13.5: Documenting Sources in APA Style

To prove formally that we’ve done research, we use a two-part system for documenting sources. The first part is a citation that gives a few brief pieces of information about the source right where that source is used in our document and points to the second part, the bibliographic reference at the end of the document. This second part gives further details about the source so that readers can easily retrieve it themselves.

Including research in a document without showing where you got it is called plagiarism. Before focusing further on how to document sources, it’s worthwhile considering why we do it and what exactly is wrong with plagiarism.

13.5.1: Academic Integrity vs. Plagiarism

As introduced in Chapter 11.2, Academic integrity means performing the work expected of us ourselves and formally crediting our sources whenever we use research, whereas plagiarism is cheating. Students often plagiarize by stealing the work of others from the internet — copying and pasting text, or dragging and dropping images, into their assignments without quoting or citing; putting their names on those assignments means that they have dishonestly presented someone else’s work as their own. Lesser violations involve not quoting or citing properly.

Here is what might happen if such dishonest academic practices were used at work. Let’s say that the task is posting on the company website some information about a new service the company is offering. Instead of writing the text and setting up the web page themselves, the employees tasked with this do the following:

  1. They Google-search to see what other companies offering the same service say about it on their websites.
  2. They find a description that seems really clear and concise on the website of Company X, they can’t think of a better way to explain things, so they copy and paste that description into their own website.
  3. They also see that Company X has posted an attractive photo beside their description, so they download it and post it on their website.

The problem is that both the text and the photo were copyrighted, as indicated by the “All Rights Reserved” copyright notice at the bottom of Company X’s webpage. The copyright owner (or their legal agents) find it through a simple Google search, Google Alerts notification, reverse image search, or digital watermarking notification (Rose, 2013). Company X’s agents send a “cease & desist” order to the company that used their content, and if that warning is ignored, they can sue for damages.

Likewise, if someone working in hi-tech R&D (research and development) develops technology that uses already-patented technology without paying royalties to the patent owner, and takes it to market, the patent owner can sue for lost earnings (for being robbed of the ability to gain revenue from the intellectual property developed/ patented/ owned). Patent, copyright, and trademark violations are a major legal and financial concern in the professional world (SecureYourTrademark, 2015), and acts of plagiarism have indeed ruined perpetrators’ careers when they have been caught, which is now easier than ever (Bailey, 2012).

Every college has its own plagiarism policy that helps students avoid the consequences of plagiarism, but in general  students can be penalized for (1) sloppy research that results in accidental plagiarism such as copying text from the internet but not identifying the source, forgetting where the text came from, then putting it in the assignment anyway in the final rush to get it done; casually dragging and dropping a photo from the internet into a PowerPoint presentation without crediting the source; etc. and (2) plagiarizing a classmate’s paper/ providing a classmate with your work for the purposes of plagiarizing.

Fanshawe’s penalties for plagiarizing increase with each offense. Whether accidental or deliberate, students’ first act of plagiarism might result in getting a grade of zero on the assignment. The instructor might allow the student to correct the plagiarized portion and resubmit the paper, but usually that would depend on the seriousness of the case (how much was plagiarized, to what extent there was an attempt to indicate the use of sources, etc.).  Depending on the instructor and department, your instructor may submit the details to their manager so that a record of the offence is logged in case a second offence happens in that course or in another course in the program. That way, the manager can see a pattern of plagiarism across all of the student’s courses, a pattern that the instructors in each individual course don’t see.

Students’ second offence could result in a grade of zero but without the opportunity to correct and resubmit the paper. When instructors report a “second offence” this to the department, the chair will likely put an “encumbrance” on the student’s academic record. This means the student is force-registered into an Academic Integrity online course that takes a few hours to complete and won’t be able to progress to the next semester or graduate without passing the course.

Subsequent plagiarism offences after this can get students expelled from a course, from the program, and from the College altogether. The internet may make cheating easier by offering easy access touseful material, but it also makes detection easier in the same way.

Students who think they are too clever to get caught plagiarizing may not realize that plagiarism in anything they submit electronically is easily exposed by sophisticated plagiarism-detection software and other techniques. Most instructors use apps like Turnitin (built into the BrightSpace LMS, also know as FanshaweOnline at Fanshawe College) that produce originality reports showing the percentage of assignment content copied from sources found either on the public internet or in a global database of student-submitted assignments. That way, assignments borrowed or bought from someone who has submitted the same assignment or a similar one will also be flagged.

