Quick Guide to APA Style

  • The following is a Quick Guide to APA Style. Click here to access this information as a screencast. 

    The American Psychological Association has a good APA Tutorial to help you with your APA writing style.

    by Dr. Janet Waters  (revised 2017)

    APA Writing Style - updated for the new 6th edition

    APA writing and referencing style is the standard format required by the American Psychological Association for writing psychology papers and research reports.  This handout is based on the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Handouts based on the previous edition are out of date.

    To write papers or reports in APA style, generally paraphrase the ideas, theories or research from psychology sources into your own words (rather than relying on numerous direct quotes). Paraphrasing is more than just changing a few words in the sentence. Whether paraphrasing or quoting, always give the citation and reference for every source, for all quoted and paraphrased material. If you fail to cite the source of your information, or fail to use quotation marks when quoting, you are plagiarizing, that is, claiming another's work and ideas as your own. This is a serious academic offense that will lead to failure of your paper, and likely the course. See the Capilano University Policy on Cheating and Plagiarism for penalties.

    Tips on writing style in your papers/reports:

    Use a formal, direct and clear writing style, avoiding slang or casual language. Write with precision, using the correct psychological term for a concept. (For example, don't write "feel" when you mean "think").  Avoid first or second person; generally do not use "I", "me", or "you". A blog post or journal would be an exception.

    In presenting theories or research in psychology, use the researcher's or author's name to avoid reification (that is, avoid "the article says..." as an article or research study can not speak). Use last names only. There is no need to add your sources' qualifications, as they all should be psychologists.

    APA requires the use of non-sexist and unbiased language. Avoid "he" and "mankind", and language or terms that show cultural or ethnic bias. To refer to a culture or group, use a term preferred by members of that culture. To refer to a person with a psychological disorder, do not refer to them as the disorder (e.g. "the individual with schizophrenia", not "the schizophrenic"). 

    Tips on formatting your papers/reports:

    Papers and research reports must always be typed and double-spaced, with 1 inch (2.5 cm) margins on all sides. The recommended typeface is Times New Roman, 12 point font. The margins are left-justified (even only on the left margin). Indent the first line of every paragraph five spaces. Include a running head, and page numbers.

    Reference Citations in Your Paper or Report

    In APA referencing style, paraphrased and quoted material is cited where you use the information in the paper itself, in parenthetical reference citations which include the author's last name(s) and the date. These sources are also listed in full in a References section at the end of the paper. Unlike MLA style, APA style emphasizes the date of a study, instead of the page number. However, page numbers are added to the date when you are using direct quotes. For further information on APA style, go to the APA website.

    Citing paraphrased material

    Whenever you include information or ideas from any source, you must give the author's last name and the year of publication of the source you read, either as part of your sentence or in parentheses. APA also encourages the addition of page numbers for long or complex texts.  For example:

                  Mills (2010) discussed the variety of methods of inducing hypnosis.
                  There is a variety of methods that can be used to induce hypnosis in participants (Mills, 2010).

    Cite both names if there are two authors. Join the names with an ampersand (&) only when in parentheses (if used within a sentence, use 'and' - for example, Shaver and Fraley) . Use initials where authors have the same surname. When there are more than two authors, cite all the names the first time, and from then on, cite only the last name of the first author and "et al." (Latin for "and others"). See examples below. If there are 6 or more authors, use this format for all citations (first author's last name, et al., year).

                  (Shaver & Fraley, 1998)
                  (S. Fenton & D. Fenton, 2004)
                  (Cuesta, Peralta, & DeLeon, 2003) - first reference citation
                  use (Cuesta et al., 2003) for subsequent citations 

    If an article has no author, use the first few words of the title or the name of the organization, and the year. Use quote marks for the title of an article, or italicize the title of a book, brochure, or report. If there is no date, use n.d. (for "no date"). For example:

                   Current evidence from research on the brain ("Brain Breakthrough", 2015) indicates that...
                   In the current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (American Psychological Association [APA], 2012)... 

    In subsequent references to well known organizations, the abbreviation alone may be used (APA, 2009). 

