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American Psychological Association (APA) referencing style

As used in Education, Language & Linguistic Science, and Psychology

Additional resources

APA. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: APA.

APA Style 

APA style blog

Neville, C. (2010). The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism (2nd ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

OWL Purdue's great APA guide:

Sheffield Hallam University resources for APA 6th edn:

Referencing the Discussion’ tutorial available in the Academic Skills Tutorials module on Yorkshare

What is APA style?

The American Psychological Association (APA) style is that compiled by the APA as their standard for acknowledging source materials and it is used internationally in psychology, health and the social sciences. It is a standard – a set format – for citing sources by giving the name of the author and the date of their publication in the text of a piece of writing, within ( ), for example (Smith, 2012). A reference list of full bibliographic details is then given at the end, with sources listed in alphabetical order by author.

This is the American Psychological Association's editorial style commonly used in the social sciences. The ‘Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition' is the standard for this referencing system and the examples below have been based on this. The APA manual is aimed more at users in the USA and therefore in some cases it has been adapted for citing UK sources using Colin Neville's ‘The complete guide to referencing and avoiding plagiarism, 2nd ed.'. This is seen as a guiding authority on the format for in-text citation and referencing. It is extremely important to check and follow your Department's specific regulations.

This set of examples is consistent with the ‘Reference with Confidence – the APA Style' guide (2017 edition). The 'APA 6th' output style on EndNote X5 and EndNote web has also been used to compile the citations and references.

Take special care with the following:

  • indentations : for each entry in your references list, all lines after the first should be indented using a ‘hanging indent';
  • commas : where there are more than two authors, include a comma after the penultimate name, before the &;
  • ampersands (&) : where there are multiple authors, use an ampersand (&) instead of 'and' in both the Bibliography/ Reference List/ reference list and in-text citations, but not when mentioning the same authors in the body of the text. For example (Smith & Jones, 2012) but ‘previously Smith and Jones (2010) reported';
  • multiple authors : the first time you reference a work by more than two authors, list all the authors names; if you refer to them again, give only the first name followed by et al. 


How do I format in-text citations?

The APA style requires you to include the name of the author and the date of their publication in ( ) and, when appropriate, to add a page number. There are different ways in which you can integrate an in-text citation, depending on how you are using the source in your writing and where in the sentence the citation will be placed. For example:

 “Choking under pressure refers to performing worse than expected in situations with a high degree of perceived importance (Baumeister, 1984; Beilock & Gray, 2007). Following a conceptual framework presented by Baumeister (1997) to explain...”

(Taken from: Jordet, G., Hartman, E. & Jelle Vuijk, P. (2012). Team history and choking under pressure in major soccer penalty shootouts. British Journal of Psychology, 103(2), 268–283).

The in-text citation examples given throughout this guide give the version (Neville, 2010) for illustrative purposes.

How do I effectively cite quotations?

Quotations are word-for-word text included in your work and must be clearly distinguished from your own words and ideas. For short quotations (of less than 40 words), use a brief phrase within your paragraph or sentence to introduce the quotation before including it inside double quotation marks “ ”. For example: As Neville (2010) states, “you should cite all sources and present full details of these in your list of references” (p.37).

For longer quotations (of 40 words or more) you use block quotation, without quotation marks, but clearly indented to indicate these words are not your own. For example:

Neville (2010) comments that:

It can sometimes be difficult, if not impossible, to avoid using some of the author’s original words, particularly those that describe or label phenomena. However, you need to avoid copying out what the author said, word for word. Choose words that you feel give a true impression of the author’s original ideas or action (p.38).


NB: Note the inclusion of page numbers to the in-text citations for the above examples.

When must I use page numbers in my in-text citations?

It is important to give a page number to an in-text citation in the following circumstances:

  • when quoting directly
  • when referring to a specific detail in a text (for example, a specific theory or idea, an illustration, a table, a set of statistics).

This might mean giving an individual page number or a small range of pages from which you have taken the information. Giving page numbers enables the reader to locate the specific item to which you refer.

