Wednesday, 16 May 2012

How to use APA Style

This is only a brief overview of some of the issues of using APA style in your text references based on some of the problems I've seen in the essays I've edited. If you want to source the details of APA style, go to the source: The American Psychological Association.

In-text citations 

Basically, the difference between APA style and the other major style of citations, MLA, is how APA uses in-line text citations. In APA style, the name of the author and the year of publication are inserted in brackets directly after the reference (Francis, 2010).

The first challenge for using APA style for in-text citations is when to use page numbers. "If you are quoting from a text, then you should use page numbers" (Francis, 2010, p 3.). If you are only paraphrasing an idea, then only use the author's name and date of publication (Francis, 2010). If a work has two authors use both names joined by "and" in the text and both names joined by & in the parentheses (Francis & Francis, 2010). With three to five authors, cite all names in the first instance and use "et al." in subsequent instances. Six or more, simply use et al. For an unknown author, cite the name of the work (HGPublishing, 2010).

It is important to note that et al. is an abbreviation and ends in a period. Do not put a period after a comma. If you have two sources for the same information, cite both in the same order as in the bibliography. (Francis, 2010; HGPublishing, 2001)


At the end of your essay, write a list of references. This is a list of all the references you have used, in alphabetical order by the last name of the main author. If there is not author's name available, use the title of the article, but place it alphabetically in the list as if it were the author's name. The reference list should be a separate page.

The basic format of bibliographical references for journal articles is:
Name, Initial., Name2, Initial., and Name3, Initial. (Year) Article Name. Journal Name. Volume number(issue number), pages.

Note the use of italics above. Only the Journal Name and Volume number are in italics. Each name is identified by the last name followed by the intial(s). Even if the journal identifies the authors by first name and middle name, you only use initials in APA style.

The biggest controversy I hear from students is how to cite sources from the internet. I often see students who include the date and URL for every reference which they downloaded. What the APA says is this:
"When a citation includes a digital object identifier (DOI) no further information is needed. When a DOI is not available, and a URL is included, do not include retrieval dates unless the source changes over time." A DOI is a special number used to identify an electronically published article. It is usually found on the first page of the article near the copyright notice or on the landing page where the article was found.

This means you do not need dates when you download articles from your library's electronic journal database. Simply use the DOI. You only need dates and URLs when you download information from a wiki since that web page can change at any time. For a web page, try to see if there is a date (often in small print for copyright purposes at the foot of the page). If there is a date, use it in brackets after the title. If there is no date use "n.d." for "no date." The reference for this page would be:
HyperGraphix Publishing Services (n.d.) How to Use AP Style. Retrieved from