyle et al. (2001)


Don't Do It!

If it is not your work, you need to reference to it. Plagiarism is a serious offense!


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American

Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

What's the most difficult thing about APA formatting?

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Questions and Comments welcome! - Visitors and Squidooers

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    • profile image

      Jenn M 9 months ago

      How should I reference a song? If I quote a song, how do I reference it the bibliography/reference area?

    • tiff0315 profile image

      tiff0315 6 years ago

      @UKGhostwriter: You have already received your prize . . . A pat on the back knowing that you are the first ;)

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

      I spotted the deliberate typo 'quoatation' - when do I get my prize?

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      Really nicely done, I had no idea plagiarism was so high (at the University level). But I suppose it would be an even higher percentage everywhere else. I see it lots too, even in healthcare. Great job!