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APA Referencing Style: An Overview

APA is an acronym for the American Psychological Association. It is one of the most common referencing styles used while writing academic papers. It was revised according to the 7th edition of the APA manual. There are over 100 styles depending upon the format used by different colleges and universities. But it is important to understand and follow the specific one that goes well with your assignment so that you don’t mix it with others. Consistency is the key to scoring top-grades. The APA reference consists of two parts: in-text citation and reference list.

The information that every reference list must contain is mentioned below:

  • Author(s)Name
  • Year of publishing
  • Title of the Book
  • City of Publishing
  • Publishing Authority ( Publishers )

1. Basic Format for Referencing a Book

While working with a printed book, the reference list entry in APA must include:

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials.
  • Publication year of the book (in round brackets).
  • Title of the book(in italics).
  • Version (edition)(in round brackets), if other than first.
  • Publishing house or publisher.
  • DOI must be included wherever available and possible
  • In the newly updated 7thedition of the API manual, the location of the publisher is not included anymore.

Format: Author’s Last Name, First Name Initials. (Year). Title of the Book. (initials, last name of the contributors, role.) (Version).: Publishing authority.

Example: Broad, S. (1985). Imagined communities: Necessity of 7th APA citation. Virginia

In-Text Citation: (Broad, 1985, p. 33)

Referencing an E-Book

To cite an e-book, simply replace the publisher's information with the book’s format and location online. In the updated 7th edition of APA, the format information of an E-book is no longer inserted, the name of the publisher is included and it is not necessary to use “retrieved from” before inserting the URL

Format: Last name, Initials. (Year). Book title Name of Publisher. URL or https://doi.org/xxxxxx

Example: Burn, A. (2015). Milkman. Faber & Faber. https://amzn.to/2ObKrVf 

In-Text Citation: (Burn, 2015, para. 5)

Citing a Chapter from a Combined Book

When you refer to a book that has been compiled by multiple authors or an edited book, for example, a collection of essays, the citation begins with the author of the chapter and later, the editor(s) are mentioned in the reference. The page range is used to identify the location of the chapter in the book.

Format: Last name, Initials. (Year). Title of chapter. In Initials. Last name (Ed. or Eds.), Book title (pp. page range). Publisher. DOI if available

Example - Belsey, C. (2006). Poststructuralism. In S. Malpas & P. Waked (Es.), The critical theory and Routledge companion (pp. 51–61). New York, NY: Routledge.

Referencing Books with Multiple Volumes

Multivolume books are those which are written in the form of a series. The fact that whether each volume has a separate title or just a number, plays a crucial role in the citation.

  • If each volume has a title, then:

    Example: Eliot, T. S. (2015). The poems of T. S. Eliot:  1. Collected and uncollected poems (Ricks, C., & McCue, J., Eds.). London, England: Faber & Faber.

  • If each volume is only numbered:

    Example: Dylan, B. (2005). Chronicles(Vol. 1). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

As you can clearly see, if the volume has a title, then it is italicized. Whereas if it is just numbered, then the number is not italicized and written in parentheses.

2. Basic Format for Referencing a Journal Article

The format is somewhat similar to that of a book. A basic reference list entry for a journal article in APA includes:

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials.
  • Year of publication of the article (in round brackets).
  • Article title.
  • Journal title (in italics).
  • The volume of the journal (in italics).
  • Issue number of journals in round brackets (no italics).
  • Page range of the article.
  • DOI or URL
  • The first line of each citation is left adjusted. Every subsequent line is indented 5-7 spaces.

The article title appears in plain text and sentence case, while the journal name is italicized and in title case (all major words capitalized).

Format: Last name, Initials. (Year). Article title. Journal NameVolume (issue), page range. https://doi.org/xxxx

Example: Mounier-Kuhn, P. (2012). Computer science in French universities: Early entrants and latecomers. Information & Culture: A Journal of History, 47(4), 414–456. https://doi.org/10.7560/IC47402

In-Text Citation: (Mounier-Kuhn, 2012)

How to Cite an Unpublished Article?

While working with an unpublished article, you have to specify that the article is yet to be published formally.

Format: Last name, Initials. (Year). Article title. [Unpublished article]. Department Name, University Name.

Example: Smith, J. M., & Davis, H. (2019). Language acquisition among autistic children. [Unpublished article], Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.

In-Text Citation: (Smith & Davis, 2019)

Similarly, if you have an article that has been sent for publishing but not yet published, then you have to specify “Article submitted for publication” in your citation.

Format: Last name, Initials. (Year). Article title. [Article submitted for publication]. Department Name, University Name.

Example: Smith, J. M., & Davis, H. (2019). Language acquisition among autistic children. [Article submitted for publication]. Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.

In-Text Citation: (Smith & Davis, 2019)

Citing an Article in Press

When an article has been accepted by a journal, it is referred to as “in the press” and the name of the journal is included. In press is written in the place of year and university information is not mentioned, neither in in-text nor in the reference list.

Format: Last name, Initials. (in press). Article title. Journal Name.

