Citation & Style Guides: APA

APA Syle Guide

What is the APA?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is the preeminent organization representing the science and profession of psychology, with over 115,000 members as of 2017.

The mission of the APA is “advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and people’s lives” (APA, 2017). One way that the APA achieves and extends this mission is through the dissemination and use of APA style to publish, share, and apply emerging knowledge in the field.

Major publications of the APA include books, journals, and databases in the subjects of general psychology, experimental psychology, child development, forensic psychology, neuroscience, counseling, and others. A notable journal of the APA is the Review of General Psychology, and the catalog of APA journals can be found at For writers and publishers of APA style, the APA provides the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, presently in its 6th edition, the Dictionary of Psychology, and Encyclopedia of Psychology.


What is APA Style?

APA style, or the guidelines of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, was created to standardize formatting for manuscripts to be published and to disseminate information by providing writers guidelines for procedural data preparation and making decisions of style (characterized by avoiding bias and presenting arguments with brevity) in the behavioral and social sciences. The APA themselves define the guidelines as “sound and rigorous standards for scientific communication.”


Why Use APA Style?

Regardless of which style you are writing in, you should always use citations to acknowledge references to others’ ideas, studies, or work. The APA (2008) asserts that placing your contribution in context with the extant scientific knowledge and accomplishments of many researchers is a critical to the writing process (p. 169). Hence, APA Style facilitates precise ways to:

  • Cite the work of others that have directly influenced your own by aligning or contrasting your ideas with others addressing the same topics to show you are involved in and aware of the conversation taking place.
  • Provide your reader with more information about your sources. For example, if you reference in a research paper, your reader can locate the entry on the References page to locate the article for their own use.
  • Practice ethical standards by avoiding plagiarism of your own work or of the work of others.
  • Maintain accuracy with other writers in the discipline, so as to help your readers access and assess the presented information.

What Disciplines Use APA Style?

The following academic disciplines often write and publish in APA Style:

  • psychology
  • social sciences
  • sociology
  • counseling
  • education
  • linguistics
  • health sciences
  • medicine
  • nursing
  • business
  • marketing
  • rhetoric
  • digital humanities
  • media studies

What Genres Use APA Style?

Writers will sometimes use APA Style when writing in the following genres:

  • abstracts
  • annotated bibliographies*
  • case studies
  • concept analyses
  • empirical studies
  • lab reports
  • literature reviews
  • methodological articles
  • research papers*
  • theoretical articles
  • scholarly reviews
  • summaries
  • theses & dissertations*

*Note that some genres can be found across different style guides and thus follow different style and formatting guidelines.

in APA

In-Text Citations in APA Style

Citations have two corresponding parts

  1. the in-text citation
  2. the References list entry

This section decribes how to properly address the first part, in-text citations.

The in-text citation is a mention of or reference to the full bibliographic entry located on the References list.

To create an in-text citation in APA Style, you can either use a signal phrase with the cited work in the text of your writing (as part of your sentence) or include the cited work in a parenthetical citation at the end of your sentence.

Signal phrase in text

Author + (YYYY) + signal verb + summary/paraphrase/direct quotation.

Parenthetical citation

Summary/paraphrase/direct quotation (Author, YYYY, p. ##).

When using a direct quotation, the parenthetical citation is placed immediately after the closing quotation mark, but before the sentence’s end punctuation.


North (1984) asserts the goal of a Writing Center is to “produce better writers, not better writing” (p. 438).

When the author’s name (or whatever the first element of the source may be) does not appear within the sentence, as in the example above, it must appear within the parenthetical citation.


Many tutors are familiar with the claim that a Writing Center’s goal is to “produce better writers, not better writing” (North, 1984, p. 438).

A Source by 2 Authors

An in-text reference to a source with 2 authors should name both authors in the signal phrase.


As Dietz and Brown (2016) have noted, providing writers with a variety of modalities for feedback allows a writing center to accommodate a range of writer preferences for how, when, and where to learn (p. 83).

A Source by 3, 4, or 5 Authors

Use all authors' names in the in-text citation first mentioned author’s name followed by et al. in either the signal phrase or a parenthetical citation. Doing so allows you as a writer to be unambiguous about your source, but to avoid needlessly repeating a long list of names each time you cite a particular source.


