APA Citation – Definition, Overview & Examples
Definition: APA Citation
The APA citation style is an author-year-system (just like Harvard Style and the Chicago Manual). This is to ensure that the sources you are referencing in your work can be tracked easily.
A reference using the APA citation style contains the following components (cf. Beins, 2012, S. 5):
(Author´s surname, publication year, page number)
- 1 APA citation: General overview
- 2 At a glance: APA citations in your Bachelor´s thesis
- 3 APA citation in the text
- 4 How to quote using APA citation style: Full citation in the reference section
- 5 What is special about an APA citation?
- 6 How to quote in APA citation style: Secondary quotes
- 7 In a nutshell
- 8 References
APA citation: General overview
Proper referencing involves giving your reader essential information about the sources quoted in your text (cf. Beins 2012: 4). Thus, the reader of your paper or thesis can easily trace back your sources and access them if needed. The APA citation style is just one of many referencing systems that can be used as a guideline for referencing.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (short: APA) was originally developed for the field of psychology (cf. Madigan et al. 1995: 428). However, it is widely used in other fields of study as well.
Even though the APA citation style originated in the natural sciences, it is now commonly used in the humanities (cf. Samac et al. 2014: 115).
You should know that the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) provides a detailed guideline to writing academic research papers, addressing all formal requirements. This overview, however, focuses on how to quote in the APA format and does not present the Manual in its entirety (cf. Madigan et al. 1995: 428).
Recommended: Harvard Referencing
At a glance: APA citations in your Bachelor´s thesis
As you already know, APA citation is an author-year-system. To cite properly using APA style, these components are crucial (cf. Beins, 2012, S. 5):
Make sure to stick to the order of elements and the punctuation marks as presented here. If your citation marks the end of a sentence, it must be put before the full stop, as it is part of the quote (cf. Hascher n. d.). For example:
If your citation marks the end of a sentence, it must be placed before the full stop, as it is part of the quote (cf. Hascher n.d.). For example:
Examples: How to quote in APA citation style in the reference section (cf. Samac et al. 2014: 115f., UCOL 2015 & Szuchman 2005: 105):
Gaddes, W. (1991). Lernstörungen und Hirnfunktionen. Eine neuropsychologische Betrachtung. Berlin: Springer.
Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. (2011). Understanding nutrition (12th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Smart, I.M. (1995). Fun with psychology. Green Hill, IL: Green Publishing Co.
APA citation in the text
The following table presents an overview of how to quote in APA citation style in the text as well as provide full references in the reference section. Make sure you pay attention to the number of authors of each source you would like to quote in your Bachelor´s thesis, Master´s thesis, or dissertation as shown below (cf. UCOL (2015), Hascher (n.d.), & Szuchman 2005: 103).
|Number of authors||First citation in the text (text citation)||Subsequent citations in the text (text citation)||Full reference in APA Style (e.g. quoting monographs & journals in APA Style)|
|1-2||(Rogers & Kermit, 1994)||(Rogers & Kermit, 1994)||Rogers, M., & Kermit, F. (1994). Not all sweaters have zippers. Children’s Television Review, 14, 12-30.|
|3-5||(Rogers, McDonald, & Kermit, 2002)||(Rogers et al., 2002)||Rogers, M., McDonald, R., & Kermit, F. (2002). Not all sweaters have zippers. Children’s Television Review, 14, 12-30.|
|6-7||(Elman et al., 2001)||(Elman et al., 2001)||Elman, J. L., Bates, E. A., Johnson, M. H., Karmiloff-Smith, A., Parisi, D., & Plunkett, K. (2001). Rethinking innateness. A connectionist perspective on development (5th ed.). Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.|
|8+||(Vissing et al., 2004)||(Vissing et al., 2004)||Vissing, K., Brink, M., Lonbro, S., Sorensen, H., Overgaard, K., Danborg, K., ... Aagaard, P. (2008): Muscle adaptations to plyometric vs. resistance training in untrained young men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(6), 1799-1810.|
What is distinct about the APA citation style is the above categorization which is based on the number of authors of a source. Moreover, the latter also distinguishes the APA citation style from other citation styles.
The table above shows that the APA citation style requires you to list all the authors of a source for full reference (in your reference section). Only sources with eight or more authors are treated differently.
The new APA citation style guidelines (9th ed.) do not require that you indicate the date when you last accessed the online sources being quoted. However, you must provide the last date of access if the contents of a particular website quoted are likely to be edited over time or even deleted.
It is recommended that you check the requirements of the APA citation style for internet sources you are not sure about (UCOL 2015). The best practice is to be consistent and always provide the date of last access, and not just when in doubt.
Furthermore, if you are unsure about quoting a specific source in APA citation style, check with your supervisor.
How to quote using APA citation style: Full citation in the reference section
The following table lists the most common and important types of sources you will come across in your Bachelor´s thesis. It is important to check the format required by the APA citation style in order to cite those sources in the reference section below.
