University of Houston-Victoria

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APA Quick Reference Guide: Section I

APA style uses the author-date method of citation: the surname of the author and the year of publication are inserted in the text at a specified point. This method gives readers useful information in text and helps them locate the citation easily in the alphabetical reference list. For direct quotations, the page number must be cited as well (see page 5 of this guide for more information). Generally, the author and year should not be separated. Note: If your instructor's guidelines differ from those specified in this guide, follow your instructor's requirements.

Works with One Author

If the name of the author occurs in the discussion within the sentence and you are paraphrasing or summarizing the original material, cite only the year of publication in parentheses. If the sentence does not mention the author's name, cite both the author and the year in parentheses, but separate the author and year with a comma.

Jackson (1996) identifies three key problems that lead to stress in today's families.
or
Today's families face three main problems that can cause stress (Jackson, 1996).

In continuous discussion of a particular source's ideas, after the initial parenthetical citation, you can cite the author's name without the parenthetical citation of the year if no ambiguity results within that paragraph. If the reader might misinterpret the source of the information, provide the year of publication. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

Davidson (1996) concludes that psyche represents the source of the problem. His studies of adolescents reveal that pressures tend to arise during the early years of psychological development. These pressures can include peer interactions, family obligations, and academic achievement. Davidson suggests that parents recognize the effects that these pressures can have on their teens.

Note that this form can only be used if the author’s name is included as part of the narrative. If the name and year are both used in a parenthetical in the first reference, subsequent references should have the year included.

Studies of adolescents reveal that pressures tend to arise during the early years of psychological development (Davidson, 1996). Davidson (1996) elaborates that…

Works with Two Authors

If a work has two authors, always cite both authors' names every time you cite the source. (The examples in the following text would be double-spaced if they appeared in the text of an actual paper.)

Braden and Darly (1997) recognize the financial benefits of this tax deduction. If individuals apply for this specific deduction by September 1, 1997, then their tax liability is decreased by $200.00. Braden and Darly suggest that qualifying individuals file at least one month in advance of the deadline.

For parenthetical citations of two authors, use the ampersand symbol & instead of the word and. For parenthetical citations of two authors, insert a comma between the last name mentioned and the year of publication.

Qualifying individuals need to file at least one month in advance (Braden & Darly, 1997).

If the work has from three to five authors, cite all the authors the first time the reference occurs. In subsequent citations of the same source, include only the surname of the first author followed by the words et al. (Do not italicize et al., but do use a period following al.) (The examples in the following text would be double-spaced if they appeared in the text of an actual paper.)

Jarvis, Haley, and Reed (1996) indicate that the computer operating system is extremely efficient. The program works well with integrated packages, and it provides more user options. Jarvis et al. conclude that this operating system represents the best one on the market.

For discontinuous discussion or where ambiguity may result, place the year after et al.

The authors indicate that web technology enables anyone to publish: The approval or sanction of others is not needed. The effect is that writers are liberated, but readers bear the burden because they must be more critical of what they read (Jarvis et al., 1996).

Be careful with citations of two sources that have the same first name and same year.

Harkins, Straight, and Lemper (1996)...
Harkins, Madison, and Levitt (1996)...

In subsequent citations, each source above could technically be cited as "Harkins et al. (1996)" in text, making the two indistinguishable. In such cases, cite the surnames of the first authors and of as many of the subsequent authors as necessary to distinguish the two references. “(Harkins, Straight et al., 1996)” would be the correct parenthetical citation.

For sources with six or more authors, always cite only the first author’s last name followed by et al. in text. (See page 175 in the APA Manual.) If you should encounter a situation where the same first few authors of two studies produced in the same year, as in the scenario above, you should follow the same guideline of including as many of the authors as necessary to distinguish the two.

Note: In the reference list, a study with six to seven authors would have all authors listed. If the work has eight or more authors, list the first six authors, insert three ellipses, and the last author’s name.

Works with Corporate or Group Authors

When a group (e.g. corporations, associations, and government agencies) serve as the author of an article, the name of the group should be spelled out in the first reference. For most groups, an abbreviation will follow that will be used in subsequent references. To decide whether to use an abbreviation, consider whether the abbreviation form is common enough to locate the source on the reference list.

The first time corporate or group authors are used, spell out the names followed by the abbreviated form in parentheses. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

The Department of Public Safety (DPS, 1997) explains that the increase in traffic problems is particular to a given location.
or
The increase in traffic problems is particular to a given location (Department of Public Safety [DPS], 1997).

If the name of the group is short or if abbreviation is unknown or could cause ambiguity, it is better to spell out the entire group name each time it is used.

Note:
In the reference list, always write out the full corporate or group author name.
See pages 94-95 of the APA manual for the use of brackets.

Works with No Authors or Anonymous Author

If a work has no author, use the first two or three words of the source's title and the year. (The examples in the following text would be double-spaced if they appeared in the text of an actual paper.)