Example: Smith, J. M., & Davis, H. (in press). Language acquisition among autistic children.
Journal of Developmental Psychology.

In-Text Citation: (Smith & Davis, in press)

How to Cite a Special Issue of Journal?

There are a lot of times when you use a special issue of a journal instead of a normal article. While citing a special issue, the name(s) of the editors and issue title appears in place of the author’s name and article title.

Format: Last name, Initials. (Ed. or Eds.) (Year). Title of an issue [Special issue]. Journal Name, Issue(Volume).

Example: Pollak, S. D., Camras, L. A., & Cole, P. M. (Eds.) (2019). Effects of Artificial Intelligence on human emotions [Special issue]. Developmental Psychology, 55(9).

3. Citing from Online Sources

Citing a webpage

The basics of a reference list entry for a web-page on a website (individual author):

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials.
  • Year, Month Day (in round brackets). Use the most exact date possible
  • Title (in italics).
  • Website name.
  • The first line of each citation is left adjusted. Every subsequent line is indented 5-7 spaces.

Usually, a website citation includes the author, date of publication, page title, and if the page is supposed to be updated or changed at any point in time, mention a retrieval date.

For Example Name of author, B. M. ( date of publication). How to structure a dissertation. Retrieved from https://www.scribbr.com/category/dissertation/

Citing an Entire Website

To mention a website in your content without quoting or paraphrasing, you don’t have to follow any particular format, you can simply mention the URL in parentheses after mentioning the website’s name.

For example - One of the most popular assignments writing help sites, Instant Assignment Help Australia (http://instantassignmenthelp.com.au), provides the best assignment writing service.

Citing Online Articles

There are a lot of articles that appear online, and different articles follow different formats.

  • Articles from Online Versions of Newspapers and Magazines: The process is similar to their print versions but with an added URL. Commonly, the homepage URL of the website is given instead of the article as it might change over time.

    The 7th edition of APA referencing suggests that one should provide the specific article link and not use the word “retrieved from”

    Example - MacGillis, A. (2019, November 11). The case against Boeing. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/11/18/the-case-against-boeing
  • Articles from Blog: In the APA 7th Edition, “Blog Post” or retrieved from are not required to be mentioned in the format. The name of the blog is mentioned in Italics.

    Example - Alexander, S. (2019, November 13). Intelligence and Autism, Everything, and more. Slate Star Codex. https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/11/13/autism-and-intelligence-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/ 
  • Other Online Articles: In the 7th edition of APA, articles from other websites, such as news websites can be cited with italicized titles and the name of the website is normal.

    For Example Walker, A. (2019, November 14). Germany avoids recession but growth remains weak. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/business-50419127

How to Cite from Social Media?

You can cite social media posts in the 7th edition of APA by using the first 20 words from the post as the title and mentioning other relevant details of the post, such as type of post and multimedia aspects of the post using a square bracket.

Example: Eno, B. (2019, September 21). VOICES FOR THE TOMORROW was shown at the UN Headquarters, NY. [Images attached] [Status update]. Facebook. https://bit.ly/2XfDB4Q 

How to Cite a Wikipedia Page?

Citing Wikipedia: While citing Wikipedia according to APA referencing style, the first word of the title is capitalized and no period is used before the URL.

Format - Article title. (Date of archived version). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from URL

Example - Evolutionary history of life. (2019, November 13). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Evolutionary history of life&oldid=925898335

4. Citing Images and Other Visual Mediums

While working with audiovisual formats of data, keep in mind that the following aspects will always appear in different orders for different types of citations.

  • Primary contributors or contributors with their contribution identified in round brackets (e.g. the Director).
  • Year (in round brackets).
  • Title (in italics).
  • Description of work [in square brackets].
  • Publisher (e.g. the production company).
  • URL (where relevant).

How to Cite an Image?

While citing an image, one should always include the creator’s name, the year, the title of the image, the format of the image, and the location of that image where it can be accessed or viewed.

Format - Author name. (Year). Image title [Format].Website Name. URL
or Museum, Location.

Example - Delacroix, E. (1826–1827). Faust attempts to seduce Marguerite
[Lithograph]. Paris, France: The Louvre.

Also note that when you cite an image in your work, you also have to list it as a figure. Images/figures that you create on your own are not required to be cited but, you have to address them as a figure and insert the entry in the list of figures.

  • Citing Online Images: The URL of the image serves as a source location for an image that is online. The direct link to the image should be provided in the citation as it may become troublesome to find an image from the other information provided.
    Example - Thompson, M. (2020). Canyon wren[Photograph]. Flickr. https://flic.kr/p/2icfzq4

How to Cite a Motion Picture or a Movie?

  • Citing a Movie: There are a lot of incidents and scenes in a movie that might be helpful in proving a theory. When you need to cite a movie or a documentary in APA 7thedition of referencing manual, you simply use the director(s) name in the position of the author, and the title is written in sentence case in italicized characters followed by the tag “Film” in square brackets.