NelpHow Turnitin Software Works

The software would alert the instructor of common plagiarism scenarios such as these:

  • Two students in the same class submit substantially the same assignment work:
    • One of them started working on it the night before it was due and got a classmate to send him/her the assignment draft, which the cheating student changed slightly to make it look different; it will still be 90% the same, which is enough for the instructor to give both a zero and require that they meet after class to discuss who did what. Remember that supplying someone with materials for the purpose of plagiarism is also a punishable offense.
    • The two students worked on the assignment together, even though it was designated an individual assignment only, and then each changed a few details here and there in an attempt to make the submissions look different.
  • A student submits an assignment that was previously submitted by another student in another class at the same time or in the past, at a different school, or even on the other side of the planet (in all these cases, the software finds a “match” because all these student assignments are uploaded to the same global database).

Other techniques allow instructors to track down uncited media just as professional photographers or stock photography vendors like Getty Images use digital watermarks or reverse image searches to find unpermitted uses of their copyrighted material.

Plagiarism is also easy to see in hardcopy assignments. Dramatic, isolated improvements in a student’s quality of work either between assignments or within an assignment will trigger an instructor’s suspicions. If a student’s writing on an assignment is replete with writing errors throughout several paragraphs but then suddenly looks perfect and professional in one sentence without quotation marks or a citation, the instructor can quickly run a Google search on that sentence to find the source from which it was copied.

Cheaters’ last resort to try to make plagiarism untraceable is to pay someone to complete customized assignments for them, but this still arouses suspicions for the same reasons as above. In addition, it can be expensive, and it might not result in very good work anyway. (The person paid to do the job might not deliver the quality promised.)

In short, cheating is not a good idea both because it won’t work and because it results in a missed opportunity to make progress in learning useful skills.

Should you cite everything you research? Let’s recall what we said in previous chapters and, again, add to that knowledge. Facts that are common knowledge (perhaps just not common to you yet, since you had to look them up), such as that the first Prime Minister of Canada Sir John A. MacDonald represented the riding of Victoria for his second term as PM even without setting foot there, you wouldn’t need to cite them because any credible source you consulted would say the same. Such citations would merely look like attempts to pad an assignment with research.

However, anything quoted directly from a source (because the wording is important) must be cited, as well as anyone’s original ideas, opinions, or theories that you paraphrase or summarize from a book, article, or webpage with an identifiable author, argument, and/or primary research producing new facts. You must also cite any media such as photos, videos, drawings/paintings, graphics, graphs, etc. If you are ever unsure about whether something should be cited, you can always ask a librarian your instructor. For more on plagiarism, you can also visit plagiarism.org and the Purdue OWL Avoiding Plagiarism series of modules (Elder, Pflugfelder, & Angeli, 2021).


Bailey, J. (2012, August 21). 5 famous plagiarists: Where are they now? PlagiarismToday. Retrieved from https://www.plagiarismtoday.com/2012/08/21/5-famous-plagiarists-where-are-they-now/

Elder, C., Pflugfelder, E., & Angeli, E. (2021, June 7). Avoiding plagiarism. Purdue OWL. Retrieved from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/930/01/

Helbig, K. (2014, April 20). 11 numbers that show how prolific illegal downloading is right now. Public Radio International. Retrieved from

Rose, O. (2013, August 16). 5 easy to use tools to effectively find and remove stolen content. Kissmetrics. Retrieved from https://blog.kissmetrics.com/find-remove-stolen-content/

SecureYourTrademark. (2015, July 13). 71 notorious patent, trademark, and copyright infringement cases. https://secureyourtrademark.com/blog/71-notorious-patent-trademark-and-copyright-infringement-cases/

Return to the chapter section menu above.

13.5.2: Citing and Referencing Sources in APA Style

As mentioned above, a documentation system comes in two parts, the first of which briefly notes a few details about the source (author, year, and location) in parentheses immediately after you use the source, and this citation points the reader to more reference details (title and publication information) in a full bibliographical entry at the end of your document. Let’s now focus on these in-text citations (“in-text” because the citation is placed at the point of use in your sentence rather than footnoted or referenced at the end) in the different documentation styles—APA, MLA, and IEEE—used by different disciplines across the college.

