4 Easy Steps to APA Citations and References

4 Easy Steps to APA Citations and References

The APA (American Psychological Association) is a US-based scientific and professional organisation for psychologists, with its own style guide, which also includes a system for citing sources in research. Inspite of APA being an organization for psychologists, its citation style is used by professionals and students in multiple disciplines including those in the fields of economics, business, sociology, nursing, and others.

An APA citation constitutes two parts:

It includes an in-text citation that appears in the actual text of the student’s paper.

It also includes a reference list entry that appears in the list of sources the student would have consulted while writing his paper.

4 easy steps for creating APA citations and references

The basic principle to be followed while creating APA citations and referencing is that the student must cite the source, the moment he uses another author’s idea in his research paper.

Identification of the source type.

Since a reference list entry is being created alongside the citation, the student should define his source type. The most common research sources are a book, a magazine article, a newspaper article, a journal article and a page from a website. Other sources include white papers and government documents.

Locating the structure of the source and plugging in information

Each type of source that the student needs to cite follows a specific structure. Once the student knows what he’s working with, he needs to find the structure for the sources ‘reference list entry.

The basic structure of some of the most common sources is:


Author, A. (Date). Title of book in sentence case. Publisher’s location: publisher

Journal Article

Author, A. (Date). Title of article in sentence case: Capitalize the first word that comes after the colon. Title of Journal in Title Case, volume number (issue number), page range.

Web page

Author, A. (Date). Title of document found on web page in sentence case

APA guidelines give information on how to handle situations such as missing authors, missing titles etc.

Add to the reference list

The reference list should be written as sources are cited in the text. Once information is plugged into the structure for citation, it is time to add the reference list entry to the list. The reference list entries should be placed in alphabetical order when they are added to the reference list and not in the order in which they are cited.

Create the in-text citation

The three pieces of information required for most citations are the author’s name(s), the year the source was published and the page number on which the information is found. (Especially if it’s a direct quote)

The basic structure looks like this:

(Author, Year, p. #)

If there are three to five authors, the format of the citations appears like this:

(Author, Author, Author, Author, & Author, Year, p. #)

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