Simplified APA Style Referencing Guide

By Evans, February 02, 2021

Simplified APA Style Referencing Guide

Your professor has given you an assignment to work on. There are many things bugging you about the assignment, but today we are focusing only on the positive, right? Well, right. Until you see among the instructions, ‘use APA style’. What on earth does APA mean? Why can’t I just use my own style? Or maybe, you have heard about this APA style, but you have no idea how to use it in your paper. Well, worry no more. Here is everything you want to know about APA style.

What is APA?

American Psychological Association (APA) is a referencing format that is used when it comes to organizing a paper. Using this format basically means organizing your paper and documenting sources in the standards outlined in it. You cannot write an academic paper without actually researching and using external sources. How do you organize these sources? What do you use and what do you leave behind? APA format helps you answer all these questions.

Why was APA created?

APA referencing style was created to give people in the science field a way of documenting the sources they used in their research. Creation of this guidelines helped ensure that there was order and uniformity when it comes to documenting sources. Before APA, scientists could use different ways to include sources they used in their papers. It also made it easier to get the information regarding the used sources in an easy manner.

Where is APA used?

APA referencing format is mainly used in disciplines such as: social science, sociology, psychology, education, business, and economics among others. If you are pursuing a course in social science or related fields, then you be ready to embrace APA style as the main style that you will be using in the course of your study life.

How is APA used?

APA format is not only used when it comes to documenting sources. It is also used in the entire paper, from the title page to the abstract, and the main body.

Title page

According to APA guidelines, the title page should include:

  • The title
  • The author
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Course name and number
  • Professor’s name
  • Due date
  • The main reason as to why you have a title page is to help whoever is reading your paper to know what it is about and who you are without having to peruse through the paper to get those details.


    According to APA guideline, the abstract should contain 100-200 words. However, it is very important to consult with your professor and understand the requirements for a particular paper.

    Main body

    The main body should be double spaced (unless stated otherwise by your professor) and it should use the left indentation.

    The running head

    The header of each page should contain the title of your paper (capitalized) and the page number. Your header should be at the top right-hand side. For the title page, the paper title is preceded by the words, ‘running head.’


    There are two forms of references: in-text citation and the references at the end of the paper

  • In-text citations
  • In-text citations basically means citing sources within your paper. If you paraphrase or quote someone’s work, it is very important to attribute it to them. Thus in in-text, you only use the author’s name and the date of publication as the rest of the information is given at the end of the paper. For example, if you decide to quote, “no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid” by Lupita Nyong’o, you have to add the citation (Nyong’o, 2014) at the end of the quotation. We can write this quotation and cite it in two ways:

    1. “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid,” (Nyong’o, 2014).

    2. Nyong’o (2014) states that, “no matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.”

    Two Authors

    For a source written by two authors, you have to cite both authors in your paper every time you are attributing something to them. For example, Nyon’go and Blake (2014) found…

    Three to five Authors

    For a source that has three to five authors, you should cite all the authors for the first time you reference them in your paper. For example, Nyong’o, Blake, Owens, Smith, and Carson (2019) concluded that…

    For the other times that you refer to their work, you only need to include the first author followed by the words ‘et al.’ For example, Nyong’o et al. (2019) also noted that…

    Six or More Authors

    When citing a source that has six or more authors, you should just indicate the last name of the first author followed by et al. for example, Sang et al. (2020) compared this to…

    Reference page

    This is the page at the end of the paper that contains entry of all the information for the used sources. It contains author’s names, date of publication, title of the publication, edition among other details.

    Miller, R. E., & Pollak, J. (2003). Privacy and security under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Transfusion, 43(9), 1186-1189.

    The example above outlines how a source ought to be referenced in APA style. The reference ought to always start with the author’s name (that is, the surname, followed by the initials of the first and middle name). The name is followed by the year of publication (in Parenthesis), title of the publication, name of the journal, volume number, and pages in that order.

    When a source has more than one author, like the one illustrated above, separate the two authors with an ampersand (&). For three to twenty authors, separate their names by a comma and use ampersand before the name of the last author. For a publication that has more than 20 authors, use comma to separate the first 19 names. After the 19th name, use and ellipsis, then add the last author without the ampersand. This is according to APA 7, latest version of the APA manual released in 2019.

    If there’s no indicated author, let the title of the publication come first, and followed by the date of publication in parenthesis.

    Other things to note concerning the reference page:

    It should always begin on a new page.

    The word ‘references’ should be centered

    The sources should be arranged in an alphabetical order

    The reference page, unlike the main body uses the hanging kind of indentation. You can do this by using the Tab key, or using the paragraph specials available on the home page of your word.

    Books, journals, magazines, and newspaper titles should always appear in italics.

    It is important to note that all sources do not follow the same guidelines. For instance, the way you cite a website is not the very same way that you cite a book. Here’s a guide for different sources:

    How to cite a journal in APA

    How to cite a book in APA

    How to cite a magazine in APA

    How to cite a website in APA

    While these are the basic things you need to know about the APA formatting style, it is very important to get the APA manual. The manual will help you understand more about this formatting style.

    The truth is, getting all this details is a difficult task. This is especially hard when you are just learning how to use APA. You don’t have to stay up all night cramming how to cite your sources in the right way. APA Citation Generator is an easy tool that can help you generate the right APA styled reference for you automatically. All you have to do is provide necessary information required for the tool to generate citations for you such as the ISBN number for a book or a url for the website.

    APA referencing format may appear to be quite difficult. However, it gets easy as you practice formatting your papers in this manner. Like any other kind of writing, it gets better with practice. So get on with it and all the best!

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