The American Psychological Association’s documentation style is preferred by the social sciences and general disciplines such as business because it strips the essential elements of a citation down to a few pieces of information that briefly identify the source and cue the reader to further details in the References list at the back. The basic structure of the parenthetical in-text citation is as follows:

Signal phrase, quotation/ paraphrase/ summary statement (Smith, 2018, p. 66).

Its placement tells the reader that everything between the signal phrase and citation is content from the source, and everything after (until the next signal phrase) is your own writing and ideas. As you can see above, the three pieces of information in the citation are author, year, and location. Follow the conventions for each discussed below:

Author(s) last name(s)

  • The author’s last name (surname) and the year of publication (in that order) can appear either in the signal phrase or citation, but not in both. Table 13.5.2 below shows both options (e.g., Examples 1 and 3 versus 2 and 4, etc.).
  • When two authors are credited with writing a source, their surnames are separated by “and” in the signal phrase and an ampersand (&) in the parenthetical citation (see Examples 3-4 in Table 13.5.2 below).
  • When 3-5 authors are credited, a comma follows each surname (except the last in the signal phrase) and citation, and the above and/& rule applies between the second-to-last (penultimate) and last surname.
    • When a three-, four-, or five-author source is used again following the first use (i.e., the second, third, fourth time, etc.), “et al.” (abbreviating et alii in Latin, meaning “and the others”) replaces all but the first author surname.
    • See Examples 5-6 in Table 13.5.2 below.
  • If two or more authors of the same work have the same surname, add first/middle initials in the citation as given in the References at the back.
  • If no author name is given, either use the organization or company name (corporate author) or, if that’s not an option, the title of the work in quotation marks.
    • If the organization is commonly referred to by an abbreviation (e.g., “CIHR” for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research), spell out the full name in the signal phrase and put the abbreviation in the parenthetical citation the first time you use it, or spell out the full name in the citation and add the abbreviation in brackets before the year of publication that first time, then use the abbreviation for all subsequent uses of the same source. See Examples 9-10 in Table 13.5.2 below).
    • If no author of any kind is available, the citation—e.g., (“APA Style,” 2008)—and the bibliographical entry at the back would move the title “APA style” (ending with a period and not in quotation marks) into the author position with “(2008)” following rather than preceding it.
  • If the source you are using quotes another source, try to find that other, original source yourself and use it instead. If it’s important to show both, you can indicate the original source in the signal phrase and the source you accessed it through in the citation, as in:
    • Though kinematics is now as secular as science can possibly be, in its 1687 Pincipia Mathematica origins Sir Isaac Newton theorized that gravity was willed by God (as cited in Whaley, 1977, p. 64).

Year of Publication

  • The publication year follows the author surname either in parentheses on its own if in the signal phrase (see the odd-numbered Examples in Table 13.5.2 below) or follows a comma if both are in the citation instead (even-numbered Examples).
  • If the full reference also indicates a month and date following the year of publication (e.g., for news articles, blogs, etc.), the citation still shows just the year.
  • If you cite two or more works by the same author published in the same year, follow the year with lowercase letters (e.g., 2018a, 2018b, 2018c) in the order that they appear alphabetically by title (which follows the author and year) in both the in-text citations and full bibliographical entries in the References at the back.

Location of the quotation/ paraphrase/ summary within the work used

  • Include the location if your quotation/ paraphrase/ summary comes from a precise location within a larger work because it will save the reader time knowing that a quotation from a 300-page book is on page 244, for instance, if they want to look it up themselves.
  • Don’t include the location if you’ve summarized the source in its entirety or referred to it only in passing, perhaps in support of a minor point, so that readers can find the source if they want to read further.
  • For source text organized with page numbers, use “p.” to abbreviate “page” or “pp.” to abbreviate “pages.” For instance, “p. 56,” indicates that the direct or indirect quotation came from page 56 of the source text, “pp. 192-194” that it came from pages 192 through 194, inclusive, and “pp. 192, 194” from pages 192 and 194 (but not 193).
  • For sources that have no pagination, such as webpages, use paragraph numbers (whether the paragraphs are numbered by the source text or not) preceded by the paragraph symbol “¶” (called a pilcrow) or the abbreviation “para.” if the pilcrow isn’t available (see Examples 1-2 and 5-6 in the table below).

