Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Psychology Research Guide: APA citation

How to cite your work in APA style

  • Keep note of your sources as you go along. When you're reading something, don't just copy the URL - you'll need the title, author, date, and publication information. 
  • Plug the source information into the APA format. 
    • Basic format for in-text citation: (Author, Year, p. 5)
    • Basic format for reference page, articles: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. 
    • Basic format for reference page, books: Author, A. A. (Year). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.
    • The definitive guidelines can be found in the hard-copy Publication Manual of the American Psychology AssociationYou can find it in the library Reference section at call number REF BF76.7 .P83 2010. The Purdue Owl is a trustworthy online source for guidelines.
  • Many databases have a Cite button that will create a citation for you. These can have errors, so you always need to proofread them. However, in Prof. Koford's experience, the citations generated by library databases, Google Scholar, or WorldCat are usually more accurate and complete than those generated by websites like Citation Machine. Below is an image of the Cite feature in WorldCat. 

APA citation from WorldCat

Why bother with citations?

Formatting citations can be tedious. Why should you bother learning to cite correctly? Here are some reasons: 

  • Incorrectly citing your sources puts you at risk for unintentional plagiarism, which has serious consequences. 
  • When psychologists and other professionals read each other's work, they give less respect and credibility to articles with sloppy citations.
  • Professors are training you for professional jobs. Even for those of you who won't need APA style in your careers, it's likely that you will need to follow detailed guidelines and professional conventions of some sort. College is the place to practice doing that. 
  • Citations make it possible to find any published work, even if that work is rare, in a different language, or not available online. Citations are maps in the vast universe of published information. 
  • Once you learn what an APA citation should look like, writing them can be strangely satisfying. 

Some common citation mistakes

Here are some of the most common citation mistakes that Dr. Sia and Prof. Koford see: 

  • Listing a web URL with no other citation information
  • Not citing something at all because you're not sure how to cite it. Not citing it at all is MUCH WORSE than citing incorrectly!
  • Parenthetical citations that include the author's initials. The initials go in the References, but not in the in-text citation.
  • Lack of hanging indents. Items in the References should use a hanging indent. To create one, search the Help menu of your software for hanging indent.
  • Article title in quotes - This is a feature of MLA and Chicago styles, but not APA
  • Capitalization errors - APA uses sentence case 
  • Date in the wrong place - it goes in parentheses, after the author's name
  • Author's name spelled out - APA uses initials only

Citing a republished work

Write the later date first - the date of the physical copy you used. In parentheses at the end of the Reference List entry, add a note that says when the original work was published.


Freud, S. (2011). Beyond the pleasure principle. (T. Dufresne, Ed., and G. C. Richter, Trans.) Peterborough, Ont.:

Broadview Editions. (Original work published 1922).


When you cite a republished work in your text, include both dates in the in-text citation: (Freud, 1922/2011).


What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is claiming someone else’s intellectual work as your own. It is a very serious breach of academic ethics.

Plagiarism can be either intentional (knowingly copying material) or unintentional (accidentally neglecting to cite a source). Students can be disciplined for plagiarizing even if it was unintentional. 

Most plagiarism happens when students feel desperate and have not given themselves enough time to grapple with the material, seek help, and do the work on their own. 

Professors are shocked and saddened when students plagiarize, because it violates the implicit agreement between professor and student. Learning can only happen if students use their own ideas to complete coursework. 

What can happen if you plagiarize?

  • You might receive a zero on an assignment, fail the course, or be sent before a disciplinary panel.
  • You will not learn the course content yourself, which wastes the time and money you’ve invested in your education.
  • A professor who has caught you plagiarizing is unlikely to write you a letter of reference for jobs or graduate school.
  • Plagiarism can ruin reputations, both in college and in the working world. Some high-profile cases are those of Jonah Lehrer and Stephen Ambrose.

How can you avoid plagiarism?

  • Cite your sources! Give credit using in-text citations and your reference list. 
  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete your assignments. If you are having trouble with an assignment, seek help from your professor, a librarian, Academic Support, or the Student Communication Center. 
  • Set up a note-taking system. Gather the citation information for each of your sources, and clearly mark your notes so you can tell the difference between copy-pasted content, summary, and your own thoughts. 

Note-taking and citation help you avoid plagiarism

Before you begin finding sources, make a plan for how and where you will take notes and record your sources. Taking good notes from the beginning will help you avoid plagiarism and properly cite your sources in APA style.