APA Citation Format Explained and Generated

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Being one of the most common formats for all kinds of scientific and research papers, APA citation format is used mainly in the field of social sciences. It explains how to handle references to both published and unpublished sources, covering various forms of in-text citations and bibliographic lists.

There are several reasons why you should stick to APA formatting. Firstly, even if you paraphrase someone else's ideas instead of quoting directly, it can be regarded as plagiarism. This may be construed as a breach of ethical norms and lead to serious consequences - at the least, you won't get a good mark for the work you have stolen from someone. Secondly, by having you write term papers and essays, your instructors test your academic writing skills. And why would any teacher give you a good grade if you show your ignorance of the academic formatting rules? Besides, in your post-college years, you may have to publish your scientific studies and articles in journals, which simply refuse to print incorrectly formatted manuscripts. So, now you have a good chance to learn things which can help you boost your career opportunities.

But why would anyone need an APA format citation maker? If you wonder about this, then it is likely that you have not even opened the APA guide. If you take a look at the publication manual, you will find out that you should be aware of different ways of citing depending on the source of information and many other factors. It takes some time and effort, while an APA reference generator can save you both, having the work done for you.

In order to use our APA citation generator, you just need to enter some basic data about your source and choose the source type. After that, the system will provide you with a correctly formatted reference, which you can copy and paste into your work. Fast and simple, yet very effective. That is really helpful and time-saving, especially because you get references based on the latest edition of the APA publication manual for free.

In addition to this great tool, we provide a complete APA style guide which will help you understand its requirements faster and easier. So, let's find out what it means to write in APA format.

What Is APA Format and Where Is It Used?

In fact, APA style covers not only the rules of citing various sources but also requirements for fonts, spacing, margins, headers and footers, title pages, abstracts, and much more. The Publication Manual contains 8 chapters, including the information on the importance of ethics in publication, peculiarities of the publishing process, recommendations on the structure and content of scientific works, clarity, and brevity of articles, punctuation and spelling, usage of capital letters, abbreviations, graphic elements, figures and statistics in texts.

These rules and recommendations were developed by the American Psychological Association for the use in the field of social and behavioral studies. Now the style is widely used in psychology, sociology, business, mathematics, economics, linguistics, nursing and even criminology, covering the following types of APA papers:

  • empirical research;
  • monographs;
  • research on theory;
  • reports;
  • literature reviews;
  • book reviews;
  • comments on publications;
  • articles on methodological approaches;
  • case studies and some others.

But what is APA citation? The style specifies a number of principles for crediting sources, including:

  • quoting and paraphrasing;
  • citing references in text;
  • in-text citation of specific sources like groups of authors, identified and anonymous authors, secondary sources, and so on;
  • using bibliographic footnotes;
  • construction of the reference list and more.

In other words, the recommendations explain what and when you should cite and how to correctly provide data (title, author, publisher, etc.) for proper identification of sources.

What Is in-Text Citation?

Let's take a general-to-specific approach. Generally, there are two types of citations:

  • Vancouver system.
  • Parenthetical referencing.

The first one provides for using sequential numbers after any type of reference in the text of a scientific or academic work. The number indicates the source that is placed at the bottom of the page (footnotes) or in the list on the last page of the manuscript (endnotes). The numbers and source details can be formatted in different ways, depending on the note form. However, no source details like the author's name or the title of the source are specified in the body of the text.

Conversely, the second type implies that certain source details are given in a short form immediately after a reference. Depending on a style, the short form may include the author's name, source's title, issue date and page number, while full-length information is given in the References List added at the end of the paper. The short form is enclosed in parentheses, while the full version is arranged alphabetically by authors' names.

Now, what type of citation is APA style? APA format in-text citation refers to parenthetical referencing, where you need to specify the author and date.

However, there are also two types of citations:

  • those without direct attribution to the author.
  • those identifying the author at the beginning of the citation.

In the first case, the author and date of publication are indicated at the end of the citation within round brackets.

In the second case, you start an APA reference in-text by specifying the author (without using parentheses) and then continue with the year in parentheses.

You should also take into account whether you use direct quoting or not. If yes, then you need to add the number of the page you borrowed the quote from. In the first case, the page is added to the author's name and date, while in the second, it is placed at the end of the quote and enclosed in parentheses.

Choose In-Text Citation Example for Your Specific Case

When you don't directly identify the author of the reference from the very beginning, you end up getting a citation like this:

The study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress (Adams, 2001).

But if you want, you can embed author's name directly into the quote, and then you will get the following option:

According to Adams (2001), the study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress.

When it comes to direct quoting, you should choose from these options:

"Our study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress" (Adams, 2001, p.56).

Adams (2001) stated: "Our study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress "(p.56).

Electronic Citation Peculiarities

Surely, nowadays online sources are widely used in all kinds of academic writing, so you may need to cite some of them in your paper. But how do you put an APA electronic citation in text properly? In many cases, online sources contain all the necessary information, including pages (for example, e-books). If so, you should handle the citation just like any other off-line reference.

But sometimes, online sources don't provide the author's name or year of publication, not to mention pages. In this case, you should avail of the headline, using it instead of the author, and put it into parentheses, adding the "n.d." ("no date") abbreviation afterward. If the title is too long, use a shortened version, wrapping it quotes. Also, if no author is specified, you can refer to the organization or website, which published the information you use in your paper. As for direct quoting, you can specify the section and paragraph containing the information cited.

However, you need to understand that online sources with so few details do not look trustworthy, so you should think twice before citing them in your work.

Find Your Matching APA Electronic Citation Example

Let's start with the worst case scenario when you cannot find information about the pages, authors, and dates. Here are some examples of what your in-text reference may look like.

Another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress ("How to improve students' progress," n.d., para.7).

Another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress ("How to improve students' progress," n.d., section 3, para.7).

Another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress ("How to improve students' progress," n.d., Studies section, para.7).

According to "How to improve students' progress"(n.d.), another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress (Studies section, para.7).

If there is any required information, just put it in:

According to Adams (n.d.), another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress (Studies section, para.7).

Another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress (Adams, n.d., Studies section, para.7).

Keep in mind that you can refer to an entire website, in which case you don't need any titles or pages:

To find details about Adams' study on relationships between this stimulation and students' progress, check the official website (http://www.adams.com/).

Adams' official website (http://www.adams.com/) provides details on the study on relationships between this stimulation and students' progress.

When you are citing something found on the website of an organization, you can do without its URL, giving it as a bibliographic entry at the end of your paper. Then, your in-text reference will be something like this:

Another study failed to find any convincing relationships between this stimulation and students' progress (Adams' Research Institute, 2001).

Do You Need a Cover Page?

Since some colleges require a cover page before a title page, you may wonder how to write an APA format cover page properly. However, quite many styles require no additional page before the title page, and, therefore t, there is no APA style cover page at all.

Rules for Your Title Page

APA format title page displays a title, your name, the name of your educational institution (or other organization) and a running headline.

  • Capitalize your title, placing it right in the center of the page. Bear in mind that the style recommends the length, which doesn't exceed 12 words (1-2 lines).
  • Type your first and last name, as well as initials of the middle name.
  • Continue with your organization/institution.

Make sure to center them and use caps and double spaces. Actually, you can choose any easy to read font for your paper, but the style recommends 12-point Times New Roman with 2, 54 cm margins from all sides.

Also, note that the running head is an obligatory part of any APA style title page. It should contain the page number (set flush on the right) and a scaled-down variant of the title (within fifty characters, including spaces, printed in all capitals and set flush on the left). The header needs to be prefixed with the words "Running head" followed by a colon and only then by the title itself. For all other pages, this prefix is not required.

What to Write in Your Abstract?

Some types of academic papers do not require you to provide any abstract at all. For example, you can skip this section, when writing a literature review, starting your paper with an introduction, which is not the equivalent of an abstract. However, you need to check this with your tutor, since the requirements may vary.

Well, if you do need this section in your work, then you should know precisely how to write an abstract APA. First, keep in mind that the length of this section should not exceed 250 words, so you are expected to be brief. However, a good APA style abstract needs to contain such key information as the goals set, methods used, results and conclusions. To save precious space, you can use abbreviations, write numbers in numerals and drop initials.