Table 13.5.2 shows how these guidelines play out in sample citations with variables such as the placement of the author and year in either the signal phrase or parenthetical in-text citation, number of authors, and source types. Notice that, for punctuation:

  • Parentheses ( ) are used for citations, not brackets [ ]. The second one, “),” is called the closing parenthesis.
  • The sentence-ending period follows the citations, so if the original source text of a quotation ended with a period, you would move it to the right of the citation’s closing parenthesis.
  • If the quoted text ended with a question mark (?) or exclamation mark (!), the mark stays within the quotation marks (i.e., to the left of the closing quotation marks) and a period is still added to end the sentence; if you want to end your sentence and quotation with a period or exclamation mark, it would simply replace the period to the right of the closing parenthesis (see Example 8 in the table below).

Table 13.5.2: Example APA-style In-text Citations with Variations in Number of Authors and Source Types

Example Signal Phrase In-text Citation Example Sentences Citing Sources
1. Single author + year Paragraph location on a webpage According to CEO Kyle Wiens (2012), “Good grammar makes good business sense” (¶ 7).
2. Generalization Single author + year + location Smart CEOs know that “Good grammar makes good business sense” (Wiens, 2012, ¶ 7).
3. Two authors + year Page number in a paginated book Smart CEOs know that “Good grammar makes good business sense” (Wiens, 2012, ¶ 7).
As Strunk and White (2000) put it, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words . . . for the same reason that a . . . machine [should have] no unnecessary parts” (p. 32).
4. Book title Two authors + year + page number As the popular Elements of Style authors put it, “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words” (Strunk & White, 2000, p. 32).
5. Three authors + year for first and subsequent instances Paragraph location on a webpage Conrey, Pepper, and Brizee (2017) advise, “successful use of quotation marks is a practical defense against accidental plagiarism” (¶ 1). . . . Conrey et al. also warn, “indirect quotations still require proper citations, and you will be committing plagiarism if you fail to do so” (¶ 6).
6. Website Three authors + year + location for first and subsequent instances The Purdue OWL advises that “successful use of quotation marks is a practical defense against accidental plagiarism” (Conrey, Pepper, & Brizee, 2017, ¶ 1). . . . The OWL also warns, “indirect quotations still require proper citations, and you will be committing plagiarism if you fail to do so” (Conrey et al., 2017, ¶ 6).
7. More than five authors + year Page number in an article John Cook et al. (2016) prove that “Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are causing recent global warming” (p. 1).
8. Generalization More than four authors + year + page number How can politicians still deny that “Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that humans are causing recent global warming” (John Cook et al., 2016, p. 1)?
9. Corporate author + year Page number in a report The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC, 2012) recommends that health care spending on mental wellness increase from 7% to 9% by 2022 (p. 13). . . . The MHCC (2012) estimates that “the total costs of mental health problems and illnesses to the Canadian economy are at least $50 billion per year” (p. 125).
10. Paraphrase instead Corporate author + year + page number Spending on mental wellness should increase from 7% to 9% by 2022 (The Mental Health Commission of Canada [MHCC], p. 13). . . . Current estimates are that “the total costs of mental health problems and illnesses to the Canadian economy are at least $50 billion per year” (MHCC, 2012, p. 125).

Additional In-text Citation Examples

Below are a few additional examples of how to integrate source material in the body of your written work or verbally when presenting information orally, such as in a presentation or an online PowerPoint show[1]:

