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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.

A few things to know about APA

Multiple authors: References citations

When a source has more than one author (2 to 20), list them all in the References page citation.

When a source has 21 or more authors, list the first 19 authors, follow with an ellipsis..., then list the last author as shown on the article. Example:

Okore, W., 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. Journal of Improbable Mathematics27(1), 78–86. http://doi.org/10.0000/3mp7y-537

Multiple authors: In-text citations

  • 2 authors: List them both every time you cite that source; (Adams & Coleman, 2023).
  • 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: (Urschel et al., 2023).

‚Äčthe References citation - 5 authors:

Urschel, H., Gillanders, H., Toppeta, O., Williams, R., & Snoek-Brown, J. (2023). Citing sources: APA (American Psychological Association). TCC Library Research Guides. http://tacomacc.libguides.com/TCCLibrary/research-guides

the in-text citation:

 (Urschel et al., 2023).

Citing website documents & pages

Webpages and website documents are treated as stand-alone documents, which means that webpage titles are in italics and website names appear in normal typeface (this is the opposite from citing journal, magazine, or newspaper articles).

Example:

Goodman, B. (2020, January 17). Could your Fitbit help detect the flu? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20200117/could-your-fitbit-help-detect-the-flu

Citing an entire website

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 COL 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 (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html) which is a valuable resource for writing and research help and for citation support.

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If you are referring to a single page from a website, or a document you retrieved from a website, see the tab for citing a webpage or web document.

Retrieval links in References page citations

  • For anyone who remembers APA 6, that edition 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 webpage URL (activated as a hyperlink):

Example of a webpage citation:

TCC Librarians. (2020). Citing sources: APA. TCC Library website: http://tacomacc.libguides.com/Citing_Sources/apa

When do we include a retrieval date? Hardly ever.

When contents of a webpage are designed to change over time and are not archived, include a retrieval data in the References page citation.

Example:

U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). U.S. and world population clock. U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved November 6, 2023, from https://www.census.gov/popclock/

DOIs and URLs

There are a lot of rules... sorry:

General summary for electronic (non-print) sources and the inclusion of retrieval information in References citations:

DOIs and URLs

  • If there is a DOI, use the DOI (DOIs are only used for scholarly journal articles and scholarly books).
  • If there is no DOI (either you can't find one, or the source is not a scholarly journal or book), do nothing. Do not substitute with a Library database URL*, for example.
    • *However, as a student, your instructor might prefer it if you include a library database URL so sources can be accessed more quickly when grading 100 papers! Always ask your instructor if they have any unique course-specific citation rules they would like you to follow.
  • If there is no DOI, and 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).

Example of a References page citation for a scholarly journal that has a listed DOI:

Weltsek, G. J. (2019). Theatre programs in community colleges: A policy for equity. Arts Education Policy Review120(2), 103–111. https://doi.org/10.1080/10632913.2018.1423594

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 https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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

Hurston, N. Z. (1930). Poker! http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/15902/pg15902-images.html

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 for students: Student papers do not need "running heads" - a bit of the paper's title in the header along with the page number Student papers just need page numbers. Read on for more information about running heads, if you like.

  • 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.
  • Professional papers need running heads, which will appear in the header space on the left corner of the paper, as a SHORTENED PAPER TITLE in all caps.

Singular "they"

The APA is ignoring traditional 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.

  • Writers should use the singular “they” in two main cases: (a) when referring to a generic person whose sex or gender is unknown or irrelevant to the context and (b) when referring to a specific, known person who uses “they/them” as their pronouns.
  • When referring to a generic person whose sex or 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 using she/he when referring to them later, as needed.

Bias-free language

"The guidelines for bias-free language contain both general guidelines for writing about people without bias across a range of topics and specific guidelines that address the individual characteristics of age, disability, gender, participation in research, racial and ethnic identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality" (APA.org). Example: Acknowledge humanity: Instead of "the homeless" put the person first "people who are living unhoused." See the link below for more information, guidelines, and suggestions..

Accessibility

While accessibility considerations are not unique to APA 7, there are more specific APA guidelines that adhere to WCAG 

For example, URLs should be formatted as descriptive text, as you see modeled below. instead of labeling the link and then providing a URL separately,

As of April 2023 this is APA's recommendation for citing outputs from Open AI's ChatGPT, or any large language model generative AI. Please ask your instructors for their guidelines about the use of generative AI in your course work.

References page citation

OpenAI. (2023). ChatGPT (Mar 14 version) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com/chat

Parenthetical citation: (OpenAI, 2023)

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.

References

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.

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.

. . . . . . . .

References

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. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9887-y

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