If in doubt, you should definitely look things up in the APA citation style manual. For instance, maybe you would like to quote a rather specific source that is not listed below (cf. e.g. Samac et al. 2014; UCOL 2015). The APA citation style manual is a detailed guideline that includes rules on how to deal with such special cases.
Recommended: How to cite a book
Where can you find this manual? Every university library should have a number of copies of the APA citation style manual, as well as manuals for other citation styles. However, the table below provides you with a solid foundation on APA citation style basics. Moreover, quoting sources which are not among the most common ones as listed here is the exception rather than the rule. The following overview is adapted from Samac et al. (2014), UCOL (2015), Hascher (n. d.) und Carlson (2018):
|Type of source||Citation in the reference section in APA Style||Examples in APA Style|
|Citing a monograph in APA citation style||Surname, First name(s) (year of publication). Title. Subtitle (edition, if applicable). Place of publication: Publisher.||Shotton, M.A. (1989). Computer addiction? A study of computer dependency. London, England: Taylor & Francis.
Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. (2011): Understanding nutrition (12th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
|Citing an edited volume in APA citation style||Surname, First name(s) (year of publication): Title. Subtitle. In Editors (Eds.), Title of the edited volume (page numbers of chapter). Place of publication: Publisher.
||Haybron, D.M. (2008). Philosophy and the science of subjective well-being. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 17-43). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
|How to cite a journal in APA citation style||Surname, First name (year of publication). Title. Name of the Journal, Volume, page numbers. DOI (digital object identifier)
Note: The volume number must be set in italics, but not the issue number!
|Herbst-Damm, K. L., & Kulik, J. A. (2005). Volunteer support, marital status, and the survival times of terminally ill patients. Health Psychology, 24, 225-229. doi:10.1037/0278-6188.8.131.52|
|Special issue of a journal||Surname, First name (Editors) (year of publication). Title [Thematic issue]. Name of the journal, Volume (Issue number).||Haney, C., & Wiener, R. L. (Eds.). (2004). Capital punishment in the United States [Special Issue]. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 10(4).|
|How to cite dissertations & research papers in APA citation style||Surname, First name(s) (year of publication). Title. Subtitle (Doctoral dissertation or Master’s thesis). Name of Institution, Location. OR Retrieved from Name of database. (Accession or Order No.)
Note: Add ‘unpublished’ in the above brackets if the doctoral dissertation you are citing from has not been published yet.
|Adams, R.J. (1973). Building a foundation for evaluation of instruction in higher education and continuing education (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://www.ohiolink.edu/etd/|
|Citing internet source in APA citation style||If you are quoting internet sources, you should always try to provide as much information as you can:
• Name of the authors/organization
• Date of publication/year when the page was launched (if not available: “n.d.” = no date)
• Title of the document or homepage in italics
• Complete and correct URL
|Simpson, B. (1999). Cartooning and psychology. Hollywood, CA: American Psychological Association. Retrieved March 5, 2001 from the World Wide Web: http://www.apa.org/journals/simpson.html|
(cf. APA manual 2010: 198-204; Hascher o. J.: 7; Samac et al. 2014, 116-122; Szuchman 2005: 106; UCOL 2015: 7,18)
Please note: You should never type the author’s first and middle names, but only use their initials, leaving a space between (cf. Szuchman 2005: 102). Don’t forget that each entry of your reference list in APA citation style should begin with a hanging indent.
If you would like to quote using APA citation style, you have to make sure that the first line of each reference is left-justified and all following lines are indented (cf. Beins 2012: 106):
You should never type the author’s first and middle names, but only use their initials leaving a space between (cf. Szuchman 2005: 102). Don’t forget that each entry of your reference list in APA citation style should begin with a hanging indent.
If you would like to quote using APA citation style, you have to make sure that the first line of each reference is left-justified and all following lines are indented (cf. Beins 2012: 106).
Citing Literature in different languages in APA citation style
If you are writing your paper in another language, e.g. German, but you are quoting an English source, the APA citation style prescribes sticking to the abbreviations used in the source language. For example, Eds. (Editors) remains Eds., Hrsg. (Herausgeber, the German word for editors) remains Hrsg. while quoting using APA citation style, even if this might not seem very intuitive (and you feel this should be translated). In the same vein, n.d. (no date) and o.J. (ohne Jahr = no year, the German equivalent for n.d.) must remain the way they are when using the APA citation style (cf. Haddad-Zubel et al. 2014: 66).
Internet Sources in APA citation style
Citing internet sources in APA citation style follows a set of rules. To be on the safe side, you should definitely check what the APA citation style manual says about a particular source you wish to quote in your text. However, while quoting in APA citation style you should bear two things in mind (cf. UCOL 2015: 18):
Let’s assume that you used the following internet source and it appears in your reference section as follows:
If you are quoting this source for the first time in your text, you should use the full name as well as providing an acronym:
But from then onwards, you will only have to use the acronym to quote correctly in APA citation style:
What is special about an APA citation?
