APA Style

America Psychological Association (APA) publishes the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, a style guide used in a variety of academic disciplines. This handout covers basic APA issues, including citing references in text, listing references, and preparing the manuscript. For further explanation, see the seventh edition manual or visit APAstyle.org.

Citing References in Text

APA format uses the author-date method of citation. The author’s last name and year of publication appears in text. Page numbers are included when citing direct quotations in text. APA uses past tense or present perfect tense signal verbs: Jones (2010) showed or Jones (2010) has shown.

For more in-text citation guildelines, see pp. 177-78 of APA Manual.

When the author’s name appears in a signal phrase, the year follows immediately in parentheses, and the page number is in a separate parenthetical at the end. With no signal phrase, the parenthetical citation has three elements: author, date, and page number.

Yagoda (2007) pointed out that “when people get upset over language, more often than not the crux of the problem is a pronoun” (p. 183).

The author observed that when language gets people riled, “more often than not the crux of the problem is a pronoun” (Yagoda, 2007, p. 183).

If page numbers are not visible in a source, but the document uses headings, cite the quotation by heading and paragraph number.

Wilkes (2008) found that patients in underserved communities were “often unaware of the federally funded care available to them” (Discussion section, para. 4).

APA does not require page numbers for paraphrases from brief sources but recommends including with longer sources; otherwise, format like a quotation (above).

Sapp (2010) reported that Kohl’s began predictive modeling to improve the effectiveness of their direct mail campaigns.

Use and between authors’ names in signal phrase; use ampersand (&) in parenthetical citation.

Jack and Ang (2006) observed that child neglect cases spiked during phases where the supply of crack and crystal meth increased.

Child neglect cases spiked during phases where the supply of crack and crystal meth increased (Jack & Ang, 2006)

For all sources with three or more authors, cite the last name of the first author followed by et al. The exception to this would be if ambiguity is created, such as sources with authors of the same name.

(INCORRECT): Mann, Lime, Cale, and Jonas (2007) found that patients respond well to hydrotherapy.

(CORRECT): Mann et al. (2007) found that patients respond well to hydrotherapy.

If a quotation is 40 words or more, use block style. Following the signal phrase, indent one half-inch from the left margin. Start on a new line and continue double-spacing. Do not use quotation marks. The terminal punctuation comes before the parenthetical citation. (For more formatting help, see p. 171.)

Lane (2011) posed another question on “diversity” in German and British cooking:

However, the French influence on haute cuisine is no longer the only one in the two countries. What then does the above noted diversity consist of and how strongly is it developed? Diversity, overall, is still quite modest. Borrowing from other culinary cultures consists mainly of blending individual foreign ingredients, particularly spices or flavourings from Indian, Chinese, Thai and Japanese cuisines, into European dishes, prepared in the European (particularly French) way. (705)

If the work has no author, use the title or its first several words. Italicize book titles and place the titles of short works in quotation marks. Follow with year of publication.

The Pew Survey found that just 20% of Americans think federal government programs are run well (“Beyond Distrust,” 2015). 

In the example above, the article’s full title is “Beyond Distrust: How Americans View Their Government.”

To cite two or more works together, order alphabetically and separate with a semicolon. List works by the same author chronologically separated by commas: (Lee 1992, 2002)

Several studies (Algood, 2004; Sullivan & Lowe, 2003) indicated that severe dehydration, prior to the event, worsened outcomes for stroke victims.

If you need to quote a source quoted in your source, use as cited in before your source’s name. Include, as usual, the year of publication, and the page number for your source. (APA prefers that you retrieve the source your author quoted and quote it directly, as opposed to using this secondary filter. Your professors will likely expect the same diligence.)

Berry (as cited in Weiss, 2011) asserted, “Eating ends the annual drama of the food economy that begins with planting and birth” (442).

Cite emails, lectures, interviews, or any other material that is not recoverable by your readers. Cite the name of the person, personal communication, and date. Cite in text only; exclude from references list.

E. Choate (personal communication, October 16, 2014) described how time spent in the Appalachians influenced her use of color and natural finishes

References List

This section covers the formatting basics for the references and provides examples of several common source types. See Chapter 7, pp. 193-224, for a full discussion and examples.

Basic Rules

  • Each entry begins flush-left, and any additional lines are on hanging indent (one-half inch). Double-space within and between entries.

