This page will give you a quick overview of APA style, a common citation style for scholars in social sciences, education, and many other fields. It attempts to cover the most common sources and situations that you’ll run into, but there are many types of sources and specific cases that are not discussed here.  If you have a more specific question, you’ll want to check out one of these more detailed guides:

You can also access a printable version of our APA Citation Guide.


Reference Page—Basics

List citations in alphabetical order by author’s or editor’s last name. If your citation goes over one line, use a hanging indent for all subsequent lines. No matter the resource, all citations follow the same basic pattern: author, year, title, and publication information.

Capitalization in APA

In general, when we deal with titles, we use what’s called headline case. That is, we capitalize all important words, as in The Mutiny on the Bounty.APA, however, also uses sentence case. For the titles of articles and books, capitalize only the first word of the title, the first word of the subtitle, and any proper nouns. When it comes to the titles of periodicals like journals or newspapers, though, you are back to using headline case. Still not sure? Keep reading and you’ll find more examples.


The most basic book citation looks something like this:

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Year of Publication). Title of book: First letter of subtitle also capitalized. City of Publication, State Abbreviation: Publisher.

If you are citing a particular edition, that can be included in parentheses after the title and before the period following the title.

Kaakinen, J. R., Gedaly-Duff, V., Coehlo D. P., & Hanson, S. M. H. (2010). Family health care nursing: Theory, practice, and research (4th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis.

Articles in a Scholarly Journal

The most basic article citation would look something like this. Note that the title of the article does not require any quotation marks.

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Year of publication). Title of article. Title of Periodical/Journal, Volume(Issue), Start page-End page.

If there is more than one author, place a comma after the first author’s first initial, followed by an ampersand (&) and the second author’s last name and first initial:

Emdin, C., & Lee, O. (2012). Hip-hop, the “Obama effect,” and urban science education. Teachers College Record, 114(2), 1-24.

Three to Seven Authors

Platt, J. E., Platt, T. T., Thiel, D. D., & Kardia, S. R. (2013). ‘Born in Michigan? You’re in the biobank’: Engaging population biobank participants through Facebook advertisements. Public Health Genomics16(4), 145-158.

More than Seven Authors

If you have more than seven authors, list the first six authors, followed by ellipses and the final author’s name. There should be no more than seven names.

Record, N., Onion, D., Prior, R., Dixon, D., Record, S., Fowler, F., … Pearson, T. (2015). Community-wide cardiovascular disease prevention programs and health outcomes in a rural county, 1970-2010. Journal of the American Medical Association, 313(2), 147-155.

Articles in other periodicals

Citations for magazine articles are similar, but ask you to use the month and sometimes the date in addition to the year. A simple magazine citation might look like this:

Last name, First initial. (Year, Month). Article title: Subtitle of article. Publication titleVolume(Issue), Start page-End page.

Foner, E. (2014, December). Gateway to freedom: The origins of the underground railroad. Harper’s, 329(1975), 49-55.

Cite newspaper articles as you would magazine articles, but note that volume and issue aren’t required, and you must use p. or pp. before page numbers for a newspaper citation. For a one-page article, use p. (p. B2). For a multi-page article, use pp. (pp. B2, B4 or pp. C1, C3-C4).

Last name, First initial. (Year, Month Day). Article title. Publication titleVolume(Issue), page numbers.

Schultz, S. (2005, December 28). Calls made to strengthen state energy policies. The Country Today, pp. 1A, 2A.

Book Chapter

Let’s say you need to cite a single chapter out of a book (maybe it’s a book where each chapter has different authors). You can do it like this:

Chapter Author Last Name, First Initial. (Year). Chapter title. In A. A. Editor & B. B. Editor (Eds.), Title of Book (Start page-End Page). City of Publication, State Abbr.: Publisher.

Smart, P. Policy design. (2009). In J. Milstead (Ed.), Health policy and politics: A nurse’s guide (3rd ed., pp. 129-154). Sudbury, MA: John Bartlett.

