• 3-minute read
  • 12th April 2016

APA Referencing: What You Need to Know

Although produced by the American Psychological Association, APA referencing is used to cite sources in a variety of academic fields (not just the social sciences). Knowing APA referencing is therefore important for any college student.

In today’s post, we run through a few important facts about APA referencing, including its background and the format you should use for in-text citations.

What Is APA Style?

APA style and APA referencing are set out in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition, which covers various elements of style and formatting as well as citing sources.

First published in 1974, the APA manual is designed to ensure that academic writers communicate “with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision.” The APA’s simple-but-clear referencing system is part of this.

APA Citations

APA referencing uses parenthetical citations, meaning basic source information is provided in the main body of your document. For the majority of source types, APA citations require you to give an author surname and year of publication (along with relevant page numbers if you’re quoting a source directly):

Ciabatta is “one of the most famous Italian breads” (D’Acampo, 2011, p. 22).

Note that the name, year and page number are separated by commas in APA citations. It’s also important to use “p.” before page numbers in citations.

The format changes a little when you name the author in the text. In these cases, you should give the year of publication immediately after the name, but you should still give any page numbers after the quoted text:

D’Acampo (2011) claims that “Tuscan bread is low in salt” (p. 33).

Multiple Authors

For sources with two authors, include both surnames in citations. The names should be joined by an ampersand if they are cited in brackets, or the word “and” when they appear in the main text:

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Two is company (Schreiber & Harkin, 2011).

According to Schreiber and Harkin (2011), two is company.

When a source has three or more authors, use the first name plus “et al.”:

Three is a crowd (Schreiber et al., 2014).

You would then give the names of all authors in the reference list.

APA Reference Lists

In addition to in-text citations, APA referencing requires all sources to be listed with full publication information at the end of your document. This reference list should:

  • List all sources cited in your document (do not list sources you haven’t cited)
  • Invert the names of authors (surname first, followed by initials)
  • Order sources alphabetically by author surname
  • List multiple works by the same author chronologically, earliest first
  • Italicize all journal and book titles
  • Use a half-inch hanging indent for each line after the first in an entry
  • Provide all names of authors for any text with up to 20 authors
  • For texts with more than 20 authors, simply include the first 19 names, then use an ellipsis followed by the name of the final author listed
  • Capitalize only the first word and proper nouns in titles and subtitles

The precise information required for each source varies depending on format but will generally include details about the author(s), title and publisher. The D’Acampo book cited above, for instance, would appear in the reference list as:

D’Acampo, G. (2011). Italian home baking. Kyle Books.

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