APA Citation Style: All You Should Know

APA Citation Style: All You Should Know

When it comes to sourcing your materials for a research paper you need to know how to do it properly. This includes being able to create citations, which are used in the paper you’ve written, and a bibliography, which contains a more complete record at the end of your paper. But there are a number of different types of citation methods that you could use. It all depends on your teachers requirements or your personal preference. So, let’s take a quick look at the importance of citing sources and the most common of the available styles.


1. Why You Need to Cite Sources

When you’re writing papers or recording information that is general information or public knowledge you don’t typically need to cite sources. Stating known facts, for example, are typically not required to be sourced. But when you are writing a professional paper you will need to have sources that back up the information that you are sharing. In your university courses, for example, professors will require you to cite your sources and reference the places that you got information you used to write your paper.

If you don’t properly cite your sources you will often find yourself losing points on your assignment or failing the assignment. But that’s going to be the lesser punishment for what’s considered plagiarism in the professional world. If it’s determined that you are intentionally passing off information that someone else has created as your own work you could even face expulsion in college and universities. In fact, you could be removed from a class or even removed from the school entirely as a result of plagiarizing content.

That’s why it’s crucial to always cite your sources. And if you’re not completely positive if something needs to be cited, it’s best to err on the side of caution and cite it anyway. This protects your academic integrity and gives you a better chance at doing well on your tasks.


2. Common Citation Types

There are plenty of different citations types that are used, but some are definitely more common than others. The most common are APA, MLA and Chicago, though most high schools and many colleges and universities stick to APA and MLA. In fact, many schools tend to use these two citations methods interchangeably and teachers may allow you to use either one in your writing. Just make sure that you are using one common style throughout the entire paper as there are some differences between the two.

2.1 APA

APA style is one of the more common options and is commonly used by fields such as education, psychology and science. It uses parenthetical APA in-text citations as well as a list at the end of the paper with all of your sources. The most important aspect APA citation is the date that the source was created or published. The key is being able to determine just how relevant the information is based on how current it is.

2.2 MLA

MLA style is another relatively common style of citations that is used primarily by the humanities field. This style also uses parenthetical in-text citations and a list at the very end. It’s usually referred to as a works cited page to contain all of your sources. The most important aspect here is the authorship of the source. So the authors name is the first thing that’s recorded so that interpretation of the data is developed.

2.3 Chicago

Chicago style is less frequently used but fields such as business, history and fine arts will often use it. This method is different from the others because it typically uses footnotes and endnotes with links throughout the text. There is another version that is sometimes used in a similar manner to the APA style, but most often you will have notations in the text with superset numbers that link to corresponding numbers in the footnotes of the page. Those footnotes contain the entire information related to the source.

2.4 Lesser Known Options

Lesser known citation formats include IEEE, AMA and ASA. IEEE is used by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and is generally used only for engineering, computer science and technological fields. AMA is used by the American Medical Association for medical research purposes. ASA is used by the American Sociological Association and is used for university level research papers, but primarily only in the field of sociology.


3. Using APA Format

Now, each of these methods of writing out citations is correct in different contexts. The key is to know what your professor wants you to use as that’s usually the only way you will be able to select just one. If your professor does not require one over the other you will have the opportunity to choose which works best for you. One of the best options to choose in that case, is APA.

APA style citations are relatively simple to create and they’re simple to understand as well. If you have to create them yourself you should know that there are four main sections that are included in an APA citation for your bibliography. Keep in mind that this will change depending on what you are specifically citing. A book, for example, uses the following format:

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Date). Book Title. Publisher.


Other types of material will require different information, such as a section of a book rather than an entire book. In that case you will also need to include the chapter title and the pages that you use. Such as:

Author Last Name, First Initial (Date). Chapter/Article Title. Book Title. (Edition. Pages.) Publisher.


Similarly, journals that you source need to include all of the same information as you would include for a section of a book:

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Date). Article Title. Journal Title, Volume Number. Page Numbers. DOI/Website Address


Printed journals or newspapers will include:

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Date). Title of Article. Title of Newspaper/Journal. Column/section. Pages.