Start your abstract by typing "Abstract" in the center of a new page, and then continue with a new paragraph. At the very end of this section, you can list keywords to make searching online easier. Start a new paragraph with Keywords, then put a colon and add the words (in a non-italic font) separated by a comma.

Brief APA Abstract Example

Abstract.

The paper explores the tax treatment of foreign-invested enterprises on the example of two local companies...The taxation legislative framework, existing tax privileges, methods of tax assessment base are considered. The paper provides the results of the financial analysis of the companies' activities. Measures are proposed to improve the taxation of foreign-invested enterprises.

Keywords: tax assessment base, tax privileges, foreign investments, credit against tax, taxable income.

Don't Be Entrapped in Headings

We have already discussed that the APA header is required from the very first page of your paper (which is a title page). However, you may wonder how to do a running head APA, since it is assumed that you need two versions of the header - one with the words "Running head" for your title page and one without them for all other pages.

In fact, your steps will depend on the version of Microsoft Word installed on your desktop PC. If you have Word 7 or higher, you just need to double-click the right mouse button on the top of the first page (where a header is usually located) to get access to your Header and Footer menu. Tick the Different First Page box and type in your title with a prefix. Then go to your next page and delete the prefix to get the desired result.

However, you need to know that APA style also requires you to clearly separate sections within the text of scientific papers for better structuring. APA format headings have five levels, specifying the usage of the bold type, italics, indentation, lowercase and uppercase letters. Let's see how this works in a real-life scenario.

Five-Level APA Headings Example

This example is given to show how your text can be structured depending on the number of sections and subsections.

Study Design (Level 1)

This study design is developed...

Study Methods (Level 2)

Methods of study include...

Study Participants (Level 2)

Participants of study...

Test 1 participants. (Level 3) In this test...

Test 2 participants. (Level 3) In this test...

Adult participants. (Level 4) Adult participants...

Minor participants. (Level 4) Minor participants...

Under 14. (Level 5) Among this group...

Over 14. (Level 5) Among this group...

Obviously, you are not required to use all the levels in your paper, but when this is applicable, make sure to format your headings properly.

Reference Page Explained

Every paper written in the style is to contain a reference page. APA format reference page provides the reader with a list of each and every source you cited in your work. This helps the reader find any source cited in it, checking the information contained therein and studying facts and viewpoints.

You should start your APA style reference page with the 'References' heading by locating it in the center of a new page. Then you need to double-space and start the first entry flush with the left margin. If any entry has more than one line, all additional lines require a hanging indent.

Each entry should contain the last name of the author of the source and the initials (mind the order!). Authors are listed alphabetically based on their last names. If several sources by one author are mentioned, they should be listed in chronological order - from the earliest to the latest date.

Then you need to give the year of publication in parentheses, followed by the full title of your source (begins with a capital letter) and the publication data.

What About Bibliography?

Let's get this straight - the Reference List and the Bibliography are not the same things, and, frankly speaking, there is no APA bibliography format at all. Why? Because the style requires a list of references, which should include all sources cited in your paper. The Bibliography differs from the list in this that it covers all sources used by you when writing the paper, regardless of whether you cite them in your work or not. It can also contain additional sources recommended for reading but not stated in the text.

This confusion extends further to include the APA annotated bibliography. The style doesn't require any bibliography containing your comments on the sources used and, consequently, doesn't have any rules for their formatting.

However, in various sources, you can find guides on different types of the APA Bibliography, though their authors actually describe recommendations on reference lists. Therefore, you should be very careful, about including non-cited sources in your list.

Reference List Sample aka APA Bibliography Example

Since some specific details may vary depending on the source type (and we are going to discuss this later), here is the general example of what your reference entry may look like:

Adams, J. (2001). How to improve students' progress. New York, NY: Treehouse Publishers.