  • Alphabetize the list by author’s last name. After the last name, include initials of given name.

  • Up to 20 authors should be included in the reference list. If a source has more than 20 authors, list up to the 19th author, replace further authors’ names with an ellipsis (…), and follow with the final author’s name.

  • When including a source with no identifiable author, alphabetize by the source’s title.

  • If list has more than one work by an author, arrange entries by year of publication, earliest first.

  • When a source does not have a date, use (n.d.) after the author’s name.

  • For an article or chapter title, capitalize only the first word of the title, the first word in the subtitle, and any proper nouns or proper adjectives. Do not italicize or enclose the title in quotation marks.

  • For books and reports, capitalize only the first word of the title, first word of the subtitle, and any proper nouns or proper adjectives; italicize the title.

  • For journals, newsletters, and magazines, include volume number, issue number (if available), and page numbers.

  • Titles of articles should not be italicized or underlined, but the titles of the journals, newsletters, or magazines the articles they come from are italicized.

  • For electronic sources, much of the same source information is included as fixed-media, but the electronic location of the source is added to the entry. Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) and URLs are now presented as hyperlinks for electronic sources. The label “DOI” is no longer used for entries that include a DOI. If no DOI is assigned, use the home page URL for periodicals (journals, magazines, etc.). For Web sources, provide exact URLs.

  • Retrieval dates are not necessary for electronic sources unless you are citing a source that may change or move over time, such as a Wiki. The words “Retrieved from” (used before the URL or DOI) are now only used with the retrieval date is provided in the citation.

Format for Print & Electronic Sources

Swales, J. M., & Feak, C. B. (2004). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills. Ann Arbor:

University of Michigan Press.

Cullington, M. (2015). Does texting affect writing? In G. Graff, C. Birkenstein, & R. Durst (Eds.), They say, I say, (3rd

ed., pp. 373-91). New York: W. W. Norton.

Devet. B. (2010). Unpacking faculty’s questions and comments about the writing center: Advice for new writing

center directors. Writing Lab Newsletter, 34(4-5), 10-12.

DeMoss, N. (2009, May 29). Buying back books: UA students decide where to sell used textbooks for best price. The

Arkansas Traveler, p. A1.

Douglass, F. (1845). Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave. [Plain text UTF-8 Version].

Note: Retrieval date not provided, therefore you do not need “Retrieved from (URL)”.

With DOI:

Weiss, B. (2011), Making pigs local: Discerning the sensory character of place. Cultural Anthropology, 26: 438–61.


Note: “DOI:” label no longer needed.

Without DOI:

Roy, J. (2013) Elementary teacher perceptions of teaching practices that foster creative thinking in students. Inquiry:

The University of Arkansas Undergraduate Research Journal, 14(1): 75-94.

Note: Retrieval date not provided, therefore you do not need “Retrieved from (URL)”.

Weir, K. (2016, July/August). Climate change is threatening mental health. Monitor of Psychology, 47(7).

Note: Retrieval date not provided, therefore you do not need “Retrieved from (URL)”.

Bar, M. (2007, June 17). Think less, think better. The New York Times.

Note: Retrieval date not provided, therefore you do not need “Retrieved from (URL)”.

Beyond distrust: How Americans view their Government. (2015, November 23). http://www.people-press.org/

Preparing the Manuscript

Use standard paper with one-inch margins. APA “prefers” 12-pt Times New Roman (p. 228). A complete APA scientific study has the following sections:

• Title Page

o Professional

▪ The title of the paper

▪ The name of each author of the paper

▪ The affiliation for each author

▪ An author not (optional)

▪ A running head (also appears on following pages)

▪ A page number (also appears on following pages)

o Student

▪ The title of the paper

▪ The name of each author of the paper

▪ The affiliation for each author (typically university being attended)

▪ The course number and name for which the paper is written

▪ The instructor’s name and title

▪ The assignment due date

▪ A page number (also appears on following pages)

Note: a running head is no longer required for student papers

• Abstract (concise summary of Main Body sections)

• Main Body

o Introduction

o Method (usually includes subheadings)

o Results

o Discussion

• References

• Tables

• Figures

• Appendices

For examples of APA 7 Style formatting, check out these sample papers.


The seventh edition has a top-down progression for formatting headings.