Research on the effect of typeface-choice on meaning from Dietz and Brown (2012) and Pearson, Lee, Evins, and Finstrom (2014) arrived at different conclusions, despite similar methodologies. Pearson et al. (2014) found that different typefaces convey to readers intentional, distinct rhetorical choices, but that the perceived meaning of those choices was widely-varied and inconsistent across readers (p. 91).

For more information, see The Proper Use of Et Al. in APA Style (Lee, 2011).

A Source by 6 or more Authors

Use the first mentioned author’s name followed by et al. in either the signal phrase or a parenthetical citation.


Pearson et al. (2014) found that different typefaces convey to readers intentional, distinct rhetorical choices, but that the perceived meaning of those choices was widely-varied and inconsistent across readers (p. 91).

For more information, see The Proper Use of Et Al. in APA Style (Lee, 2011).

When to Use "and" or the Ampersand “&”

In the text of your writing, use "and" between authors when citing their work in a signal phrase and the ampersand "&" inside parenthetical citations.


Dietz and Pearson (2006) noted many writing centers opted to prioritize writers over writing in their learning objectives.

Many writing centers have opted to prioritize writers over writing in their learning objectives (Dietz & Pearson, 2006).

Multiple Sources by Authors with the Same Last Name

If you are using 2 or more sources by authors with the same last name, include the first initial of the author in the parenthetical citation.


Many tutors are familiar with the claim that a Writing Center’s goal is to “produce better writers, not better writing” (S. North, 1985, p. 438).

Multiple Sources by the Same Author

If you are using 2 or more sources by the same author, include an abbreviated version of the source’s title in the parenthetical citation.


Many tutors are familiar with the mantra that a Writing Center’s goal is to “produce better writers, not better writing” (North, “Idea,” p. 438).

A Summary, Paraphrase, or Source Without Page Numbers

When summarizing a source or when referring to a larger body of work as a whole (e.g., a website or book) do not include a page number in the in-text citation. Only use the author and year of publication. Place the parenthetical citation as close as possible to the borrowed information without disrupting the natural flow of the sentence.


According to the DePaul University Center for Writing-based Learning, there is no universal writing process that all writers share (The UCWbL, 2006).

Indirect Quotations (a quote within a quote)

APA Style encourages writers to avoid citing sources found in other sources, instead recommending that you seek out the original source, read it for yourself, and cite it directly. In cases where you have tried but nevertheless cannot find an original source, it can still be appropriate to cite a source within a source. To do so, name the original work and provide a citation for the secondary source, using the phrase "as cited in."


Hughes's theme of deferred dreams is called by the title’s reference to a line in the poem, “a raisin in the sun” (as cited in Hansberry, 1959).

For more information, see Secondary Sources (aka How to Cite a Source You Found in Another Source) (McAdoo, 2010).

For More Information: APA Style Blog

APA Style Blog

Consult the detailed and frequently updated APA Style Blog for more information or to answer specific questions not addressed here.


Bibliographic Entry Citations: References

Genre Overview: The APA References list

The APA References list is a list of formatted bibliographic entries that corresponds to the in-text citations appearing in a full-length work, such as a research paper. The bibliographic entries in a References list are listed alphabetically by author (if given) with a hanging indentation. Titles are generally given in sentence case capitalization, capitalizing the first word (and if applicable, the first word after a colon or question mark).

Notice that APA Style uses the author initial rather than first name.

Reference Entry Examples

Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual of the APA (2008) provides a thorough and comprehensive list of how to format reference entries according to the type of source. The following examples provide formatting models for frequently listed types of sources.

NB: Within a reference entry and parenthetical citations, use “&” between author names.

Scholarly Article in a Journal [Periodical]

Here are general guidelines for forming the reference list entry:

  • Include the digital object identifier (DOI) if one is assigned or available.
  • If there is no assigned DOI and the source was retrieved online, include the homepage URL for the journal or periodical in the reference using the format: Retrieved from http://www.abcdefgh
  • If the cited work is an advance release version, include Advance online publication prior to the retrieval statement.
  • Significant information about supplemental material only provided online should be referenced in brackets following the title: [Letter to the editor], [Map], [Podcast].