  1. Magazine article
    • According to an article by Niall Ferguson in the January 23, 2012, issue of Newsweek, we can expect much discussion about ‘class warfare’ in the upcoming presidential and national election cycle. Ferguson reports that…
    • As reported by Niall Ferguson, in the January 23, 2012, issue of Newsweek, many candidates denounce talking points about economic inequality…
  2. Newspaper article
    • On November 26, 2020, Eithne Farry of The Daily Telegraph of London reported that…
    • An article about the renewed popularity of selling products in people’s own homes appeared in The Daily Telegraph on November 26, 2020. Eithne Farry explored a few of these ‘blast-from-the-past’ styled parties…
  3. Website
    • According to information I found at ready.gov, the website of the US Department of
      Homeland Security, US businesses and citizens…
    • According to information posted on the US Department of Homeland Security’s official
    •  Helpful information about business continuity planning can be found on the U.S.
      Department of Homeland Security’s official website, located at ready.gov…
  4. Journal article
    • An article written by Dr. Nakamura and Dr. Kikuchi, at Meiji University in Tokyo, found
      that the Fukushima disaster was complicated by Japan’s high nuclear consciousness. Their 2011 article published in the journal Public Administration Today reported that…
    • In a 2012 article published in Public Administration Review, Professors Nakamura and
      Kikuchi reported that the Fukushima disaster was embarrassing for a country with a long nuclear history…
    • Nakamura and Kikuchi, scholars in crisis management and public policy, authored a 2011 article about the failed crisis preparation at the now infamous Fukushima nuclear plant. Their Public Administration Review article reports that…
    • Bad example (doesn’t say where the information came from): A 2011 study by Meiji
      University scholars found the crisis preparations at a Japanese nuclear plant to be
  5. Book
    • In their 2008 book At War with Metaphor, Steuter and Wills describe how we use metaphor to justify military conflict. They report…
    • Erin Steuter and Deborah Wills, experts in sociology and media studies, describe the
      connections between metaphor and warfare in their 2008 book At War with Metaphor. They both contend that…
    • In their 2008 book At War with Metaphor, Steuter and Wills reveal…
  6. Interview
    • On February 20 I conducted a personal interview with Dr. Linda Scholz, a communication studies professor at Eastern Illinois University, to learn more about Latina/o Heritage Month. Dr. Scholz told me that…
    • I conducted an interview with Dr. Linda Scholz, a communication studies professor here at Eastern, and learned that there are more than a dozen events planned for Latina/o Heritage Month.
    • In a telephone interview I conducted with Dr. Linda Scholz, a communication studies
      professor, I learned…


For more on APA-style citations, see Purdue OWL’s In-Text Citations: The Basics (Paiz et al., 2021) and its follow-up page on authors or Appendix E: Documentation and APA Style of this textbook.

In combination, citations and references offer a reader-friendly means of enabling readers to find and retrieve research sources themselves, as each citation points them to the full bibliographical details in the References list at the end of the document. If the documentation system were reduced to just one part where citations were filled with the bibliographical details, the reader would be constantly impeded by 2-3 lines of bibliographical details following each use of a source. By providing the bibliographical entries at the end of the document, authors also enable readers to go to the References list to examine at a glance the extent to which a document is informed by credible sources as part of a due-diligence credibility check in the research process (see §13.2 above).

Each bibliographical entry making up the References list includes information about a source in a certain order. Consider the following bibliographical entry for a book in APA style, for instance:

Strunk, W., & White, E. B. (2000). Elements of style (4th ed.). Allyn & Bacon. DOI

We see here a standard sequence including the authors, year of publication, title (italicized because it’s a long work), and publication information. (Note: The 6th edition of APA required the city of publication, too: “Boston: Allyn & Bacon.” The 7th edition no longer requires the city before the name of the publisher, but it requires the DOI at the end if available.) You can follow this closely for the punctuation and style for any book. Online sources follow much the same style, except that the publisher is replaced by the web address preceded by “Retrieved from,” as in:

Wiens, K. (2012, July 20). I won’t hire people who use poor grammar. Here’s why. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/07/i-wont-hire-people-who-use-poo/

Note also that the title has been split into both a webpage title (the non-italicized title of the article) in sentence style and the title of the website (italicized because it’s the larger work from which the smaller one came). The easiest way to remember the rule for whether to italicize the title is to ask yourself: is the source I’m referencing the part or the whole? The whole (a book, a website, a newspaper title) is always in italics, whereas the part (a book chapter, a webpage, a newspaper article title) is not; see the third point below on Titles for more on this). A magazine article reference follows a similar sequence of information pieces, albeit replacing the publication or web information with the volume number, issue number, and page range of the article within the magazine, as in:

Dames, K. M. (2007, June). Understanding plagiarism and how it differs from copyright infringement. Computers in Libraries, 27(6), 25-27.