Level Format
1  Centered, Boldface, Title Case Heading
 Flush left, Boldface, Title Case Heading
 Flush left, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading
 Indented, Boldface, Title Case Heading Ending with a Period
 Indented, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading Ending with a Period


Arranging elements into lists helps your reader organize ideas. When you use seriated items in a sentence, divide the elements using lowercase letters in parentheses.

Angela’s three research options were (a) collaborating with another student, (b) working with a group, and (c) working alone.

APA also recommends using bulleted lists to separate elements. This example comes from the APA’s updated (DSM-5) PTSD diagnosis criteria.

The exposure must result from one or more of the following scenarios, in which the individual:

  • directly experiences the traumatic event;
  • witnesses the traumatic event in person;
  • learns that the traumatic event occurred to a close family member or close friend (with the actual or threatened death being either violent or accidental); or
  • experiences first-hand repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event (not through media, pictures, television or movies unless work-related). (APA, 2013)

APA recommends numbered lists to establish priority, describe process, etc. Use a period with the numeral but not a parenthesis. Capitalize the first word in each complete sentence. The following is an abridged example from the APA’s site on best practices for treating diverse patient populations.

A Few Best Practices for Working with Asian Patients

  1. Assess the language barrier. Ascertain whether the patient speaks English or not, their native dialect, and the degree of acculturation.
  2. Familiarize yourself with ethnopsychopharmacological research. You may, for example, start with a lower prescribed dosage of psychotropic medications for Asians.
  3. Consider traditional interventions, in addition to medication and if indicated, diets, exercises, and other traditional methods (Tai Chi, Breathing exercises) of stress-reduction and relaxation.
  4. Ask detailed clinical history with open-ended questions first and be attentive to non-verbal clues (facial expression, tearing, etc). (Gaw, 2016)

Verbs: Voice and Tense

The APA recommends use of the active voice, and notes that in a few cases writers may want to use passive voice to focus a reader’s attention on the recipient of the action (p. 77). Note the examples below.

Preferred active voice:

We conducted the experiment in Dr. Smith’s lab. 

Nonpreferred passive voice:

The experiment was conducted in Dr. Smith’s lab.

The APA also recommends using the past tense when referring to actions that took place at a specific time in the past. Use past tense to refer to other scholars’ research or your own research and results.

(INCORRECT): Goodson (2012) presents a similar methodology.

(CORRECT): Goodson (2012) developed a similar methodology.

The APA 7 endorses the use of “they” as a singular pronoun. “They” is used for a person whose gender is unknown, irrelevant, or if “they” is the person’s preferred personal pronoun.

For more information on Bias-Free Language, see Chapter 5 of the APA 7th Edition.


For information on numbers expressed in numerals, see the APA Style guide.

Use words to express a number that begins a sentence, title, or text heading. The APA suggests rewording the sentence to avoid beginning with a number.

Thirty-two percent of the students showed a grade increase by the end of the semester; 3% showed no change.

By the end of the semester, 32% of students showed a grade increase; 3% showed no change.


Use words to express common fractions.

We found seven eighths of freshmen prefer to make decisions about use of support services.

Rule changes require a two-thirds majority vote.

Use commas between groups of three digits in figures 1,000 or more. For exceptions, see p. 114. See pp. 111-14 for further help with numbers.

Selected Bibliography

American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.).

Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association. (2016) DSM-5: Updated disorders (Posttraumatic stress disorder) [PDF file].

APA Style. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2020, from https://apastyle.apa.org/

“Beyond distrust: How Americans view their government.” (2015, November 23)

Gaw, A. (2013). Best practice highlights: Asian American patients [PDF file] Retrieved from

https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/treating-diverse-patient- populations

Lane, C. (2011), Culinary culture and globalization. An analysis of British and German Michelin-starred

restaurants. The British Journal of Sociology, 62: 696–717. doi:10.1111/j.14684446.2011.01387.x

Purdue Writing Lab. (n.d.). General Format // Purdue Writing Lab. Retrieved June 15, 2020, from


Weiss, B. (2011), Making pigs local: Discerning the sensory character of place. Cultural Anthropology,

26: 438–461. 10.1111/j.1548-1360.2011.01106.x

Yagoda, B. (2007). When you catch an adjective, kill it. New York: Broadway Books.