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Library Tutorials for Psychology

Tutorial 4

Tutorial 4: What are the biggest citation mistakes? 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. 
  • 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).


Note: When you cite a republished work, like the one above, in your text, it should appear with both dates: (Laplace, 1814/1951).