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Citation Guide: APA (6th ed., 2010): General Notes


This guide is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. It provides selected citation examples for common types of sources. For more detailed information please consult a print copy of the style manual available at the SFU Library and at the SFU Bookstore.

For the best printing results for this guide, use the printer-friendly PDF format.

Review the Sample paper from the APA, with examples of many APA rules.

Keep track of your document references/citations and format your reference lists easily with citation management software.

Refer to these SFU APA citation guides for business sources and Canadian government documents.

General notes on APA style

APA requires that the entire paper be double-spaced, including all the lines in the reference list.

Number all pages consecutively, beginning with the title page, in Arabic numerals (e.g., 4, not IV) in the upper right-hand corner (Rule 8.03, p. 230).

You need to cite and document any sources that you have consulted, even if you presented the ideas from these sources in your own words. You need to cite:

  • to identify other people's ideas and information used within your essay.
  • to inform the reader of your paper where they should look if they want to find the same sources.

A citation must appear in two places in your essay:

  • in the body of your text ("in-text citations").
  • in the reference list (at the end of your paper).

To introduce other people's ideas in text, use the following examples:

Richardson argues, refers to, explains, hypothesizes, compares, concludes;
As Littlewood and Sherwin demonstrated, proved, ... etc.

Spelling: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary [print or online] is the standard spelling reference for APA journals and books (Rule 4.12, p. 96).

Reference in text

Capitalize all major words in titles of books and articles within the body of the paper (Rule 4.15, p.101). E.g.

In his book, Greek Political Thought (2006), Balot argues that...
The criticism of the article, "The Politics of Paraliterary Criticism"...

NOTE: In reference lists, however, capitalize only the first word of the title and of the subtitle (after a colon or em dash) and proper nouns.

When quoting from print sources or online articles, give the author, year, and page number in parentheses (Rule 6.03, pp.170-171). For example:

Mooney (2000) found that ..."direct_quotation" (p. 276).
"Direct_quotation"... (Walker, 2000, p. 135).

If the quotation is over 40 words, you must start the quotation on a new line, indent the quotation about ½ an inch, and omit the quotation marks (Rule 6.03, p. 171).

Prince Edward Island is a curved slice of land from three to thirty-five miles wide and about one hundred and twenty miles long, lying along the southern rim of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and separated from the mainland of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia by the narrow waters of Northumberland Strait. (Ives, 1999, p. 1)

When paraphrasing from a source, or when referring to an idea contained in another work, you are encouraged to provide a page number (Rule 6.04 p. 171).

When citing the same author multiple times in a paragraph, see Citing Paraphrased Work in APA Style from the APA Style Blog.

Many electronic sources do not provide page numbers. In this case, use paragraph numbers preceded by the abbreviation 'para.' (Rule 6.05 pp. 171-172). For example:

(Johnson, 2003, para. 5).

If a source contains neither page nor paragraph numbers, cite the heading (shorten the heading if it is long) (Rule 6.05 pp. 171-172).

If there is no date of publication, use the abbreviation (n.d.).

List two or more works by different authors who are cited within the same parentheses in alphabetical order by the first authors' surnames and put semicolons between them (Rule 6.16 p. 177).

(Anderson, 1980; Fowers & Powell, 1993; Simonetti, 1998)

Reference list

In APA, the list of sources at the end of the paper (bibliography) is called the reference list. The reference list must include all references cited in the text of your paper. 

The word References should appear at the top of your reference list, and it should be centred on the page (Rule 2.11, p. 37).  

Order of references in the reference list is alphabetical, by the last name of the first author (Rule 6.25, p. 181) or, if author is not available - by title.

Alphabetize letter by letter. "Nothing precedes something". 'Brown, J. R.' comes before 'Browning, A. F.'.

For the author's first name use only initials: 'Smith, J.', not 'Smith, Jennifer'.

For several works by the same author cite them in your reference list  by year of publication with the earliest first - Smith, A. (1999) ... Smith, A. (2002)

Second and subsequent lines of each entry are indented 5-7 spaces.

Double-space between all lines of your work, including references. 

When citing books (not periodicals), capitalize only the first word of the title and of the subtitle (i.e. the first word after a colon or a dash) and proper nouns (Rule 6.29, p. 185).

If more than one city of publication is listed in the book you are citing, use the first one listed.

If there is no date of publication, use the abbreviation (n.d.).

See Rules 6.22 to 6.32 of the APA Publication Manual [print] for more information on the preparation of the reference list.

Additional sources

Tutorials from the APA:

Posts from the APA Style Blog (citation examples and explanations):

Other APA resource guides:

Digital Object Identifier aka DOI: