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APA 6 Citation Formatting


As with any formatting style, the APA Style creates a system for authors to

  1. acknowledge the sources of information they use in their works and
  2. help their readers retrieve those sources of information

In order to accomplish both of those goals, APA has a standard way to express citations so that readers know when a source of information is being acknowledge (in-text citations) and recognize the parts of the citation (title, volume, etc) so that they may successfully find it for themselves (reference list).

Note: This guide follows guidelines from the APA 6th edition. To view the APA 7th edition LibGuide, visit this link.

General Format

In APA Style, authors only include citations on their reference lists if they have cited that work in their papers.  In effect there should be a one-to-one correspondence between in-text citations and reference list citations.  Every item on the reference list should appear in-text and vice versa.

In-text Citations

The APA Style is generally referred to as an author/date system where in-text citations are made up of the last names of the authors of a work and the year the work was published, e.g. (Fernandez & Fallon, 2015)

Each in-text citation acts as a pointer to the corresponding full citation in the reference list.  Since the author(s) and date are the first two items of the reference list citation, this works nicely.  Therefore, when a work does not have an author, and the reference list citation starts with a title instead, the title of the work is substituted for the author in the parentheses in-text.   

Reference Lists

The reference list is arranged in alphabetical order by the first item in the reference which is generally the author.  The entire list is double spaced (even within citations), and each citation uses a hanging indent so that the first line is flush with the left margin and any subsequent lines are indented.