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Citing sources: APA (American Psychological Association)

When and how to cite (and avoid accidental plagiarism!)

What is APA style?

"APA style" is the citation style guide used in health and social sciences.

As the American Psychological Association (APA) states:

When editors or teachers ask you to write in "APA Style," they are referring to the editorial style that many of the social and behavioral sciences have adopted to present written material in the field. APA Style was first developed 80 years ago by a group of social scientists who wished to establish sound standards of communication. Since that time, it has been adopted by leaders in many fields and has been used by writers around the world.

Video tutorial: Introduction to APA, 7th edition

Watch the video below for an introduction to using APA style, 7th edition. To see it in a larger window, click on the link below. This video tutorial was created by TCC librarians.

Did you know? NEW APA 7th edition

The new 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual is here!

What does that mean for you?
  • APA 7th edition (2019) replaces APA 6th edition (2009). There are a few changes you should know about as you proceed as a student or instructor. 
  • In keeping with other past updates to publication styles, the Library and Writing & Tutoring (WTC) center will be transitioning to support APA 7. While both the Library and the WTC are now teaching primarily APA 7, we continue to provide support and handouts for both 6 and 7 (clearly labeled). Full transition (no longer providing 6th edition support) will begin in Fall 2020.
  • Students and faculty: Please be advised that there is still copious amounts of APA 6 resources on the Web, so if your assignments are APA 7, use only the TCC Library citation guides and Purdue OWL for self-help.
  • Explore the tabs in this box for quick info about some of the changes. In the assessment of the Library and the WTC, the tabs here represent what most students would need to know to successfully present papers in APA 7 style.
  • Chat live with a Librarian on the virtual Research Desk, or contact the Writing and Tutoring Center for help with APA 7 and all other citation styles.

Multiple authors: In-text citations

  • For APA 6 there were several rules about when and how to list multiple authors in an in-text citation. It’s easier now:
  • 2 authors: List them both each time you cite that source;
  • More than 2 authors: Every time you cite that source list the first author’s name, then use et al. to indicate there are others.
  • Example:

the in-text citation:

Your TCC Librarians and the Director of the Writing and Tutoring Center encourage you (and your instructors) to use APA 6 through Winter 2020. If you already know APA 6, it would not hurt their feelings if you kept using it through Spring 2020 as well, especially if it means you will be devoting that energy to your researching and writing skills (Urschel et al., 2020).‚Äč

the References citation:

Urschel, H., Adams, M. K., Cmiel, S., Williams, R., Gillanders, H., & Snoek-Brown, J. (2020). Citing sources: APA (American Psychological Association). TCC Library Research Guides.

Multiple authors: References citations

  • When a work has up to 20 authors, list them all in the References citation (yes, that’s a lot of authors).
  • The good news is, you will rarely need to enact the following APA 7 rule:
    • More than 21 authors? List the first 19, follow with an ellipsis..., then list the last author as listed on the article. Example:

Wiskunde, B., Arslan, M., Fischer, P., Nowak, L., Van den Berg, O., Coetzee, L., Juárez, U., Riyaziyyat, E., Kimura, Y., Zhang, I., Chakraborty, P., Yang, M. L., Kumar, B., Xu, A., Martinez, R., McIntosh, V., Ibáñez, L. M., Mäkinen, G., Virtanen, E., . . . Kovács, A. (2019). The mathematics of the unicorn's horn. Imaginary Journal of Improbable Mathematics27(1), 78–86.

Formatting website documents & pages

Webpages and website documents are now treated as stand-alone documents, which means that those titles are in italics and website names appear in normal typeface.


Goodman, B. (2020, January 17). Could your Fitbit help detect the flu? WebMD. Retrieved from


Goodman, B. (2020, January 17). Could your Fitbit help detect the flu? WebMD.

Citing an entire website

  • APA 6 indicated that we should make an in-text citation for each entire Website we refer to in our papers, and also provide a References page citation for them.
  • For APA 7, after referring to an entire Website in your paper, provide its homepage URL in parentheses, as an active link, immediately after. You may then omit the Website from your list of References.
  • Example from an HD 101 student's Student Success Plan paper:

In addition to consulting with TCC Research Librarians and the Writing and Tutoring Center, my student success plan will include bookmarking and using the Purdue OWL ( which is a valuable resource for writing and research help and for citation support.

(If you are referring to a single page from a Website, or a document you retrieved from a Website, cite as you would any article, both in-text, and as an entry in your References page.)

Retrieval links, References citations

  • For a Webpage citation, APA 6 directed us to type “Retrieved from” just before the Webpage URL.
  • For APA 7 we eliminate the “Retrieved from” and get right on with the URL (activated as a hyperlink):
  • Example:

TCC Librarians. (2020). Citing sources. TCC Library website:

  • (If  information on a Webpage is likely to be unstable [it might disappear or, in the case of the example belowchange content frequently], APA 7 still advises us to include a date of retrieval)

Centers for Disease Control. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19). Retrieved February 29, 2020 from

DOIs and URLs

There are a lot more rules... sorry:

General summary for electronic (non-print) sources and the inclusion of retrieval information (DOIs and URLs):

  • If there is a DOI, use the DOI (DOIs are only used for scholarly journal articles).
  • If there is no DOI (either you can't find one, or the source is an e-book, magazine article, or newspaper article), do nothing. Do not substitute with a library database URL, for example.
  • If there is no DOI, BUT the source is available in full text, free of charge on the open Web (not a library database), you can replace the DOI with the document's URL (web address).
  • However, as a student, your instructor might prefer it if you use a library database URL so sources can be accessed more quickly when grading 26 papers!
    • Always ask your instructor if they have any unique course-specific citation rules they would like you to follow.