Where can I use ampersands (&)?

If you are citing two or more authors within an in-text citation, use the ampersand in the brackets, for example (Burns & Sinfield, 2002). If mentioning the authors in the actual text of the assignment, use the work ‘and’, for example Burns and Sinfield (2002) argue that... If citing three or more authors use the full list of names the first time, for example (Dolowitz, Buckler, & Sweeney, 2008) and then (Dolowitz et al., 2008) for any further mention.

What if I want to reference a work, in an in-text citation, that has 6 or more authors?

If a book or journal has authors numbering six or more ,use ‘et al.’ within your in-text citation and name all the authors in your bibliography/ reference list citation. For example:

In-text: (Rayle et al., 2006)


Rayle, A., Bordes, V., Zapata, A., Arrendondo, P., Rutter, M., & Howard, C. (2006). Mentoring experiences of wormen in graduate education: Factors that matter. Current Issues in Education,               9(6). Retrieved August 1, 2016 from http://cie.

What if an author I am referencing has published two or more works in one year?

In this case you can simply use lower-case letters: a, b, c, etc to differentiate between different works within one given year. For example:

In-text: (Carroll, 2007a; Carroll 2007b)


Carroll, J. (2007a). A handbook for deterring plagiarism in higher education. Oxford: Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Brookes University.

Carroll, J. (2007b). Do national statistics about plagiarism tell you about your students? LINK Newsletter on Academic Integrity. The Hospitality, Sport and Leisure Subject Centre, 18, 3-9.

Are in-text citations included in my word count?

Usually in-text citations will be included in your word count as they are integral to your argument. This may vary depending on the assignment you are writing and you should confirm this with your module tutor. If in-text citations are included this does not mean you should leave out citations where they are appropriate.

What if I cannot locate the name of an author of a source?

It is important to use quality sources to support your arguments and so you should carefully consider the value of using any source when you cannot identify its author. For online sources, look carefully for named contributors, such as in the ‘about us’ sections. For printed material look carefully at the publication/ copyright information, which is often on the inside cover of a book or back page of a report. If you cannot locate the information you could use the name of the organisation for the author, for example (NSPCC, 2012).

What if I cannot locate the date of a source?

Knowing when a source was created, published, or last updated is important as this helps you to determine the currency of the source. How current a source is relates, for example, to being contemporary to an event or containing the latest research findings. For online sources look carefully for created and/ or last updated dates on the page(s). If you cannot locate a date write (n.d.) after the author to denote ‘no date’.

Should I include web addresses in an in-text citation?

No. If the website has an author, cite the source as you would anything else, for example (Gillett, 2012). If there is no author, use the organisation name or the title of the web page. Full details of the website will be given in the bibliography/ reference list.

Should I use secondary references?

A secondary reference is given when you are referring to a source which you have not read yourself, but have read about in another source, for example referring to Jones’ work that you have read about in Smith. Avoid using secondary references wherever possible and locate the original source and reference that.

Only give a secondary reference where this is not possible and you deem it essential to use the material. It is important to think carefully about using secondary references as the explanation or interpretation of that source by the author you have read may not be accurate. For example, if Allport's work is cited in Nicholson and you did not read Allport's work, list the Nicholson reference in the reference list. In the text, use the following citation:

Allport's diary (as cited in Nicholson, 2003).

Only list the sources that you have read in your bibliography ie. list Nicholson but not Allport in the bibliography.

What if I want to use a number of sources in one in-text citation?

If, for example, you are pulling together a number of sources to support your argument you may want to use a number of sources in one in-text citation. For example:

As is widely stated in the literature... (Carroll, 2002; Mallon 1991; Neville, 2010).

They should appear alphabetically, matching the order in which they will appear in your bibliography/ reference list.

What is the APA convention for using capital letters?

You should only capitalise the first letter of the first word of a book, journal article, etc and any word following a colon in the title. The exception is if these include proper nouns – names of people or organisations.

@University of York 2016