APA Citation Styles
At some point in college, you will have to write a research paperAn article that supplements the author's ideas or experiences with information gathered from other people and sources with knowledge of the subject. in which you will need to include sourcesA person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. to support your own ideas. When you do so, it is imperative that you do it correctly or you could be accused of plagiarismThe act of taking someone else's ideas, words, or work and pass it off as your own; copying without giving credit., which has sizeable consequences in the academic world. Many college classes use either MLAA grammar and reference guide used mainly by students and scholars writing about the humanities (languages and literature). or APAA set of guidelines for citing sources used in literary and academic writing. APA style is most commonly used in the social sciences. format to citeTo give credit to the source of ideas or information. sources. MLA refers to the Modern Language Association, and APA refers to the American Psychological Association. There are other citationA reference within a text to an outside source of ideas, quotes, or information. Citations can be placed within sentences or in a separate works cited or reference section, as specified by the style guide in use. styles, including The Chicago Manual of StyleA set of guidelines for grammar, punctuation, and citations, widely used by students, editors, and general interest publications. and Turabian, but this lesson will focus on APA style. All citation styles share similar elements, so if you understand the major elements of any style, you will easily be able to adapt.
Major Citation Elements
Whether you are summarizingTo give a short version of the main points of a text., paraphrasingThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech., or quotingTo use the exact words of someone else in a writing. Quotes are indicted in a writing using quotation marks and attributive phrases. a source, it is important to provide contextThe larger setting in which something happens; the "big picture.", so you should include an attributive phraseA short introduction to source material that identifies the author and often the title of a work that will be quoted or discussed in an essay or research paper. to indicate to the reader that you are incorporating a source. An attributive phrase gives credit to the author of the original work. It is used in tandem with an in-text citationInformation about a source, such as the author, date, and page number, in an essay or research paper that helps readers find the source in the works cited or references page. There are different rules for how to use in-text citations depending on the context of the citation and the style of formatting you are using., which is the information in parentheses.
APA attributive phrases:
Thomas (2011) writes that Evans intended to "inspire a new generation of playwrights" (p. 42).
According to Thomas (2011), Evans wrote best at his home in Florida, "rising early and finishing late" (p. 53).
When you incorporate a source in your essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. , you need to include in-text citations in addition to attributive phrases. Together, attributive phrases and in-text citations give readers the necessary information to be able to find the original source listed in the references pageAn alphabetized list of publication information about the sources used in an APA-formatted essay or research paper..
APA style in-text citation requires the author's last name, the year of publication, and a page number, preceded by "p." for "page" (if the source has page numbers and a specific page is referenced).
Example of an APA in-text citation without an attributive phrase:
One study indicates that artists who live in the South are "more prolific" (Miller, 2004, p. 7).
In APA style, if the author's name is mentioned in the attributive phrase, the year of publication should follow it and the page number should be included at the end of the sentence.
Example of an APA in-text citation with an attributive phrase:
Miller's (2004) study indicates that artists who live in the South are "more prolific" (p. 7).
Longer quotations are formatted and cited differently than shorter quotations. APA style requires that you use block quotationA copy of a long section of a text or speech, set off from the rest of a text. Block quotations, like direct quotations, are exact repeats of wording, but because of their length they are indented or printed in a different font rather than placed inside quotation marks. format (also called indented format) for quotations that are longer than forty words.
You should indent every line of a block quotationA copy of a long section of a text or speech, set off from the rest of a text. Block quotations, like direct quotations, are exact repeats of wording, but because of their length they are indented or printed in a different font rather than placed inside quotation marks. from the left margin by one-half inch and maintain double-spacing. Quotation marksA set of single or double inverted commas (' ' or " ") that are placed around a word or passage to mark the beginning and end of a direct quotation or a title. are not required since indentation makes it clear that the material is quoted. Introduce the quote with an attributive phrase, and place an in-text citation after the period at the end of the quotation.
Example of APA block quotation format:
Jarvis (2012) mentions George's extreme attention to detail:
|George would spend hours combing through his work for mistakes, long before|
|submitting it to his editors. Pride apparently dictated that he present them with fully|
|proofread copies. These hours of attention to minute discrepancies may have cost him|
|his eyesight in the end. (p. 14)|
In-text citations do not include all of the information to find the original source, so writers include a list of citations at the end of the paper with all of the information needed to locate a source. APA style refers to this list as a references page. The references page comes at the end of the work and includes all available information about a source, including article title, journal/book title, year published, the authors' first initials and last names, publisher, and place of publishing. These details vary by the type of source used and since there are about seventy different types of sources for APA, you should refer to an APA style guideA set of rules for punctuation, grammar, and other facets of writing, used to produce consistency and promote understanding. Different publications and types of writing often follow different style guides. Well-known style guides in the U.S. include The Chicago Manual of Style, the MLA Style Manual, and the Associated Press Stylebook. to confirm the correct citation model to use. All sources on a references page should be listed in alphabetical order.
Comparing MLA and APA Styles
MLA style and APA style are two common systems of citation, that is, sets of rules for how to cite sources and how to format and punctuate the various parts of a research paper. For most English and some humanities courses, you will be asked to use MLA style; for most social sciences and some other courses, you will be asked to use APA style. See the chart below for the major differences between MLA style and APA style.
Major Differences between MLA and APA Styles
Used in humanities
Used in social sciences
Last name and page number both on the right-hand side of the page
Title of paper on the left margin and the page number is on the right
Type of media identified (print, web, email, etc.). URLs not required for online sources.
No media identified. URL preceded by "Retrieved from" or "doi" (direct object identifier) required for online sources.
Author's last name and page number; no punctuation within the parentheses.
Author's last name, year published, and page number separated with a comma; precede page number with "p."
4+lines (prose)/3+ lines (poetry) indented 1-inch from margin
40+ words indented .5 inches from margin
End list of cited sources
Labeled "Works Cited"
All of your writing assignments in school will require that you properly cite the works that you consult. Giving people credit for their work is a fundamental responsibility of a writer. If you are writing a research paper, you must be able to tell your professor where your ideas came from. If you do not, it may appear as though you are either not a careful student or— perhaps worse—you are plagiarizing someone else's work.
Citations are less important in the working world, but they may be required. For example, if you are working on a response to a proposal, you might have to include information about the best practices in your field. Being able to properly cite your sources will bolster your credibility in the eyes of the reviewer.
Below is an example of an APA-style paragraph and references page. Consider the example and notice how to identify the citation elements.
Sample APA paragraph:
Like many writers, Nash had a set routine each day that helped him get to work (Aldrich, 2005, p. 21; Johnson, 2012, p. 35). Miller (2007) explains that Nash preferred to rise before dawn, "in the dark, before the day had officially begun." After eating a full breakfast, Nash would sit down to work as the sun rose and finish before lunch (p. 13). Holden (2008) believes that Nash felt an almost superstitious commitment to this regimen. Like Johnson and Aldrich, he argues that keeping to a rigid schedule allowed Nash to "contain the fear he felt at the outset of each writing session" (p. 86).
Sample APA references page:
Aldrich, E. (2005). The novels of James Nash. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Holden, R. (2008). Twentieth-century fiction. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Johnson, E. (2012). James Nash and the focused mind. Mid-century Fiction, 65, 84–96.
Miller, G. (2007). Dark passages: The writing habits of James Nash. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
The attributive phrases in the readings are the same, though they appear differently: "Miller (2007) explains," "Holden (2008) believes," and "he argues."
Now, consider this passage from the reading; think about who wrote the quotation within it:
Miller (2007) explains that Nash preferred to rise before dawn, "in the dark, before the day had officially begun." After eating a full breakfast, Nash would sit down to work as the sun rose and finish before lunch (p. 13).
In this sentence, Miller can be identified as the author because her name is part of the attributive phrase that introduces the cited material.
Finally, let's consider this sentence from the reading and compare it to the references page above to determine the source:
Like Johnson and Aldrich, he argues that keeping to a rigid schedule allowed Nash to "contain the fear he felt at the outset of each writing session" (p. 86).
To match the source in the reading with the source on the references page, first find the author "he" refers to. The previous sentence tells you that this author is Holden. Turning to the list of references, you will see that the quote is from Twentieth-century Fiction, by R. Holden.
Below is an example of an APA-style sample paragraph and references page. Complete the exercise by correctly identifying the major APA citation elements and explaining your reasoning.
Sample APA paragraph:
Critics disagree about whether Frazier's female characters are helpless or powerful (Evans, 2005, p. 42; Power, 2007, p. 51). Schell (2003) writes that since Margaret and Sue Ransom "never leave the domestic sphere," they fail to effect change in their world (p. 12). Martin (2008), however, disagrees. Like Power and Evans, he claims that Frazier's mothers, in particular, are "full of power and strength" and that they create change by caring for their families (p. 30).
Sample APA references page:
Evans, R. (2005). The novels of Eli Frazier. New York, NY: Penguin.
Martin, R. (2008). Twentieth-century novels. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Power, B. (2007). True grit: Women's work in the novels of Eli Frazier. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
Schell, P. (2003) Eli Frazier's little women. Women in Fiction, 54, 54–66.
1. Which two of the following are attributive phrases?
A. Critics disagree
B. (Evans, 2005; Power, 2007)
C. Schell (2003) writes
D. he claims
C and D
Explain your answer.
"Schell" and "he" (Martin, from the previous sentence) refer to the authors of the quoted material.
2. In the following set of citations, which name belongs to the author of the quotation within it?
Critics disagree about whether Frazier's female characters are helpless or powerful (Evans, 2005, p. 42; Power, 2007, p. 51). Schell (2003) writes that since Margaret and Sue Ransom "never leave the domestic sphere," they fail to effect change in their world (p. 12).
Explain your answer.
Schell can be identified as the author because her name is part of the attributive phrase that introduces the quote.
3. To which source on the references page does the following citation refer?
Martin (2008), however, disagrees. Like Power and Evans, he claims that Frazier's mothers, in particular, are "full of power and strength" and that they create change by caring for their families (p. 30).
A. Evans, R. (2005). The novels of Eli Frazier. New York, NY: Penguin.
B. Martin, R. (2008). Twentieth-century novels. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
C. Power, B. (2007). True grit: Women's work in the novels of Eli Frazier. New York, NY: Farrar.
D. Schell, P. (2003). Eli Frazier's little women. Women in Fiction, 54, 54–66.
Explain your answer.
Martin's name is included in the sentence preceding the sentence with the quote.
Why is it important to use in-text citations properly?
It is important to cite sources properly to avoid plagiarism. Also, in-text citations help the reader find the original source listed on the references page.
Why should you know the difference between MLA and APA?
If I take both English and social science courses, I will need to use both styles. Also, some courses require MLA style while others require APA style.
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