If you do not know what a DOI is, and/or the above doesn't make much sense to you, please see the link below.

Citing books and ebooks

References page citations for books used to include the publisher's location (a city, and perhaps state as well). APA no longer requires the publisher's location. This applies to both print books and e-books.

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. New York: One World.

As with periodicals, if an e-book is accessed through a subscription database, such as EBook Central, do not include a retrieval URL:

Tuck, S. & Gates, H. L. (2014). The night Malcolm X spoke at the Oxford Union: A transatlantic story of antiracist protest. Retrieved from

And also as with periodicals, if an ebook is available freely online to anyone, include a retrieval URL:

Hurston, N. Z. (1930). Poker!

eReader edition of a book? (Kindle for example)

APA 7 no longer requires a format note [Kindle]; cite as you would any other book

Paper formatting: The "running head"

  • Quick and easy: The APA has decided that student papers do not need "running heads", just page numbers. Read on for more information.
  • A “running head” is a shortened version of  a paper’s title, appearing on each page in the left-side header space of a paper.
    • APA 6 required a running head on each page of a paper. On the cover page, the running head was preceded with the words: “Running head" and then the SHORTENED PAPER TITLE in all caps.
  • For professional papers, omit the words “Running head:” from the running head on the cover page and just use a SHORTENED PAPER TITLE as before. If you have struggled to make the cover page header different from the rest of the paper, this solves that little problem.
  • See the links below

Singular "they"

The APA is ignoring grammar conventions in favor of reducing bias and gender-binary assumption. APA 7 endorses the use of they/them when the gender of a person is unknown or, as is most common, irrelevant.

This is directly from the APA:

  • Writers should use the singular “they” in two main cases: (a) when referring to a generic person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context and (b) when referring to a specific, known person who uses “they” as their pronoun.
  • When referring to a generic person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context, use the singular “they” as the pronoun. For example, if you use nouns like “person,” “individual,” or “everyone” or phrases like “every teacher” or “each nurse” in a sentence, use the appropriate form of the pronoun “they” [rather than she/he] as needed.

Bias-free language

Always put the person first when necessarily describing specific aspects of individuals. Instead of "the homeless" or "homeless people" use "people who are living homeless". Instead of "epileptic" use "person with epilepsy". Similarly, put the identity first, instead of "autistic person", use " a person with autism."


While accessibility is not new to APA 7, there are new, and more specific, guidelines adhering to WCAG 

For example, URLs should be formatted as descriptive text, instead of labeling the link, and then providing a URL separately:


Please click on the link below to read more about APA 7 and accessibility


Read more about APA 7 and accessibility here.

APA and MLA help for citing government documents

Government documents or reports -- from local, county, state, and/or national government departments -- are cited a little differently in both APA and MLA citation styles. For government documents or data, in most cases the author will be the government department responsible for compiling or publishing the data/report/document.

Examples for citing government documents:

Click the links below for good guides, with examples, for how to cite Census data, tax forms and other government documents.

TCC Library's APA 7th edition handouts

Here are some handouts (in both .docx and .pdf formats) featuring examples citations for sources you might find through TCC's Library and the Web.

  • Note: As of October 2019, APA 6 was updated to APA 7.
  • If you are unfamiliar with APA, this will not effect you!
  • If you have been using APA 6, please see our guide to the changes linked below.


In-text citations

Citing social media

APA help links

APA web forms

Use the sites below to plug in the appropriate information and view your citation in APA format. Successful use depends upon entering correct information! Compare your results with an APA style handout available on this page.

While NoodleTools has transitioned to APA 7, Citation Machine is still using APA 6th edition. (2/13/2020)

What does "citing" mean?

There are two parts to a citation:

  1. The brief in-text citation lets your reader know where the information in your paper came from, as you are using it. Usually, this means the author(s) and year.
  2. The full References citation is on a separate References page, letting your reader know, in detail, where to find that source.

Below is an example of how the two citation pieces fit together in APA style:

Gordon and Cui (2015) found compelling evidence suggesting that a person’s career outcomes in adulthood are more of a product of the quality of their childhood relationships with their parent(s), or other adult guardians, rather than the quality of the education they received.

. . . . . . . .


Gordon, M. S., & Cui, M. (2015). Positive parenting during adolescence and career success in young adulthood. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(3), 762-771.

CC BY SA license

Except where otherwise noted, the content in these guides by Tacoma Community College Library is licensed under CC BY SA 4.0.
This openly licensed content allows others to cite, share, or modify this content, with credit to TCC Library. When reusing or adapting this content, include this statement in the new document: This content was originally created by Tacoma Community College Library and shared with a CC BY SA 4.0 license.

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