When using the APA citation style in a term paper, a Bachelor’s thesis, or a Master’s thesis you will have to use a reference list instead of a bibliography. The difference between a bibliography and a reference list lies in the sources that make up each list.
Regarding the APA citation style, you have to provide a reference list—i.e. you only have to list the sources actually quoted in your text. The table below is an overview of the main differences (APA Style 2018) between a reference list for APA citation style and a bibliography:
|How to quote in APA citation style: Reference list||Bibliography|
|• Sources quoted in the text (direct and indirect quotes)
• Alphabetical order of the author’s surnames (in APA citation style)
|• Sources quoted in the text
• Sources which are part of the literature research but not quoted in the actual text
• The sources come with an annotated description
• A bibliography can either be ordered chronologically or thematically (not alphabetically)
If you have to quote using APA citation style, the citations in the text follow an author-year-system, just like Harvard Style. However, the Harvard style requires a reference list which should also contain the sources that were used during the literature research but were not quoted.
In contrast to this, it is sufficient to list the sources cited in the text for APA citation style (cf. Samac et al. 2014: 115). Using an author-year-system like APA citation style only requires that the source citations are included in the text as such and do not appear in footnotes (cf. Haddad-Zubel et al. 2009: 62).
Samac et al. (cf. 2014: 15) mention a few characteristics of compiling a reference list that are specific to the APA citation style. If you are planning to quote using APA citation style in your thesis, you should check your reference list to make sure it meets the following rules:
- Year of publication and edition are to be put in brackets
- The ampersand (‘&’) is used before the name of the last author in a row of authors
- The title of monographs, journals, or edited volumes must be italicized
- ‘In’ only introduces edited volumes
- ‘[Video]’ must be placed after the year of publication in cases where video material is quoted
- The edition/revised edition number must be put in brackets
- The issue number of a journal must not be put in brackets
How to quote in APA citation style: Secondary quotes
Drawing on secondary quotes is NEVER ideal, irrespective of whether you are using the APA citation style or any other citation system. You should always try to access the original sources if possible. If you are unable to find or access the original source, you can then insert a secondary quote in APA citation style, but bear in mind to use these sparingly (cf. UCOL 2015: 11):
Fawcett (as quoted in Polit & Beck, 2008)
Recommended: How to cite an article
You will only have to list the source of the original quote:
Polit, D. F., & Beck, C. T. (2008). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice (8th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
In a nutshell
Just as in any other citation system the APA citation style is fairly simple to follow once you become acquainted with the basic rules. If you want to use the APA citation style in your thesis, you should bear in mind the following:
- The APA citation style is an author-year-system and does not require the use of footnotes for source citations.
- There are different sets of rules when quoting in APA citation style based on the number of authors of a source as well as the difference between short references in the text and full references in the reference list.
- In order to properly quote using APA citation style, it is essential to stick to the order of information for each source citation as well as ensure to include all necessary information to provide a complete reference list (the same is true for any other citation system).
APA manual (2010). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
APA Style (2018). American Psychological Association. Bibliography Versus Reference List. Available online: http://www.apastyle.org/learn/quick-guide-on-references.aspx#Bibliography. 30/01/18.
Beins, Bernhard C. (2012). APA Style Simplified: Writing in Psychology, Education, Nursing, and Sociology, Wiley.
Carlson, Alexis (2018). APA Style Guide: Volume/Issue. IRSC Libraries. Available online: http://irsc.libguides.com/apa/volumeissuereferencecitation. 29/01/18.
Haddad-Zubel, Rosita, Philipp Wyrsch, Odilo W. Huber (2009). Kernkompetenzen für das Psychologiestudium: Leitfaden für wissenschaftliches Arbeiten. 2nd revised edition. Wien: Peter Lang.
Hascher, Tina (o. J.). Zitieren nach den Richtlinien der American Psychological Association APA (6th edition). Universität Bern; Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft Abteilung für Schul- und Unterrichtsforschung. Available online: http://www.edu.unibe.ch/unibe/portal/fak_humanwis/philhum_institute/inst_paed/content/e39/e268485/e268367/pane268376/e441386/ ASUZitierrichtlinien_ger.pdf. 28/01/18.
Madigan, Robert, Susan Johnson, Patricia Linton (1995). The Language of Psychology. APA Style as Epistemology. American Psychologist 50(6), 428-436.
Samac, Klaus, Monika Prenner, Herbert Schwetz (2014). Die Bachelorarbeit an Universität und Fachhochschule: Ein Lehr- und Lernbuch zur Gestaltung wissenschaftlicher Arbeiten. 3rd revised Edition. Wien: Facultas Verlags- und Buchhandels-AG.
Szuchman, Leonore T. (2005). Writing With Style – APA Style Made Easy. 3rd edition. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth.
UCOL (UCOL Student Experience Team (SET) Library and Learning Services) (2015). A guide to APA referencing – 6th edition. Available online: http://student.ucol.ac.nz/library/onlineresources/Documents/APA_guide_2015.pdf. 28/01/18.