The title of an article, chapter, or webpage with no author should be enclosed in quotation marks:

The juvenile detention center contains many repeat offenders ("Juvenile Recidivism," 1997).

The title of a book, periodical, brochure, or report with no author should be italicized:

Most employees experience violence in the workplace at least once (Business Trends, 1996).

If a work indicates the author is anonymous, cite in text the word Anonymous (not italicized) followed by a comma and the date. In the reference list, alphabetize by the word Anonymous.

Copyright and authority are often extensions of each other in the print culture (Anonymous, 2001).

Note: Legal materials should be treated as a work with no author using the first few words and the year in the in-text reference. See pages 216-224 of the APA Manual for further information regarding citing specific types of legal references.

Two or More Separate Works by Different Authors

When citing several works by different authors within the same parentheses, list them in alphabetical (not chronological) order by the first author's surname. Separate the citations by semicolons. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

Several studies by environmentalists indicate that the rain forests soon will live only in our memories (Decker & Nowles, 1997; Marley, 1995; Sullivan, 1996).

If one of the studies is a major citation, it can be separated from the others within the parentheses by inserting a phrase such as see also before the other citations included.

(Dabney, 1936; see also Woodward, 1971; Grantham, 1983)

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are works that reference other authors. Always try to locate and use the original work. If it is not possible to do so, cite the original source (the source who originally stated the idea) in your sentence and the secondary source (the source where you actually located the information) and its year of publication in parentheses. Include the words as cited in (not italicized) for the parenthetical documentation of the secondary source. Provide a year of publication only for the source where you located the information since only this source will be listed in your reference section. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

According to Sampson (1954), individuals tend to vote the party supported by their ancestors (as cited in Povarick, 1996).

Note:
Sampson = original person making the observation
Povarick = secondary source where Sampson's observation is discussed.

Personal Communications

Personal communications include interviews, e-mails, electronic bulletin boards, letters, memos, and telephone conversations. Use the interviewee's initials or first name, the surname, and the exact date of the communication. Identify this source as personal communication and provide the date at the end of the first sentence referencing the source by name. Personal communications are considered non-recoverable data, which means it should not be listed in the references. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

Dr. J. Thompson, humanities professor at Purdue, stresses the crucial feature of point of view in a piece of literature (personal communication, January 17, 1997). She emphasizes that the point of view represents a unique feature within fictional texts.

Some forms of communication facilitate informality in communication; information cited should always have scholarly relevance.

Direct Quotations

When directly repeating words from a source, use quotation marks to indicate the original wording used by the source.

When citing print sources you have quoted, include the page number in your citation. Electronic sources may or may not have page numbers. Include the page number if the electronic source does have a page number. If the electronic source does not have a page number, include paragraph numbers (if visible). If paragraph numbers or page numbers are not visible and headings are within the document, cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following the heading to direct the reader to the quoted material. Use the abbreviation “para.” When no page, or paragraph is used or if the headings are too unwieldy to cite in full, it may be necessary to use a shortened version of the title in quotation marks instead. (See page 172 in the APA Manual for further information.)

Short Quotations (fewer than 40 words)

Incorporate the information into the text of the sentence. Place the period after the parenthetical citation of the page number. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

Rivera (1998) found that "98% of those surveyed preferred the term 'bucket' to 'pail'" (p. 34).

As Norlink (2001) indicates, “hypnosis is effective in 35 out of 100 cases” (Hypnosis Explained section, para. 3).

Long Quotations (40 or more words)

For long quotations, use the block quote format and omit the quotation marks (unless the author uses quoted information). Begin the quote on a new line indented ½ inch from the left margin only and type the block quotation using double spacing between the lines. Place a period at the end of the quotation, followed by a single space, and then type “p.” and the page number(s) in parentheses. (Quotation marks should not be included around p.) Note that no period follows the closing parenthesis. (In an actual paper, the following text would be double-spaced.)

According to Haley (1996), the bonding process occurs within the first two weeks after birth:
The bonding process among infants exhibits a unique characteristic within the 14-day post-partum period. During this time, infants can identify and later recognize characteristics unique to the caretaker. These characteristics can include the tone of voice, body scent, and smile of a given caretaker. (p. 61)

This bonding process, unless interrupted, can significantly affect the relationship that develops during the pre-school years.

Note: For quotes from two or more pages, use "pp." and the page numbers (pp. 56-57).

Note: To identify information within a block quotation that is already quoted, use double quotation marks around the quoted material.

General Tips

  • Use a topic sentence to "set up" the discussion within an entire paragraph.
  • Avoid "stringing together" sources, which involves placing one author's information in one sentence and moving on to another source's information in the next. Comment on, conclude, interpret, or "tie up the loose ends" of one author's information before advancing to another source.
  • Spell out numbers zero through nine; use the Arabic representations for 10 and over.
  • Use APA preferred spelling and capitalization for common terms: database, e-mail, FTP, Internet, online, PDF, URL, and Web.