APA Style (6th Edition)Writer's Web
(printable version here)

APA (American Psychological Association) style is the standard method of publishing one’s writing in psychology as well as other social sciences such as nursing, anthropology, sociology, business and gender studies (APA, 2010, p. xv).

The following are highlights of some of the more important aspects of 6th Edition APA formatting, but do not constitute the whole of APA style. Please consult the manual (held on reserve at Boatwright Library) for a complete explanation of publishing guidelines.

For an in-depth example of how an APA-style paper should look like, check out this Sample APA Paper for Students Interested in Learning APA Style 6th Editionhttp://my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/APAsample.pdf by Dr. Jeff Kahn from the University of Illinois.

In-Text Citations: General Guidelines

When to Cite

  • You should cite authors who have directly influenced your writing, whether it be their ideas, theories, or empirical data.
  • Citing an article implies that you have read the work you cited, so do not cite authors indirectly (i.e., citing author A whom you saw cited by author B, without reading author A’s paper).
  • Cite any facts or figures that are not common knowledge.

How many authors should you cite?

  • For a standard empirical article, aim for 1 - 2 sources that best represent each key point you want to make.
  • For a literature review, you will probably use more. This is because reviews are meant to introduce readers to the spectrum of information written about a certain topic.

In-Text Citations: Format

One Work by One Author

Include author’s last name followed by a comma, then the year of publication. If you are directly quoting an author, also include the page or paragraph number. Ending punctuation goes outside the parentheses.

The study aimed to measure the participants' preferences in different types of music based on their age (Baker, 2008).

If you mention the author's name in your sentence, then put the publication year immediately following the name.

Baker (2008) measured correlations between age and music genre preference.

One Work by Two Authors

Include both authors' last names and the article's date of publication in parenthesis. Seperate the authors' last names with an "&" rather than "and." Follow the same rules as with one author.

When citing more than two authors a second time, use the first author’s surname followed by “et al.” (which means “and others”).

Children have been shown to imitate the aggressive behaviors of adults as young as two years of age (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1961).

A classic study by Bandura, Ross and Ross (1961) showed strong evidence that children as young as two imitate the observed aggressive behavior of adults.
Mean aggression scores for children exposed to aggressive adult models were significantly greater than those of children in non-aggressive or control conditions (Bandura et al., 1961).

One Work by Six or More Authors

From the get-go, cite only the last name of the first author, followed by “et al," as in this example:

Nokes et al. (2012) found that nurses who used self-efficacy interventions for HIV patients showed a slight increase in patient adherence to retroviral treatment, though these effects were impacted by patient depression and lack of social capital.

Groups as Authors

When citing an organization as an author, write out the organization the first time they are cited and list the abbreviation in the parenthetical citation.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH, 2003) found that...

No Author Specified/Anonymous Works and Legal Documents

For works with no listed author, or for legal documents, cite in text the first few words of the title. Use double quotation marks inside the parentheses for articles, webpages, or chapter titles; italicize titles of periodicals, books, brochures, or reports.

… total dollar amount (“A Systematic Review,” 2006)

In the book Penny For Your Thoughts (1995)... (title should be capitalized in regular formatting)

When an author is specifically listed as “Anonymous,” use that as the citation name.

(Anonymous, 2001).

More Than One Work in the Same Parentheses

Order citations of two or more works within the same parentheses alphabetically, including citations that would otherwise shorten to “et al.” Separate works by a semicolon. Arrange two or more works by the same author(s) by date of publication.

(Ellsworth, 2002; Rylie, Short, Morgan & Christoff, 1996; Wang, Peterson & Morphey, 2002; Wang et al., 2007).

When citing more than one work by the same first author, add a suffix of a, b, c, etc. according to the order of works in the reference list.

Several studies (Rylie, 2002a; Rylie 2002b; Melsworth & Rylie, 2003a, Mellsworth & Rylie, 2003b) suggest...

In-Text Citations: Direct Quotes vs. Paraphrasing

When and how to use direct quotes (“”)?

  • Use when you are reproducing word-for-word information from others’ work or your own previous writings. This should be done sparingly.
  • Also, use them when you are stating test items or participant directions verbatim.

When using direct quotes, always list in parentheses the authors’ last names, year of the article’s publication, and page number in this format:

(Purcell, 1997, pp.111-112) or (Purcell, 1997, p. 111)

Direct quotes less than 40 words

Put quotation marks around the quoted material, and incorporate the quote into your sentence. Try not to quote an entire sentence, as it makes the writing very choppy and usually comes off as lazy.

If the quote is in the middle of your own sentence, end the quoted passage with quotation marks and put the parenthetical citation immediately after the passage, followed by any necessary punctuation. Then continue with the sentence as it would be normally.

Since the quote is in “the middle of this sentence” (Zhou et. al, 2013, p. 10), I would format the sentence this way.

If the quote comes at the end of the sentence, put the end quotation marks after the final word, insert the parenthetical citation, and end with the period (or exclamation/question mark, if you’re getting fancy).

Since the quote is at the end of this sentence, I would “format the quote this way” (Smith, 1992, pp. 10-12).
Direct quotes more than 40 words

Place the quote in a freestanding block of text on a new line, indented ½ inch from the left margin. If there are subsequent paragraphs in your block quote, indent them another ½ inch from the first indent. Place the parenthetical citation at the end of the block, after the end punctuation. Double-space all of the quote.

