APA Citations

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Welcome to this Information and Library Services tutorial on APA citations. In it, you will learn about APA in-text and reference citations.

The American Psychological Association developed APA citation style to help you document your sources in a research paper or other project. By employing APA citation style, you will give proper credit to authors whose ideas you are using in your own work.

In a research paper, you will use two types of APA citation:

  • In-text citations are brief and appear among the sentences you write in your paper.
  • Reference citations are longer and will appear at the back of your paper, in your References list.

Let's see how in-text and reference citations work together.

Let's say you've written this sentence in your paper:

Public and private interactions are vital in an online class (Blair & Hoy, 2006).

The sentence expresses an idea, rephrased in your own words, that you read in an article. To show where you found the idea, you add the authors' names and the year the article was published. Now, anyone who reads your paper will know that you found this idea in a 2006 article by Blair and Hoy. In the back of your paper, in the References list, there will be a corresponding citation beginning with the authors' names, Blair and Hoy, and the year their article was published, 2006.

Here is another example of a sentence in your paper:

"The workplace is as able to prepare someone for success in the academy as the academy is able to prepare someone to enter the workforce" (Blair & Hoy, 2006, p. 35).

This one is a direct quotation. You are using the exact words from the article you have read, and so you have placed this sentence inside quotation marks. You also use an in-text citation to show where you found this quotation. The in-text citation looks the same as our previous example. However, when you are quoting directly from an article that has page numbers, then you include the page number on which the quotation appeared in the original article. This quotation appeared on page 35 of the article by Blair and Hoy. Again, this in-text citation will correspond with a reference citation at the back of your paper, for Blair and Hoy, 2006.

The in-text citations for Blair and Hoy, 2006, clearly lead to the corresponding citation in the References list at the back of your paper.

Blair, K., & Hoy, C. (2006). Paying attention to adult learning online: The pedagogy and politics of community. Computers and Composition, 23(1), 32-48. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2005.12.006

  • The reference citation begins with the authors' names and the year their article was published.
  • The reference citation also includes the title of the article;
  • the journal in which the article was published;
  • the volume, issue and page numbers of the article;
  • and the DOI number for the article.

The DOI number, or Digital Object Identifier, is a unique identifying number for the article. Many articles that you find in library databases will have a DOI number.

Generally speaking, if an article has a DOI number, you will see it as part of the database record for the article.

If the article you are citing does not have a DOI number, then you should finish your citation with “Retrieved from” followed by the URL of the journal homepage.

To find the journal homepage, search the Web for the journal title. Put the title inside quotation marks, so that you are searching that exact sequence of words.

When you have found the journal homepage, you can copy and paste the URL into your citation.

If you cannot find the journal homepage, which may happen, for example, if the article you are citing is old and the journal no longer exists, then do a Web search for the homepage of the database in which you found the article, and use that URL at the end of your citation, after the words “Retrieved from.” This article was retrieved from the library database JSTOR.

Taken as a whole, the reference citation gives anyone reading your paper all the information needed to track down the article you have used.

Please note that a citation as it appears in a library database is not in APA format. The database citation contains elements that you need for your APA reference citation, such as the article title, journal title, volume number, and so forth. But in the database these elements are not formatted according to APA style. You have to change the database citation so that, when you put it in your References list, the citation will be in APA style.

To learn more about APA citations, please visit our library Web site, where you will see a link for Citation Help, as well as a link for Ask a Librarian. You can contact a UMUC librarian for help with APA citation style and any of your research questions.