APA Formatting and Style Guide

An Introductory Guide to APA Referencing

The American Psychological Association introduced a special form of referencing in their research essay and academic essays. This style, known as APA style of referencing, has been adapted by various education institutions as the preferred format for presenting citations in academic papers, especially in the field of science. It falls under the Parenthetical or Author-Date style of referencing. In this form of referencing, there are no footnotes or endnotes. Instead, the citations occur in the text, enclosed by parentheses, before the full stop of the sentence containing the reference. At the end of the entire text, a reference list is produced which consists of all the citations throughout the essay arranged in alphabetical order of the author’s name. While it may sound similar to the Harvard or MLA style, there are subtle syntactical differences that separate them.

In-Text Citations

The citations that occur within the text are rather simple in format when compared to those of the reference list. The general format is: (Author, date of publication, page number). Now there are some special cases where this format has to be tweaked a little.

  • If the name has to be used within the sentence structure, the date and page appears within parentheses after the name.

Author (date, page)

  • If there are more than one citations for a single reference, the citations are separated by a semicolon.

(Author1, date1, page1; Author2, date2, page2)

  • If there are multiple works by the same author that have to be cited at the same time, arrange the dates from the oldest to the newest. Use suffixes of lowercase alphabets if different works were published in the same year. There should not be any punctuation or space between the year and the suffix.

(Author, date1, date2a, date2b, date3)

  • If there are upto five authors of the same work, all the names have to be cited in the first instance. In subsequent citations, only the name of the first author has to be mentioned followed by ”et al.”

First: (Author1, Author2, Author3, Author4, Author5, date)

Second: (Author1 et al., date)

If the number of author exceeds 6, only the first author is mentioned followed by ”et al.” and date for all citations. Details are provided in the list of references at the end of the text.

  • If there is no author, the shortened name of the title of the work replaces the section for author’s name. The title must appear in double quotes and with the first word capitalized). If the source is anonymous, the word ‘Anonymous’ is written as if it is the author’s name.

(”Short title”, date)

(Anonymous, date)

  • In case there is a group of authors, in the first citation the name of the group is spelled out. Abbreviations can be used from subsequent citations.

First: [Full name of group (abbreviation), date]

Second: (abbreviation, date)

Besides these points, there are a few more factors that have to be kept in mind. Citations must be given everytime a reference occur. Otherwise, this will lead to copyright infringement followed by charges of plagiarism. In case a secondary source is being cited, the primary source has to be mentioned before the secondary source, separated by ”as cited in”.

Reference List

In the APA style of referencing, apart from the in-text references, a list of citations is presented at the end of the entire text. It must be written on a fresh page with heading ‘References’ neatly centred. All the entries must be double spaced. A hanging indent is preferred. This means that the second and subsequent lines of each entry will bear an indent of half an inch. Entries are to be made in the alphabetical order of the author’s name. If more than one work of the same author is cited, the work with the earliest publication date is cited first. Also, if a secondary source is being cited, only the second source is to be mentioned in the reference list.

  • The format of citations for printed books is:

[Author, First Initial.Middle Initial. (year). Title of work. Location: Publisher]

  • The format of citation for online books is:

[Author, First Initial.Middle Initial. (year). Title of work. Retrieved from http://www…]

The titles in both cases must be given in italics. Volume number, chapter and page, if available, can be included in parentheses after the title before the full stop separating it from the year. For up to 7 authors involved in the same work, all names have to be listed separated by commas. If there are more than 7 authors, then the name of the first six are to be listed followed by three dots and then the name of the last author. In case there are no authors, the title of the work replaces the section where author’s name is to be mentioned. If the work is anonymous, ‘Anonymous’ is written as if it is the author’s name. In case the author is also the publisher, the term ‘Author’ is placed where the publisher’s name occurs. In case a group of authors is present, the full official name of the group is to be used in place of author’s name.

  • The format of citations for journals and newspaper articles is:

[Author1, FirstInitial1.MiddleInitial1., Author2, FirstInitial2.MiddleInitial2., & Author3, FirstInitial3.MiddleInitial3. (year). Article Title. Journal Title, Volume Number (issue number), page number. Doi/’Retrieved from…’]

If the given magazine or newsletter does not bear a volume number, the month is to be included along with the year of publication. In case of daily or weekly papers, the day is to be included too. In this situation, the page number is to be preceded by ‘p.’ or ‘pp.’

As in case of books, up to 7 authors are mentioned in citations. If the number of authors exceeds 7, the first six are mentioned followed by three dots and then the last author. If there is no author, title of work moves to the position of author’s name. The first letter of the first significant word of the title is used for ordering alphabetically. If the title starts with a number, the number is spelled out for ordering. ‘Anonymous’ is used as if it were a name.

Hopefully this information is enough to provide an idea about the basics of the APA referencing style. It must be noted that there are much more intricate rules to suit specific situations. For that, one must study the original APA manual carefully.