Since my block quote had 40 words that you can’t see here, I’m going to end the quote this way. (Loving, 2000, pp. 111-115)
If you mentioned the author’s name in the sentence with the quote

Only put the page number in parentheses if you already mentioned the author’s name; always put the year immediately following an author’s name when you refer to them in-text.

Since I’m mentioning Shields (2003) said “something related to psychology,” I only need to put the page number at the end of this sentence (p. 24).
Directly quoting online material

In your parenthetical citation, give the author, year, and page numbers if possible. If there is no pagination, refer to the paragraph a quote was taken from. Use the abbreviation “para.”

Since I got this from a blog with no page numbers, “I’m going to cite using the paragraph number” (Doling, 2005, para. 4).
Other notes for quoting directly
  • If there is incorrect spelling or grammar in your quotes, put “[sic]” immediately after the error, as to not confuse readers. [6.06]
  • You may change the first letter in a quotation to be upper or lower-case in order to fit the syntax of your sentence. You may also change the punctuation mark at the end of a sentence to fit syntax. All other changes, including italicizing or omitting words, must be indicated. [6.07]
  • Don’t omit other authors’ in-text citations when quoting them. However, you don’t need to have the included citation in your reference list, unless you directly cite them yourself. Note that this only applied to direct quotes, not paraphrasing. [6.09]

Reference List: Ordering Guidelines

Alphabetization Rules. Alphabetize by the author’s last name, followed by the first and middle initial. Remember that “nothing precedes something” (e.g. Carter, T. S. precedes Carters, A. K.).

Order of Several Works by One Author. Give the author’s name in the first and following entries.

Single-author entries by the same author are ordered by year of publication.

Bargh, J. D. (1996).
Bargh, J. D. (2003).

Single-author entries come before multiple-author entries beginning with the same last name, regardless of publication year.

Cooke, R. D. (1995).
Cooke, R. D., Feders, G. K. & Tolman, E. M. (1984).

Reference List: Formatting Guidelines

References should contain the author(s') name(s), publication date, title, and publication information. For each cited work, list the authors in the order they are presented on the manuscript. The order of author names signifies what type of contribution they made to the work, and should not be alphabetized.

If the reference is from an online source, include the DOI. This is a unique alphanumeric code assigned to online content, providing a permanent link to the information should the source url change. When a DOI is listed in your references, do not give any other retrieval information. The DOI should be formatted like this: doi:xxxxxxx

If no DOI has been assigned to the content, then provide the home page URL of the journal, book, or report author/publisher. Do not add any punctuation to the URL, such as a period at the end or a hyphen across line breaks. You do not need to include database information, or retrieval date information unless the content material has changed over time.

Important note: When listing references, keep the first line left-aligned at the margin, and indent every line thereafter 1/2 inch. Due to online formatting restrictions we could not model the format here, but check the APA manual for an example.

Books (not anthologies):

Gregory, G., & Parry, T. (2006). Designing brain-compatible learning (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Edited Book or Anthology
Ruiz, V. L., & Sánchez Korrol, V. (Eds.). (2006). Latinas in the United States: A historical encyclopedia. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Chapter of a book by multiple authors:

Beaudin, S. A., Gendle, M. H. & Strupp, B. J. (2012). Gender influences on the cognitive and emotional effects of prenatal cocaine exposure: Insights from an animal model. In Lewis, Michael and Kestler, Lisa (Eds.), Gender differences in prenatal substance exposure: A decade of behavior (pp. 77-96). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Journal Article, printed

Williams, J. H. (2008). Employee engagement: Improving participation in safety. Professional Safety, 53(12), 40-45.

Keller, T. E., Cusick, G. R., & Courtney, M. E. (2007). Approaching the transition to adulthood: Distinctive profiles of adolescents aging out of the child welfare system. Social Services Review, 81, 453- 484.

Journal article, online version

(With DOI)
Senior, B., & Swailes, S. (2007). Inside management teams: Developing a teamwork survey instrument. British Journal of Management, 18, 138- 153. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8551.2006.00507.x

(Without DOI)
Senior, B. (1997). Team roles and team performance: Is there really a link? Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 70, 241-258. Retrieved from http://bpsjournals.co.uk/journals/joop

Printed Newspaper article

Smith, P. (2001, August 3). New drug appears to sharply cut risk of death from heart failure. The Washington Post, p. A12.

Online Newspaper Article

McHugh, P. (2005, March 17). Feeling down? It might help if you just take it outside. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved from http://sfgate.com

Government Report

National Institute of Mental Health. (1990). Clinical training in serious mental illness (DHHS Publication No. ADM 90-1679). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.


In this instance, the film's director and producer get the honors. The final difference is that the studio that produced the film appears in the place of a publisher's name.

Nelson, E. (Producer), Herzog, W. (Director). 2005. Grizzly man. USA: Real Big Films.

Other Formatting Notes
  • The left, right, top and bottom margins are all set to 2.54 cm, or 1 inch. The entire paper is double-spaced.
  • All authors that you mention in the text must appear in your reference list, and all authors in your reference list must have been mentioned in your text.
  • Rephrase sentences to avoid sexist language: for instance, use both "she" and "he" to reference hypothetical individuals.
  • In most cases, the numbers zero through nine are spelled out, while the numbers 10 and above are written as numbers (see the APA manual for more specifics).
  • Read over recent journal articles to get a sense of APA style.


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Kahn, Jeffrey H. (n.d.). Sample APA paper for students interested in learning APA style 6th edition. Retrieved from my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/APAsample.pdf

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