    Format: Director Last Name, Initials. (Director). (Year). Film title [Film]. Country of origin: Studio.

    Example: Scott, R. (Director). (1979). Alien [Film]. Twentieth Century Fox.
  • Movies from Online Streaming Platforms (Netflix and Others) - If you have watched a film on one such platform, it is not a necessity to mention the platform but if the movie was also produced by a streaming site, then you should mention the name at the place of the studio.

    Example -  Johnson, M., Bernstein, M., Newirth, C., & Paul, A. (Producers), & Gilligan, V. (Director & Producer). (2019). El Camino: A breaking bad movie[Motion picture]. Retrieved from https://www.netflix.com

  • Citing a YouTube Video in APA: To cite a video that is published on YouTube, mention the video title italicized along with the name of the channel it is published on and the date of publishing and a direct link to the video.

    Format:  (Year, Month day). Title of the video [Video file]. Retrieved from URL.

    Example: Instant Assignment Help Australia. (2019, November 26). Online Assignment Help By Instant Assignment Help Australia [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN3_WCzP75E

5. Citing From Other Sources

Citing from Reports and Grey Literature

Various reports and Grey literature also serve as a great reference for many of the topics. To cite them in 7th APA referencing format, keep in mind the following:

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials. The author may be a government or corporate entity.
  • Year
  • Title of report (In italics. Include the report number in brackets where relevant)
  • Publisher information (if the author and the publisher are the same, omit the publisher)
  • DOI or URL

Example: Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2017). Childhood education and care (No. 4402.0). https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4402.0Main+Features1June%202017?OpenDocument

Citing from Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

While working with dictionaries, always introduce the word that you are writing with publication year, name of the dictionary, and the name of the publisher or the URL. If you are not aware of the publication date or there is no publication date mentioned, then use (n.d) no date.

Format: Entry name. (Year). In Dictionary name (edition). Place: Publisher or Retrieved from URL

Example: Documentation. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/documentation

The encyclopedia citation follows a similar format with a key difference that the author is mentioned in them.

Example:  Lariviere, S. (n.d.). Hooded seal. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/animal/hooded-seal

Statistics and Data-Set Citation

When using specific statistics or a data stream in a dissertation, it is always necessary to cite the source.

Use the format of a normal internet source and include the term ‘dataset’ in square brackets after the title.

Format: NameDatabase. (YearOfPublication, Month Day). TitleDatabase [Data set]. Retrieved from http://WebAddress

Example: Central Bureau for Statistics. (2015, July 28). Statistics Netherlands: Exports to USSR reduced by half [Data Set]. Retrieved from http://www.cbs.nl/en-GB/menu/themas/internationale-handel/publicaties/artikelen/archief/2015/nederlandse-export-naar-rusland-bijna-gehalveerd.html

Citing Personal Communications

In APA style, any source which is not publicly accessible is considered to be personal communication. To cite one, you can simply mention it in the text. Please note that such citations are not listed in the reference list as there is no hard reference to trace it.

Some common examples that are considered to be “personal communication” in the 7th edition of the APA manual are:

  • emails, letters, messages, and other personal communications
  • survey responses from research participants, and other interviews
  • Private content
  • performances and lectures which are unrecorded

Example: Another Scholar expressed that the results looked “Interesting” (D. Smith, personal communication, July 15, 2015).

Similarly, you can mention other personal communications.

Citing Conference Papers and Proceedings

The contributions to science conferences, meetings which are usually bundled and are published in periodicals, proceedings, represent all the points that were discussed in a meeting in a summarized way. The format to cite these papers and proceedings are:

Format: AuthorLastname, Initials. (Year). TitleConferencePaper. In Editor1Initial. Editor1LastName & Editor2Initial. Editor2Lastname. (Ed.), TitleProceedings (pp. First page–Last page). City, State/Country: NamePublisher. (instead of the publisher you can also use the URL or DOI)

Citing Offline Newspaper Articles - When you want to cite newspaper articles, keep in mind that the article might appear on different pages, so make sure you cite only relevant pages.

The following are the key points of the format used in citing a printed newspaper article in the 7th APA manual.

  • Author or authors. The surname is followed by the first initials.
  • Year and publication date.
  • Article title.
  • Newspaper title (in italics)

Example - Schwartz, J. (1993, September 30). Obesity affects economic, social status. The Washington Post

7th Edition of APA Referencing Manual: There’s a Lot You Can Do!

The list of sources goes on and on and on. The latest edition of the referencing manual allows you to cite hundreds of sources in your work so that it has more credibility and your reference list is organized. The manual keeps updating as per the requirements. Many other sources such as software, app, oration, survey, press release, etc. can be cited by using the 7th edition of the APA manual.

This manual helps you complete your work neatly and without any inconsistencies. Also, it allows you to avoid plagiarism. The editions of APA keep updating regularly, so make sure you stay up-to-date with all the advancements to stay ahead of the competition and score higher grades.

You may also like to read about: Harvard Referencing Guide, OSCOLA Referencing Guide, MLA Referencing Guide

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