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Citation Guide

This guide gives overviews and sample citations for MLA and APA citation styles.

APA Style

About APA Style

APA Style is a set of guidelines developed by the American Psychological Association for formatting academic manuscripts and citing work by other writers. It is most commonly used by scholars in the social sciences, including Psychology, Sociology, Women's Studies, Political Science, Education, Business, Communications, and others. Details of the current guidelines can be found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition, (available at all MSJC Libraries) or at the APA Style Center online.

The guidelines dictate how an APA style paper should be formatted overall and the elements that should be included within it, but the primary focus is to show writers how to properly construct the two major components involved in citing your sources: the Reference List and in-text citations.

Formatting Your Paper [APA 2.2-2.28] (page 30-49) 

In general, your paper should include, at minimum, the following elements:

  • Title page [APA 2.2-2.6]
  • Page numbers [APA 2.18]
  • Text of paper [APA 2.11] 
  • References list [APA 2.12] 

Your instructor may require additional elements consistent with APA style, including an abstract or introduction, tables, figures, and appendices. Check with your instructor for details about these requirements.

Sample APA Style paper

Reference List [APA 9.1-9.52] (page 281-309)

Your reference list should begin on a new page following the text of your paper. Here you will include complete citations for the resources you've used in your writing. 

Four Elements of a Reference [APA 9.4-9.37] (page 283-300)  

As stated in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association “Each element answers a question: 

  • Author: Who is responsible for this work? 
  • Date: When was this work published? 
  • Title: What is this work called? 
  • Source: Where can I retrieve this work?” 

Tips for formatting your reference list:

  • Begin the list on a new page with the title References in bold, centered at the top of the page.
  • The list should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each citation.
  • The entire list should be double-spaced (both within each entry and between entries) and should use hanging indents (all lines after the first line of each entry should be indented 0.5 inch from the left margin).
  • Authors are listed with the last name first, followed by the first and middle initials. (E.g.: Skinner, B. F.)
  • When citing books, chapters, Web pages, articles, and reports, capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle as well as proper nouns.
  • When citing academic journal articles, capitalize all major words in the journal title.
  • Don't use quotation marks around titles of journal or periodical articles.

Consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 7th ed. or visit Purdue University's Online Writing Lab for help with Reference List: Basic Rules

In-Text Citations [APA 8.1-8.22] (page 253-278)

APA Style uses the author-date method of in-text citation in the body of the paper. [APA 8.10] In-text citations briefly reference the sources you used at the point they appear in your paper and direct your readers to the full citation in your Reference list.

In-text citations have two formats: parenthetical and narrative. Both formats must include: 

  • Author(s) last name 
  • Year of publication

Parenthetical: (Author, Date) 

The author of the work being credited, along with the date it was published, are included in parentheses, divided by a comma.  


Experts' ability to reason depends on well-organized knowledge (Bransford, 2000). 

Narrative: Author (Date) 

The author of the work appears in the sentence text with the date in parentheses immediately following. 


Kahneman & Klein (2009) found that there is not a strong correlation between a high GPA and early readers.


Consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 7th ed. or visit Purdue University's Online Writing Lab for help with the basics of in-text citations.