Internet Sources

Citing internet sources can be difficult because technology is constantly changing and citation styles struggle to keep up. However, there is a certain basic format that you can follow and adapt as needed. Remember, no matter the kind of source, you can still expect the same pattern: author(s), year, title(s), publication info. Omit any information (e.g., author, date of publication) that isn’t available.

The citation for a basic website should look something like this.

Author Last Name, First Initial. (Date of Publication). Webpage title. Retrieved from URL

If you can’t find an author, start with the title of the webpage and put the date after. You may also want to indicate the larger website in which the article appears.

Diabetes. (2014, July 31). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/basics/definition/con-20033091

If you are dealing with an article from an online newspaper or magazine, the citation is very similar to the print version. Simply omit page information and add “Retrieved from http…” to the end of the citation. Do not put a period at the end of a URL.

Fox, J. (2013, November). What we’ve learned from the financial crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/11/what-weve-learned-from-the-financial-crisis

Sometimes you will see a citation for an internet source with a long number at the end called a Digital Object Identifier (DOI). There are good reasons to use them where possible, but if you’re not sure what they do or how to figure out what the DOI for your article is, don’t worry about it.

Berg, J. (2013). On the removal of download access to Grateful Dead soundboards from the Live Music Archive. Popular Music & Society36(2), 175-193. doi:10.1080/03007766.2012.684998


In-Text citations

Use parenthetical citations for quotations and paraphrases in the body of your text. They are usually pretty simple, but if things start to get complicated, remember their purpose: to indicate which item from the list of works cited is being referred to, and (sometimes) where in that work the information can be found.

In general, you will want to include author last name, year, and possibly the page number in parentheses. They will look something like this:

(Author Last Name, Year, p. #).

However, some of this information might be contained in your own words. For example, if the author is named in the signal phrase, it is not necessary to repeat the name in parentheses. If you are quoting directly or paraphrasing a particular sentence, also give a page number in parentheses. However, if you are referencing the entire work, no page number is necessary.

In her capacity as a social reformer, Jane Addams relied on many strategies to make personal connections with those she sought to help (Rosenberg, 2004, p. 10).

Rosenberg (2004) discusses Jane Addams’s work as a social reformer.

A work with two authors: Provide author name(s) in the signal phrase or in the parentheses. Spell out and in the signal phrases but use & in parentheses.

Tibbs and Cummings (2012) discuss the legal implications of hip-hop and argue for “rethinking law related to the criminal justice system” (p. 11).

The article discusses the legal implications of hip-hop and argues for rethinking laws related to the criminal justice system (Tibbs & Cummings, 2012, p. 11).

A work by three to five authors: Name the author(s) in the signal phrase or in the parentheses the first time you cite the source. Afterwards, you would mention the first author followed by “et al.”

Lingard, Martino, and Rezai-Rashti (2013) discuss the rise of global modes of test-based, top-down accountability in school systems (p. 18).

There is a rise of global modes of test-based, top-down accountability in school systems (Lingard et al., 2013, p. 18).

Unknown Author: Cite the source by its title (or a shortened version) in the signal phrase or in parentheses. Italicize book titles and reports; titles of articles and chapters go in quotation marks.

A study was conducted to measure users’ opinions of library programs and services (“Love Your Library,” 2013).

The “Love Your Library” survey (2013) was conducted to measure users’ opinions of library programs and services.

Two or more works in the same parentheses: When your parenthetical citation includes two or more works, order them the same way they appear in the reference list, separated by a semi-colon.

Several studies discuss the benefits of embedded librarianship in higher education (Riccio, 2000; Hamilton, 2012; Shank & Bell, 2011).

Internet sources

In his review of Kanye West’s new album, Lusk (2013) claimed that “Yeezus is the most adventurous album West has released” (para.1).


More Info

Still not sure? Consult one of the resources listed at the top of the page or contact your library’s citation expert, Andy Newgren (815-226-4165; anewgren@rockford.edu).