By: Jenaya R. Curry
You probably don’t have any time to waste, so let’s get started.
APA, the abbreviation for American Psychological Association, is a way of formatting papers and essays, and it is an alternative to the better-known MLA format. APA is typically used in the social sciences, but don’t be surprised if you find instructors requiring this method of formatting across other subjects. No worries. This article is designed to teach you the basics of APA in-text citations and references. Let’s jump right in.
The in-text, or parenthetical, citations are the easiest to understand because they are same regardless of the source type. For example, let’s say you’re using this article called, “9 Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Creativity” by Larry Kim, written in 2015 (note: sometimes you may have scroll down to find the date).
In-text citations are formatted as follows:
(Author’s Last Name, Year)
Common Questions and Problems:
Are you quoting directly from the article? Add the abbreviation “para.” for “paragraph” and the paragraph number you got the quote from. (note: if you’re using a book or journal article, use “p.” for “page” and “pp.” for pages.
(Kim, 2015, para. 1)
No author listed? Use the first few words of the title in quotations:
(“9 ways to,” 2015)
No year listed? Use the abbreviation “n.d.” (stands for “no date”):
More than one author? Let’s pretend Larry Kim collaborated with some authors named Samantha Rye and Gray Johnson (listed in that order):
(Kim, Rye, & Johnson, 2015)
Writing all those names can be tedious, especially if you use the citation several times, so after you’ve listed all the names the first time, for all other citations you can reduce it to:
(Kim et al., 2015)
Using multiple sources in the same sentence/paragraph? Pretend I’m using information from both this source and a second one. Separate the two with a semicolon:
(Kim, 2015; Rutherford, 2017)
See it in action:
Creativity can be improved and strengthened, just like any other skill. According to Larry Kim, “Creativity is like a muscle. It must be stretched, challenged, and occasionally pushed past its comfort zone” (Kim, 2018, para. 1). His article provides nine tips to increase your creativity, including collaboration, terrible ideas, and walking (Kim, 2018).
You don’t have to include a citation after every sentence. Citations must always be included following a direct quote, but any following citations are included at the end of the paragraph. This paragraph isn’t very long, which is why the citations are so close. However, do not feel the need to add a citation this often unless you change sources, which would require a new, different citation.
Full References or Works Cited
This is a list of the sources used in your assignment. They are placed in alphabetical order on a separate page at the end of your report. The four most common source types you’ll likely use are a webpage/website, a book/textbook, a YouTube video, or a journal article. The reference page citations follow a similar format for most types, but we’ll look at each one below.
To cite a webpage/website:
Author’s last name, First initial. (Year published/written). The title of the article. Italicized Website Name. Retrieved from [url]
Using the article mentioned previously as an example:
Kim, L. (2015). 9 ways to dramatically improve creativity. Inc. Retrieved from
To cite book or textbook:
Author’s last name, First initial. (Year published). Italicized book title (edition, if applicable). City, State Initials: Publisher.
All books are cited the same, and you can find the information for your citation in the title page at the front of the book. In this example, I’ll be citing a Psychology textbook:
Ciccarelli, S., & White, J. (2015). Psychology (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson
To cite a Youtube video:
Account name (who uploaded the the video?). (Year, Month Day). Title of the video [Video file]. Retrieved from [youtube url]
By now, you may notice a pattern emerging. Below, I’ll cite a TED talk found on youtube:
TEDx Talks. (2015, July 13). The secret sauce of creativity | Stephen Hall | TEDxRegina [Video
file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4bHO8NZwmIg
To cite a journal article:
Author’s last name, First Initial. (Year of publication). The title of the article. Italicized Journal/Periodical Title, Volume number (issue number, if applicable), page numbers. doi: [doi number].
Finally, I’ll show you an example journal article citation:
Bezdek, M.A., Clark, V.P., Elkin-Frankston, S., Godwin, C.A., Hunter, M.A., Lieberman, G., Romero, V.L., Schumacher, E.H., & Witkiewitz, K.A. (2017). Functional connectivity within and between intrinsic brain networks correlates with trait mind wandering.
Neuropsychologia, 103, 140-153. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.07.006
A recent article found that blah blah blah information (creativity article). Speaker so-and-so agrees saying “insert quote words” (Ted talk video). The science backs it up too. A 2017 study concluded information blah blah blah (mind-wandering journal article).
This is helpful when you need to get content on the paper fast without worrying about the format at first.
Whoa. This may seem overwhelming now, but I can promise you one day APA formatting will be the last thing you worry about in a paper.
Got a question, comment, or tip? Leave it below!