7 APA Citations

Learning Objectives

After completing this chapter, you will be able to

  • understand why and how to cite your sources
  • use narrative style citations
  • use parenthetical style citations

Always use the Confederation College APA Manual as a guide to ensure your work is correct.

APA Documentation

The APA method of using in-text citations and a reference page allows readers to easily identify and locate the source of information you’ve used. When you cite and reference your sources, you give credit to the original source of the information, and you strengthen your argument by showing that your ideas are supported by facts and opinions published by experts in the field.

Citations and references must be used together in your academic papers. Citations are in-text (appearing within your paragraphs right at the moment that you are presenting information from a source) while the references are on a separate page at the end of the document. The citations tell your reader that the information you’ve provided is from a specific source while the references provide detailed information to allow your reader to find your source. We will look at references in more detail in the next chapter. 

For an overview of using APA citations and references, watch this 30-minute video created by a Confederation College Communications faculty: APA Citations and References.

In-text Citations

You must include in-text citations next to EVERY item of information from a source.  A source can be any text, video, or podcast that you took information from.

An in-text citation tells the reader the author’s last name and the publication year. You also need to include a page number (or paragraph number if your document doesn’t have pages) or a time-stamp (if your information came from a video or podcast) to tell your reader exactly where in the source the information is from.  You must put these citations next to EVERY item of information from a source.

If you don’t have an author, or if you don’t know the year of publication, don’t worry – you can still cite your source. Your APA manual explains these issues in detail.

General Guidelines for Tricky Sources

  • If there’s no publication date, use the abbreviation for no date (n.d.)
  • If there’s no author, use the name of the government agency or organization: (Statistics Canada, 2020, para. 1).
  • If there is no author or organization, use an abbreviation of the article/website title in place of the author’s name: (“10 tips”, n.d., para. 2).
  • If you have two authors, list both of their last names: (Smith & Jones, 2020, p. 4).
  • If you have more than two authors, state the first author’s last name and the Latin phrase et al. : (Smith et al., 2021, p. 27)
  • If there are no page numbers but the source has headings, give the name of the heading, followed by the word “section” and the number of the paragraph within the section it is from (Smith, 2012, Discussion section, para. 3)

If you use information from a source and you do not include a citation, you have committed an act of academic dishonesty called plagiarism. Please review Confederation College’s “Academic Integrity Policy” and the “Student Charter of Rights and Responsibilities”. Plagiarism is a serious offence which is discussed in more detail in the chapter on Academic Integrity.

Learning Check

Quoting, Paraphrasing, Patchwriting, and Plagiarism

There are two acceptable ways to include information from a source: direct quoting and paraphrasing. Both directly quoted and paraphrased information needs to be cited.

If you directly quote some information from a source, you need to put the author’s words in “quotation marks.” These “quotation marks” show that you have borrowed the author’s words as well as their ideas or information. If you copy information and do not use quotation marks, you have committed plagiarism even if you include a citation.  To learn more about direct quoting, review the Direct Quoting chapter of this e-text.

While it can be effective to use some direct quotes, most professors expect students to paraphrase the majority of the information they provide. When you paraphrase information, you put that information into your own words. By restating the information, you demonstrate to your professor that you have a strong understanding of the content of the original.  When you paraphrase information, you must be sure to fully rewrite the information; changing just a few words is insufficient and is called patchwriting which is a form of plagiarism.  Do not put paraphrased information into quotation marks but do include a citation. If you do not include a citation with paraphrased information, you have committed plagiarism.

To learn more about paraphrasing, review the Paraphrasing and Paraphrasing vs. Patchwriting chapters of this e-text.

Learning Check

Narrative and Parenthetical Style Citations

There are two ways to include an in-text citation: parenthetical style and narrative style. 

In the parenthetical style, all three pieces of citation information (author, date, location) are placed in parentheses (brackets) at the end of the sentence, just before the final period.

Parenthetical style with direct quote:

According to one government report on Canadian immigrants, “20%  experienced over-qualification at least once in 2006 or in 2016” (Statistics Canada, 2020, para. 2).

Parenthetical style with paraphrase:

One government report claimed that approximately one fifth of immigrants to Canada are over-qualified for the jobs they obtain in this country (Statistics Canada, 2020, para. 2).

In the narrative style, the three pieces of information are still present, but they are not placed together. The author (or the organization functioning as the author) is part of the sentence, so it is not in parentheses. The date always must be placed next to the author, and the location (page or paragraph number) must be placed at the end of the sentence, just before the final period.

Narrative style with direct quote:

Statistics Canada (2020reported that “20% experienced over-qualification at least once in 2006 or in 2016” (para. 2).

Narrative style with paraphrase:

Statistics Canada (2020) stated that approximately one fifth of immigrants to Canada are over-qualified for the jobs they obtain in this country (para. 2).

Notice that APA narrative style generally requires the use of past tense verbs to introduce quotes or paraphrases. Check out this list of appropriate  words that you can use.

If you are citing the same source multiple times in one paragraph, consider using the narrative style first to introduce the source and using the parenthetical style for each subsequent citation:

Statistics Canada (2020) reported that approximately one fifth of immigrants to Canada are over-qualified for the jobs they obtain in this country (para. 2). One reason for this level of over-qualification is that many immigrant workers were only available to work at part-time employment and so were not available to work in their professional fields (Statistics Canada, 2020, para. 4).

Learning Check

Additional Resources for APA Citations

Review the basic principles of in-text citations as well as specifics on paraphrasing, quoting, and different citation types (narrative and parenthetical) on the APA citations section of the official APA style website.

Many teachers recommend the OWL Purdue website. It has lots of information and examples to strengthen your understanding of APA guidelines.

Sheridan College has created a series of videos to help you with APA. Check out their videos on creating in-text citations.

Lycoming College has created this fun and interactive online plagiarism game game to help you review the basics of APA citations and references.

To learn more about paraphrasing and patchwriting, review this slideshare tutorial.

APA in Presentations

The official APA Style Guide does not give specific information on how to cite sources within a PowerPoint Presentation. However, remember that the same rules apply to presentations as to written documents: you must ensure that your audience knows where your information came from. This enables you to have integrity and avoid plagiarism, and it shows your audience that you did sufficient research to support your claims. Well-researched presentations are much more persuasive.

This video gives advice on how to format citations and references in a PowerPoint-style presentation: APA in PPT.




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