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Citing Sources Guide

Introduction to APA

What Is APA Style?

APA Style is the official style of the American Psychological Association. It is used for writing and formatting research papers. Some subjects that use APA Style are: Nursing, Psychology, Sociology, Occupational Therapy and Respiratory Therapy, and also Life Sciences: Biology, Environmental Science, and Physiology. Check with your instructor to find out which style you should use for your research paper.

Paper Formatting

How to Format Your Paper

APA Style will guide how your paper should look and how to cite all of the resources you used. When setting up your document, make sure you follow these guidelines:

  • Margins should be set to one inch on all sides.
  • Use a standard, readable font like Times New Roman or Arial, size 12.
  • Include page numbers in the top right header of each page.
  • All text lines should be double-spaced including your heading, quotations, and references page.

Make sure your paper is formatted correctly using this APA Format Checklist (courtesy of Excelsior College).

In-text Citation

In-Text Citation Basics

Every citation style uses two types of citation: in-text and bibliographic.

In-text citation gives credit to someone else's work, right in your paper when you use it. In APA style, an author/year system is used. If you are using an exact quote, you must also include the page number. When you introduce a quote or paraphrase, you typically include at least some of the information about the resource. For example, you can say that according to [author's name] (year of publication), and then use the quote. If you use a piece of identifying information in your signal phrase, the remaining information should be included in parentheses at the end of the sentence. 

ExampleAccording to Smith (2016), "Social media is harmful to teens" (p. 243). 

If there is more than one author, separate the names with commas and use an ampersand (&) before the last author. When you are using a direct quote, the citation begins after the ending quotation mark. The period to end the sentence will come after the citation is complete.

Example: According to a 2012 study, "social media is harmful to teens" (Smith, Wheeler, & Jones, p. 65).

If you choose not to include a signal phrase, you can include all the source information at the end of your sentence, in parentheses.

ExampleIt has been shown that social media is harmful to teens (Smith, Wheeler, & Jones, 2012). 

How to Cite with Missing Information

Sometimes you are missing information that you need to create an in-text citation. Use the examples below to create an in-text citation when you are missing information.

No Author
If you do not have the author's name, you can use a short version of the title in quotation marks. Note that the comma will be inside the quotation marks.

ExampleA similar study was done of students who spend too much time browsing the internet ("Internet Browsing," 2015).

No Date
If you do not have a date, use the abbreviation n.d. for "no date."

Example(Smith, Wheeler, & Jones, n.d., p.67)

Bibliographic Citation: References Page

Bibliographic Citation: References

Bibliographic citation is when you list the sources you've used in your paper. On the very last page of your paper, you need to provide a list of all the outside sources you quoted or paraphrased in the text. In APA format, this list is called a "References" page. 

Just like the rest of your paper, your References page should be in a readable font with 1-inch page margins. Your sources should be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter of the citation (usually the author's last name). Bibliographic citations also use a hanging indent which means all lines except the first should be indented for each individual citation or source. Not sure how to do that? Find directions below. See the References Example Page to get a better idea of what your page should look like.

How to Cite Your Sources

You will need to gather some information from each of your sources, so it's best to have them in front of you. Remember, one of the reasons for citing is so that your reader can find the sources that you refer to. 

You need to provide as much information as possible so that they can find your sources easily. For most APA citations, the following rules apply:

  • List the all authors starting with the last name, then a comma, then initials with periods. Separate each author with commas and use the ampersand symbol (&) before the last author.
    • Smith, J. K., Jones, R. R., & Thomas, A.
  • The date will follow after the author(s)'s name(s) in parenthesis.
    • Smith, J. K. (2014).
  • The titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers are written in italics and are capitalized as they appear in the original source.
    • The New York Times
  • The titles of chapters or articles are written without italics or quotations, and only the first letter of the first word is capitalized, unless the word is a proper noun. The first letter of a subtitle is also capitalized.
    • A curious case of a cat in the city: The story of Jumbo the cat.

Take a look at our APA Citation Guide for specific examples.


When citing books, you must include the author(s)'s name(s), the year of publication, the title of the book, and the name of the publisher. Sometimes you will need to include the names of editors or the edition number. 

Collins, S. (2010). The hunger games. Scholastic, Inc.


When citing articles, you must include the author(s)'s name(s), the title of the article, the title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper, the volume and issue numbers, the date of publication, and the page number(s). 

Kirman, J., Siminerio, S., & Wong, Z. (2016). The impact of a therapy dog program on children's reading skills and attitudes towards reading. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(6), 637-651.


When citing a website, or a page from a website, you need to provide the author(s)'s name(s), the title of the page you are using, the title of the website, the date the information was published, and the URL or web address of the site. 

Berger, F. K. (2014). Managing your depression. Medline Plus.