With these three basic source types in mind, let’s examine some of the guidelines for forming bibliographical entries with a view to variations for each part such as number and types of authors and titles:

  • Author(s): The last name followed by a comma and the author’s first initial (and middle initial[s] if given)
    • For two authors, add a comma and ampersand (&) after the first author’s initials
    • For three or more authors, add a comma after each (except for the last one) and add an ampersand between the second-to-last (penultimate) and last author.
    • Follow the order of author names as listed in the source. If they are in alphabetical order already, it may be because equal weight is being given to each; if not, it likely means that the first author listed did most of the work and therefore deserves first mention.
    • If no personal name is given for the author, use the name of the organization (i.e., corporate author) or editor(s) (see the point on editors below).
    • If no corporate author name is given, skip the author (don’t write “Anon.” or “N.A.”) and move the title into the author position with the year in parentheses following the title rather than preceding it.
  • Year of publication: In parentheses followed by a period
    • If an exact calendar date is given (e.g., for a news article or blog), start with the year followed by a comma, the month (fully spelled out) and date, such as “(2017, July 25).” Some webpages indicate the exact calendar date and time they were updated, in which case use that because you can assume that the authors checked to make sure all the content was current as of that date and time. Often, the only date given on a website is the copyright notice at the bottom, which is the current year you’re in and common to all webpages on the site, even though the page you are on could have been posted long before; see the technique in the point below, however, for discovering the date that the page was last updated.
    • If no date is given, indicate “(n.d.),” meaning “no date.” For electronic sources, however, you can determine the date in the Google Chrome browser by typing “inurl:” and the URL of the page you want to find the date for into the Google search bar, hitting “Enter,” adding “&as_qdr=y15” to the end of the URL in the address bar of the results page, and hitting “Enter” again; the date will appear in grey below the title in the search list.
    • If listing multiple sources by the same author, the placement of the years of publication means that bibliographical entries must be listed chronologically from earliest to most recent.
    • If listing two or more sources by the same author in the same year (without month or date information), follow the year of publication with lowercase letters arranged alphabetically by the first letter in the title following the year of publication (e.g., 2018a, 2018b, 2018c).
  • Title(s): Give the title in “sentence style”—i.e., the first letter is capitalized, but all subsequent words are lowercase except those that would be capitalized anyway (proper nouns like personal names, place names, days of the week, etc.) or those to the right of a colon dividing the main title and subtitle, and end it with a period.
    • If the source is a smaller work (usually contained in a larger one), like an article in a newspaper or scholarly journal, a webpage or video on a website, a chapter in a book, a short report (less than 50 pages), a song on an album, a short film, etc., make it plain style without quotation marks, and end it with a period.
    • If the source is a smaller work that is contained within a larger one, follow it with the title of the longer work capitalized as it is originally with all major words capitalized (i.e., don’t make the larger work sentence-style), italicized, and ending with a period.
    • If the source is a longer work like a book, website, magazine, journal, film, album, long report (more than 50 pages), italicize it. If it doesn’t follow the title of a shorter work that it contains, make it sentence-style (see the Elements of Style example above, which becomes “Elements of style”).
    • If the book is a later edition, add the edition number in parentheses and plain style following the title (again, see the Elements of Style example above).
  • Editor(s): If a book identifies an editor or editors, include them between the title and publication information with their first-name initial (and middle initial if given) and last name (in that order), “(Ed.)” for a single editor or “(Eds.)” for multiple editors (separated by an ampersand if there are only two and commas plus an ampersand if there are three or more), followed by a period.
    • If the book is a collection of materials, put the editor(s) in the author position with their last name(s) first followed by “(Ed.)” or “(Eds.),” a period, then the year of publication, etc.
  • Publication information: The city in which the publisher is no longer required.
    • Keep the publisher name to the bare essentials; delete corporate designations like “Inc.” or “Ltd.”
    • Add the DOI if available.
  • Web information: If the source is entirely online, replace the publisher name with “Retrieved from” and the web address (URL).
    • If the online source is likely to change over time, add the date you viewed it in “Month DD, YYYY,” style after “Retrieved” so that a future reader who follows the web address to the source and finds something different from what you quoted understands that what you quoted has been altered since you viewed it.
    • If the source is a print edition (book, magazine article, journal article, etc.) that also has an online version, give the publication information as you would for the print source and follow it with the online retrieval information.
    • If all you’re doing is mentioning a website in your text, you can just give the root URL (e.g., APAStyle.org without the “http://www” prefix) in your text rather than cite and reference it.
  • Magazine/Journal volume/issue information: If the source is a magazine or journal article, replace the publisher information with the volume number, issue number, and page range.
    • Follow the italicized journal title with a comma, the volume number in italics, the issue number in non-italicized parentheses (with no space between the volume number and the opening parenthesis), a comma, the page range with a hyphen between article’s first and last page numbers, and a period.
    • The Dames article given as an example above, for instance, spans pages 25-27 of the June issue (i.e., #6) of the monthly journal Computers in Libraries’ 27th volume.
  • Other source types: If you often encounter other source types such as government publications, brochures, presentations, etc., getting a copy of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2009) might be worth your while. If you’re a more casual researcher, you can consult plenty of online tutorials for help with APA style such as:

Though reference generator applications are available online (simply Google-search for them) and as features within word processing applications like Microsoft Word to construct citations and references for you, putting them together on your own may save time if you’re adept at APA. The following guidelines help you organize and format your References page(s) according to APA convention when doing it manually:

  • Title: References
    • Center the title at the top of the page at the end of your document (though you may include appendices after it if you have a long report).
    • The title is not “Works Cited” (as in MLA) nor “Bibliography”; a bibliography is a list of sources not tied to another document, such as the annotated bibliography discussed in §13.3.
  • Listing order: Alphabetically (unnumbered) by first author surname
    • If a corporate author (company name or institution) is used instead of a personal name and it starts with “The,” alphabetize by the next word in the title (i.e., include “The” in the author position, but disregard it when alphabetizing).
    • If neither a personal nor corporate author is identified, alphabetize by the first letter in the source title moved into the author position.
  • Spacing: Single-space within each bibliographical entry, double between them
    • “Double between” here means adding a blank line between each bibliographical entry, as seen in the References section at the end of each section in this textbook.
    • You may see some institutions, publishers, and employers vary this with all bibliographical entries being double spaced; just follow whatever style guide pertains to your situation and ask whomever is assessing your work if unsure.
  • Hanging indentation: The left edge of the first line of each bibliographical entry is flush to the left margin and each subsequent line of the same reference is tabbed in by a half centimeter or so. To do this:
    1. Highlight all bibliographical entries (click and drag your cursor from the top left to the bottom right of your list)
    2. Make the ruler visible in your word processor (e.g., in MS Word, go to the View menu and check the “Ruler” box).
    3. Move the bottom triangle of the tab half a centimeter to the right; this requires surgically pinpointing the cursor tip on the bottom triangle (in the left tab that looks like an hourglass with the top triangle’s apex pointing down, a bottom triangle with the apex pointing up, and a rectangular base below that) and dragging it to the right so that it detaches from the top triangle and base.
Tabbing a References list by making the left-margin tab visible, clicking on the bottom triangle, and dragging it a half-centimeter to the right

Figure 13.5.2: Tabbing a References list by making the left-margin tab visible, clicking on the bottom triangle, and dragging it a half-centimeter to the right

Examine the bibliographical entries below and throughout this textbook for examples of the variations discussed throughout.


American Psychological Association (APA). (2018). The Basics of APA style: Tutorial. Learning APA Style. Retrieved from http://www.apastyle.org/learn/index.aspx

APA. (2009). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Conrey, S. M., Pepper, M., & Brizee, A. (2017, July 25). How to use quotation marks. Purdue OWL. Retrieved from

Cook, J., et al. (2016, April 13). Consensus on consensus: A synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters 11, 1-7. Retrieved from

Mental Health Commission of Canada. (2012). Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada. Calgary: MHCC. Retrieved from

Paiz, J. M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., Brizee, A., & Keck, R. (2021, June 7). In-text citation: The basics. Purdue OWL. Retrieved from

Paiz, J. M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., Brizee, A., & Keck, R. (2021, June 7). Reference list: Basic rules. Purdue OWL. Retrieved from

Strunk, W., & White, E. B. (2000). Elements of style (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Retrieved from

Wiens, K. (2012, July 20). I won’t hire people who use poor grammar. Here’s why. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2012/07/i-wont-hire-people-who-use-poo/

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Key Takeaways

Key IconCite and reference each source you use in a research document following the documentation style conventions adopted by your field of study, whether APA, MLA, or IEEE.


ExerciseDrawing from your quotation, paraphrase, and summary exercises at the end of §13.4, assemble of combination of each, as well as media such as a photograph and a YouTube video, into a short research report on your chosen topic with in-text citations and bibliographical entries in the documentation style (APA, MLA, or IEEE) adopted by your field of study.

  1. These examples are reproduced from Communication in the Real World by the University of Minnesota under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License


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13.5: Documenting Sources in APA Style Copyright © 2021 by Melissa Ashman; Arley Cruthers; eCampusOntario; Ontario Business Faculty; and University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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