Scholarly Article in a Journal, General Form

Peirce, B. N. (1995). Social identity, investment, and language learning. TESOL Quarterly, 29, 1, 9-31. doi:10.2307/3587803

Full-Length Book

Gee, J. P. (2011). An introduction to discourse analysis: Theory and method. Milton Park, Abingdon: Routledge.


Di Novi, D. (Producer), & Burton, T. ( Director). (1980). Edward Scissorhands [Motion picture]. USA: Twentieth Century Fox Productions.


The DePaul University Center for Writing-based Learning. (2017). UCWbL citation and styles [resource]. Retrieved from

& Style

General Formatiing & Style Guidelines

Formatting an APA Manuscript

  • 1-inch page margins
  • 12 pt. font in an easily readable typeface (Arial, Times New Roman, Cambria)
  • Double space the entire document (including References page)
  • Title of work centered one line after the heading. Do not italicize, underline, use quotation marks, end punctuation, or boldface, or type your title all in capital letters.

Formatting Headings in APA Style

Headings in APA Style offer a way to organize and structure your written work, most often by topic or section name. Properly formatting these headings indicate to your reader as to what level of organization the heading is. To properly format your headings in APA Style, consult this guide:

APA Syle Guide

Download the .pdf

Formatting Lists or Series in APA Style

Lists, Part 1: Parallelism

Lists, Part 2: Commas and Semicolons

Lists, Part 3: Lowercase Letters

Lists, Part 4: Numbered Lists

Lists, Part 5: Bulleted Lists

Lists, Part 6: Overview

Formatting Numbers in APA Style

Use numerals to express

  • Numbers starting at 10 and above
  • In the abstract or graphical display of a paper
  • Numbers immediately preceding a unit of measurement
  • Numbers representing statistical or mathematical functions, fractional or decimal quantities, percentages and ratios, percentiles and quartiles
  • Numbers representing time, dates, ages, scores, points on a scale, precise amounts of money
  • Numbers than denote a specific position in a numbered series, parts of books and tables, each number in a list of 4 or more numbers

Exception: Approximations of number of days, months, and years

Spell out the number in word form when expressing

  • Any number that begins a sentence, title, or heading
  • Common fractions
  • Universally accepted usage in proper nouns, e.g., the Magnificent Seven


  • Do not begin a sentence with a numeral
  • Use a comma between the 3rd and 4th digit for numbers over 1,000 (unless it is a 4-digit year, address, or page or line number)
  • Centuries are written out in lower case, and hyphenated when used as adjectives

Capitalization in APA Style


  • Proper nouns and adjectives and words used as proper nouns. Proper adjectives that have acquired a common meaning are not capitalized
    • consult Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2005) for guidance.
  • Trade and brand names of drugs, equipment, and food
    • Tylenol [but acetaminophen]
    • Purina Puppy Chow
    • Jimmy John’s Turkey Tom
    • Xerox
  • Names of university departments if they refer to a specific department within a specific university; complete names of academic courses if they refer to a specific course
    • Department of Social Work, Erikson Institute
    • Family & Culture
    • Human Development II
      • however,
        • a social work department
        • an introductory development course

Do not capitalize names of laws, theories, models, statistical procedures, or hypotheses.

  • the law of gravity
  • associative learning model
  • a two-group t test
    • However, capitalize names of such that are named after a person:
      • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
      • Bloom’s taxonomy
      • Alzheimer’s disease

Pronouns in APA Style

A pronoun must agree in number (i.e., singular or plural) and gender with the noun it replaces.

YES: Neither Son A nor Mother A communicated any doubt about his or her identity.

NO: Neither Son A nor Mother A communicated any doubt about their identity.

YES: The families presented a sharp contrast in their beliefs about abstinence before marriage.

Verbs in APA Style

APA prefers the active voice, using discretion to choose an accurate verb tense or mood.

Preferred: We conducted the survey in a controlled setting.

Not preferred: The survey was conducted in a controlled setting.

Resources &

Additional APA Information & Resources

APA Style blog

The Purdue OWL

Current APA Publication Manual

American Psychological Association. (2011). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. (6th ed.). Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Other Style Guides

AP Syle Guide Chicago Syle Guide MLA Syle Guide

Notes & Feedback

For more information on DePaul-specific standards for citation, consult the DePaul University code of Academic Integrity.

We welcome feedback on these resources via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

Dissertators and faculty members seeking out editing services in particular style or publication guides may contact Lauri Dietz.