Web pages or websites will require a full rendering of the web address that you found the information on as well as all of the other information that you need for other source types.

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Date of Publication). Web Article Title. Title of Web Site. Retrieved Date. Web Address.


You can even cite images in APA formatting (and other types of formatting as well). You will still need to have much of the same information in order to do this properly as well.

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Publication Date). Image Title. [Type of Media]. Website Address


Movies and Films are another type of content you may need to source:

Producer Last Name, First Initial. (Producer, & Director Last Name, First Initial. (Director). (Year of Release). Title of Film. [Format of Content]. Country of Origin: Studio Name.


In general, there are specific formats and styles for every type of material that you may source. You will find APA specific citation formats for:

  • Books
  • Sections/chapters/articles of books
  • Lectures
  • Journal article from database/website
  • Journal article from print
  • Online newspaper articles
  • Print newspaper articles
  • Websites
  • Web articles
  • Podcasts
  • Conference proceedings
  • Conference documents
  • Unpublished sources
  • And more


4. Writing Your APA Citations

If you’re going to write out these citations by hand you will want to study the specific layout for each type of source that you might need to use. In fact, you may need to refer back to the formatting for each source as you write it. This can take a great deal of time and definitely a lot of effort. But it’s not the only way that you can create APA citations. Instead, you can use reference management softwares like Endnote. We recommend this great course that teaches you all you need to know about it.

Access It Here

you can also use browser extensions to help you out.  Although they are not full-featured softwares, they can help you for certain reference types like websites. All you need to do is install them to your Chrome browser and you’ll be able to start citing your sources easily. But which ones should you be looking at for yourself? Well, there are two that have some of the best ratings and options, that will help you get all of your citations done accurately and quickly with very little input from you.

4.1 Citethisforme

Cite This For Me actually has a website that will let you add new references in any style that you want from APA and MLA to Chicago, AMA, Harvard, IEEE, ISO, MHRA, Turabian and Vancouver. Basically, if someone uses it you an get it on Cite This For Me. But what’s even better than the standard method of using the website is that you can also download their extension for your browser. That’s because the website requires you to put in information so that it can generate the citation. The extension doesn’t.

If you install the extension for Chrome then you won’t have to do all of the work. That’s because the extension generates everything for you automatically. You can just tell it to generate and the format you want and you’ll have a full citation ready. Not to mention you can get the APA in text citation or the full reference that you need for the end of the paper. That’s going to make it easier for you to just copy and paste it exactly where you need it so you’re ready as you go.

4.2 EasyBib

Another popular source to get all of your citations taken care of is Easy Bib. This is another free website that lets you create citations in a number of different formats from MLA and APA to Chicago and some of the more obscure methods that are used only in very specific fields. You’ll be able to add any of the information you need directly into the page and get an accurate citation for in-text as well as at the end for your reference page. But if you’re using Chrome you can also install the browser extension to get even easier access.

With the browser extension you don’t need to add any of the information for your source. You can just go to the page you need and click on the button to cite the source for you. Then you’ll get the in-text citation that you need as well as the reference you need for the end of the page. All of this will help you to get the information you need more quickly so you can get right back to writing, without having to spend a lot of time on the rest of the steps and the manual writing.


5. Learning How it Works

Now, that doesn’t mean that you’ll never want to write out the citations on your own. Or that you’ll never have to. After all, if you’re using a more obscure piece of content, and especially one that you access through a physical copy, you’ll need to know how to cite it for your paper. In that case, you may need to know the steps to cite your sources for yourself. That’s where this great course is going to be a great option for you.

When you know how to create a citation you’re going to have a better chance of getting it done right and a better chance of getting it done more quickly. Our course will focus on some of the basic aspects of bibliography including APA formatting so you can make sure that you’re getting the right information together and that you’re putting it together the right way. We’ll help you understand several of the different types of documents and sources you may need to source, so you can make sure that you won’t be making any mistakes on your next paper.

Access It Here

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