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Navigating the ins and outs of APA citation style: a brief guide with examples

Updated: May 2, 2023


APA citation style  by Julie Pinborough Copyeditor and Proofreader, London.

The APA citation style is one of the most widely used in academia, especially in the social sciences. However, navigating the ins and outs of APA can be challenging, especially if you are new to it.


In this blog, we will briefly explore the APA citation style, providing examples and tips to help you master it.


Introduction to APA citation style


APA citation style is a set of rules and guidelines developed by the American Psychological Association (APA) to help writers, researchers, and students to acknowledge and give credit to other authors’ work they have used in their research papers, essays, and publications. It’s used in various academic fields, including psychology, sociology, business, and education.


Why is APA citation style important?


APA citation style is essential because it helps to:

  • Give credit to the authors whose work you have used in your research

  • Show the credibility of your research by acknowledging the sources you have used

  • Avoid plagiarism, which is a serious academic offence that can result in penalties such as expulsion from school or legal action

  • Allow readers to locate and verify the sources you have used in your research

Key elements of APA citation style


APA citation style has several key elements that you need to know to cite your sources correctly. These elements include:

  • Author(s)

  • Publication year

  • Title of the article or book

  • Title of the journal or publisher

  • Volume number and issue number (for journals)

  • Page numbers

  • DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or URL (for online sources)


In APA citation style, the author’s name(s) always come first, followed by the publication year, title, and other elements, depending on the type of source you are citing.


In-text citation examples


In-text citation is the method of citing sources within the text of your research paper or essay. In APA citation style, there are two ways to do in-text citation: parenthetical and narrative.


Parenthetical citation


Parenthetical citation is the most common method of in-text citation in APA citation style. It involves placing the author’s name and the publication year in parentheses at the end of the sentence where you have used the source.


For example:


“The world is experiencing a global pandemic that has affected millions of people” (Smith, 2020).


Narrative citation


Narrative citation is the alternative method of in-text citation in APA citation style. It involves incorporating the author’s name and the publication year into the sentence.


For example:


According to Smith (2020), the world is experiencing a global pandemic that has affected millions of people.


Reference list examples


A reference list is a list of all the sources you have cited in your research paper or essay. In APA citation style, the reference list should be alphabetised by the author’s last name and include the following elements:


Author(s)

Publication year

Title of the article or book

Title of the journal or publisher

Volume number and issue number (for journals)

Page numbers

DOI or URL (for online sources)


Book


Smith, J. K. (2020). The art of writing. Academic Press.


Journal article


Johnson, M. A. (2020). The effects of social media on mental health. Journal of Social Psychology, 23(4), 45-56. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2020.1234567


Website


World Health Organization. (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. https://www.who.int/emergencies/disease/novel-coronavirus-2019


Common APA citation mistakes to avoid


APA citation style can be challenging, and it is easy to make mistakes. Here are some common ones to avoid:

  • Forgetting to include page numbers for direct quotes

  • Not alphabetising the reference list by the author’s last name

  • Using the wrong format for different types of sources

  • Incorrectly formatting the title of an article or book

  • Not including the DOI or URL for online sources


Tips for mastering APA citation style


To master the APA style, here are some tips to help you:

  • Familiarise yourself with the key elements of the APA citation style

  • Use reliable APA citation style guides and online resources

  • Practice citing sources regularly

  • Keep track of your sources using a reference manager

  • Proofread your citations for accuracy and consistency


Tools to help with APA citation


There are various tools that you can use to help you with APA citations, including:


  • APA citation style guides

  • Online citation generators

  • Reference managers such as Mendeley, Zotero, and EndNote


Frequently asked questions about APA citation


What is the difference between the APA citation style and the MLA citation style?


APA and MLA citation styles are two of the most commonly used citation styles. While APA is used primarily in the social sciences, MLA is used in the humanities. APA also has different formatting rules and citation elements than MLA.


How do I cite an author with multiple works in APA citation style?


If an author has multiple works, you should cite them chronologically, starting with the earliest publication year. For example, (Smith, 2015, 2018, 2020).


Do I need to include the DOI or URL for print sources?


No, you do not need to include the DOI or URL for print sources. However, for online sources, including the DOI or URL is essential to help readers locate and verify the sources you have used.


Conclusion


APA is essential to academic writing, and mastering it is crucial for researchers, writers, and students.


By following the guidelines in this blog, you can accurately and effectively cite your sources in APA citation style, ensuring the credibility and integrity of your research.


If you'd like to get in touch to learn more about my proofreading and copyediting services, please use the contact form, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.


Julie Pinborough | Proofreader & Copyeditor


Julie Pinborough, London copyeditor


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