A Guide to APA Citation: References

Americal Psychological Association or APA citation style originated in 1929. APA citation styles is most commonly used in psychology, social sciences, education, and business. Some universities use APA citation style for engineering discipline as well but its use is much less common.

This articles provides you some general guidelines to format the references page in APA style. APA follows author-date citation system. There are many citation styles that are used in different disciplines. The elements of citation in each of these styles are almost the same but the format differs. The purpose of works cited page or the references is to help the readers find the sources that have been used in the text. The references should be as accurate as possible so the readers can easily locate the source.

APA references page format

General rules for formatting the APA works cited page are as follows

  • You need to use a standard size page (8.5″x11″)
  • On top center of the page label references as main heading of this section
  • Double space the entire list of references
  • Your bibliography should be in alphabetical order
  • There should be a 1 inch margin on top, sides and bottom of the page
  • The font should be Times New Roman and the font size should be 12
  • Start each line from the left margin and then indent each subsequent line five spaces from the left margin

APA references general guidelines

  • APA follows author-date system so n each reference you have to start with the author name and then followed by the date of publication. This may be different when author is unknown or the date of publication is not present.
  • Write the last name of the author for each entry followed by a comma and then write the initials for first name and middle name both with a period. The initial for middle name may be present or may not so write only first name if middle name is not there.
  • In general, the titles of complete work in published form should be italicized. For example, titles of books, journals, periodicals, encyclopedias, and newspaper/magazines should be italicized.
  • The sections or part of a publication like article title, chapter title, sections of an internet article, poems, essays etc should not be italicized.
  •  When there are more than one place of publication listed you need to provide the first place in citation.

APA: books citation

Books should have the following elements in the reference: author name, year of publication, book title, place of publication, publication name, page numbers. The first name and middle name of the author should be abbreviated to just initials. The place of publication should include the state name if it belongs to USA or Canada. There might be some more information depending on whether it is a print book or online book. There might be an editor or translator that needs to be mentioned.

Books with one author:

Last name, F. M. (year). Book Title. Place of publication: Publisher.

Books with two or more authors

If there are two or more than two authors of a book you should cite the names of two or all three authors. The names of each author should be separated with a comma.

Last Name, F., Last name, F., & Last Name, F. (Year). Chapter title. Book Title. Place of Publication: Publisher. p.

Books with no author

When author name is not present you can start the citation with the book title. The rest of the reference will remain same.

Books with editor or translator

In edited or translated books the name of the editor or translator can replace the name of the author. An abbreviation eds. in parentheses should follow the editor name to clearly indicate that it is an editor.

Last Name, F. M. (Eds.). (Year). Title of the Book. Place of Publication: Publisher. p.

For books that are translated and the autor name is laso present you can provide both the author name and the translator name in the following manner.

Author Last, F. M. (Year). Title of the Book. (Translator Last, F. Trans.). Place of Publication: Publisher. p-p.

Electronic book

An electronic book is cited just like a print book but n place of publisher you need to provide the DOI number. When DOI number is not present you can provide the URL for that book.

Last Name, F., & Last Name, F. (Year). Book Title. p-p. doi

Journals and periodicals

Print journals

Journals are written and published periodically and they are valuable in providing up to date information.  The difference between the book citation and journal is that you have to provide the volume number and issue. The volume number should be italicized along with the journal title.

Last name, F. M. (Date Published). Article title. Journal Title, Volume (Issue). P/s.

When you want to cite a whole section of a journal you can use the name of the editor of that section in place of the author name. The section title should follow the editor name and then the journal title. In case the editor name is not present you can move the section title to the beginning of the citation.

Last Name, F. (Eds.). (Date Published). Section title. Journal Title. Volume (Issue). p-p. doi

The periodicals can be cited just like a print article. You can provide all the citation information the website provides. Provide the issue number if it is there as it will help in finding the exact article.

Last Name, F. M. (Date Published). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical. Vol (Issue if it is there). Retrieved from URL

Electronic journals

There are two ways to retrieve articles from electronic journals: either you have a library subscription and you can retrieve articles from that library’s online database; or you can access some journal articles (that are free to view) form your internet search. In both cases you have to provide full citation and make clear that the reader understands how you retrieved the information.

The article title should be in sentence case while the journal title should be in title case. The journal title and the volume number is also italicized while the article title is not.  The volume number should follow the journal title and the issue number should be in parentheses. The issue number is not always there but do write the issue number if it is there.

Some electronic journals assign unique DOI (Digital Object Identifier) number to its articles. The DOI helps in finding that article online. But it should be noted that not all electronic articles have DOI number assigned. When there is a DOI number assigned to an article you can write the DOI number in the reference otherwise you have to provide the link or URL for that article. You do not need to put a period after the URL or DOI number.

Last name, F. M. (Date Published). Article title. Journal Title, Volume (Issue). Page/s. Retrieved from URL

Magazines and newspaper

Last name, F. M. (Date Published). Article title. Magazine Title, Volume (Issue). P/s.

General Website

Last name, F. M. (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. Website Title. Retrieved from URL.

Brochures, pamphlets etc

There are some other sources that are less commonly used in research, you can specify the name of the source in parentheses to make it clear. For example, brochures, pamphlets, or interviews are less common in use in research but they can be very valuable sometimes when no other source is present. While citing a less common or less conventional source you can specify in parentheses after the title to show whether it is a brochure or interview etc.


  • “APA Citation Guide (6th Edition): Reference List and Sample Paper”, Columbia College,  <https://columbiacollege-ca.libguides.com/apa/reference-list>
  • “Basics of APA Style Tutorial”, Publication Manual of American Psychological Association.  <http://flash1r.apa.org/apastyle/basics/index.htm?_ga=2.52863784.1648752916.1546746445-640876090.1546746445>
  • “Easybib Guide to Writing and Citing in APA Format”, Easybib. Web. <http://www.easybib.com/guides/citation-guides/apa-format/>
  • Lipson. Charles. Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles-MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions and More. 2nd ed. U of Chicago P, London. 2011. Web.



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