Rules for Book Citation

Now, let's move on to more specific rules and find out how to cite a book APA. Here is your general scheme:

  • Author(s)/editor(s) (full stop)
  • Year of publication within parentheses (full stop)
  • Italicized title (full stop, if the title doesn't end with another punctuation mark)
  • City and state/country of publication (separated by a comma and with a colon at the end)
  • Publisher

For online book citation you scheme will change a little:

  • Author(s).
  • (Year of publication).
  • Title and reader version (if available) in square brackets.
  • DOI number or "Retrieved from" and URL

APA Book Citation Example for Online Source

Adams, J. (2001). How to improve students' progress [OnlineLibrary Reader version]. Retrieved from http://www.adams.com/

Thesis Citation Formatting

APA format thesis citation depends on whether the paper was published or not. Since in most cases such sources are found in online databases, we provide the following recommendation on how to cite a thesis APA:

  • Author(s).
  • (Year of publication).
  • Title and (type of paper).
  • "Retrieved from" and database identification.
  • (Accession and order numbers)

APA Thesis Citation Example When Found in a Database

Adams, J. (2001). How to improve students' progress (Master's thesis). Retrieved from BestDatabase. (123456789)

Dissertation Citation Formatting

Since this format is similar to the above-mentioned thesis citation, let's find out how to cite a dissertation APA, when it is not published. In this case, you need to specify this in parentheses, adding the name of the institution and its location. You will find the example of citing a dissertation APA below.

Unpublished APA Dissertation Citation Example

Adams, J. (2001). How to improve students' progress (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Adam's Research Institution, New York.

Scheme for Website Citation

We have already discussed how to cite a website APA in a text, but what about citing a website APA on your reference page? Your further steps will depend on your ability to find some details about the source. The main scheme is the following:

  • Author(s).
  • (Year of publication).
  • Title.
  • "Retrieved from" and URL

APA Website Citation Example When All Details Are Available

Adams, J. (2001). How to improve students' progress. Retrieved from http://www.adams.com/

Basics of Magazine Citation

The next step is to learn how to cite a magazine article in APA. When it comes to printed APA magazine citing, we need to add the full issue date, the magazine, its volume, and issue (if any), as well as to inform our audience on which page the article begins and ends.

Printed APA Magazine Citation Example

Adams, J. (2001, May). How to improve students' progress. University studies, 25 (3), 51-64.

Printed Newspaper Citation

Citing a newspaper article APA differs a little from magazine references since you don't need to specify any volume. You can see how to cite newspaper articles APA when they are borrowed from printed versions.

APA Newspaper Citation Example

Adams, J. (2001, May 25). How to improve students' progress. The University Post, p. B2.

Online Journal Citation

APA journal article citation is completely identical to that of magazines. Thus, in this section, we consider how to cite journal articles APA, if they are found online. In this case, it is required to show the journal's DOI, if any, or specify its URL.

APA Journal Citation Example with DOI

Adams, J. (2001, May). How to improve students' progress. University studies, 25 (3), 51-64. doi: 123456789

How to Format Film Citation

You may wonder how to cite a film APA, since sometimes students are supposed to write reviews or research papers on movies. Therefore, they should comply with these rules for citing a film APA:

  • Names of the producer/director, including their initials and function (in parentheses).
  • (Release date).
  • Title and [Medium].
  • Country: Studio or distributor website URL

APA Film Citation Example for a Student Paper

Adams, J. (Producer), & Macmillan, O. (Director). (2001). Studentship [DVD]. New York, NY: Rainbow Film.

Radio Citation Format

It is not a common practice for students to cite various radio sources in their papers, but if you do refer to them, you should learn how to cite a radio broadcast APA properly. Instead of the medium, it is required to provide information about the program type and production. In many respects, the formatting depends on what source details you will be able to find, but try to stick to the following example of APA citing radio interview:

APA Radio Citation Example for an Individual Program

Adams, J. (Producer). (2001, May 25). Studentship [Radio broadcast]. New York, NY: Rainbow Radio.

How to Format Music Citation

When citing music APA, you need to remember that both the songwriter and artist should be mentioned, unless this is the same person. Here is a tip on how to cite music APA:

  • Author.
  • (Date of copyright).
  • Title of song [Artist].
  • On Title of album [Medium].
  • Location: Label. (Recording date).

APA Music Citation Example

Adams, J. (2001). My Studentship [Recorded by Oliver Macmillan]. On Sleepless nights [CD]. New York, NY: Rainbow Music.