    Citing secondary sources

    When you paraphrase a secondary source (that is, you read about Freud's theory of dreams in a text by Krause, Corts, Smith and Dolderman), you usually give the name of the original primary source (i.e. Freud) in your sentence, but not the date. Cite and reference the secondary source (Krause et al.) only. For example: 

                   According to Freud (as cited in Krause, Corts, Smith & Dolderman, 2018), all dreams are wish fulfillments.

    Your secondary source will usually include citations for their primary sources (such as Freud). Don't include your source's citations, as you did not actually use those primary sources. 

    Using quotations

    Avoid using too many quotes; generally paraphrase the information in your own words. But if you do directly quote a source, you must put the quote in quotation marks and give the page number as well as author and year in the citation. Place commas between the elements of the citation, and indicate pages with p. for one page and pp. for more than one. In short quotes, the period goes after the citation as follows: 

                  According to Weiten and McCann (2010, p. 323), fluid intelligence involves "reasoning ability, memory capacity and speed of information processing", while crystallized intelligence involves the "ability to apply acquired knowledge and skills in problem solving" (p. 323).

    If you quote a passage of more than 40 words, block and indent it five spaces, without quotation marks. A second paragraph within the block quotation would be indented an additional five spaces. For block quotes, the period goes before the reference at the end of the quote. The quotation is double-spaced. If you italicize a portion of the quotation to add an emphasis, indicate that with [emphasis added]. If you add a word, enclose it in brackets (e.g.[the results]), and if there are errors in the quote, follow the original quote, inserting [sic] after the error. If the original text included citations, keep them in the quote, but do not list these in the References section.

                 Smith (1996) found that:
                           The "placebo effect", which had been verified in previous
                           studies, disappeared when behaviors were studied in this
                           manner. Furthermore, the behaviors were never exhibited
    [emphasis added], even when real drugs were
                           administd [sic]. Earlier studies (e.g., Abdullah, 1984; Fox,
                           1979) were clearly premature in attributing [the results] to
                           a placebo effect. (p. 276)                       

    Citing and referencing personal communications (class lectures, etc.)

    Interviews, lectures, class lectures, email, etc. are rarely used in your papers because they cannot be retrieved by the reader. They are therefore cited only in the text of your paper, and are not listed in the References section. Give the initials and surname of your source, and the date. For example:

           According to the elder, T. Daniels (personal communication, June 7, 2016)... 

           Ability to visualize has been found to be related to both creativity and emotions (J. Waters, personal communication, June 3, 2017).


    References Section

    At the end of your paper, append a References section in which all your cited and published sources (books, articles, and other sources) appear alphabetically by the first author's last name. The subtitle of this section is References (centred, and not bolded). Provide the full reference, which includes all the information necessary for the reader to retrieve the source, in a standard format. Each entry should be a hanging indent. (Note that the following examples may not appear correctly formatted in your browser). The details of the format must be followed exactly, including correct punctuation. For example:

    Book: The four parts of the entry, separated by periods, are (a) the author's name (surname followed by initials); (b) the year of publication, in parentheses; (c) the title, which is italicized. Only the first word of the title and subtitle, and proper names, are capitalized. Then the edition (if any) in parentheses; d) the city, state/province abbreviation, followed by a colon and the publisher's name.  For example:

    Krause, M., Corts, D., Smith, S., & Dolderman, D. (2018). An introduction
          to psychological science
    (2nd Canadian ed.). Toronto, ON: Pearson

    Weiten, W., & McCann, D. (2016). Psychology: Themes and variations
          (4th Canadian ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson.

    Chapter or article in an edited collection: a) author of the article (surname followed by initials); b) year of publication of the edited book; c) title of the article or chapter; d) editor's name, initials first, then (Ed.); e) italicized title of the edited book and page numbers of the chapter; then the edition in parentheses (if any) f) city, state/province abbreviation, then colon, then publisher.  For example:

    Mehdizadeh, S. (2016). Self-presentation 2.0: Narcissism and
            self-esteem on Facebook. In E. Gantt (Ed.), Taking sides:
            Clashing views on controversial psychological issues
    (19th ed.). Guilford, CT: McGraw Hill.

    Journal Article with DOI (digital object identifier): In most articles found through PsycINFO or PsycARTICLES, you will find a DOI (digital object identifier) at the top right of the first page.

    The elements of journal article references include: (a) the author's name (surname followed by initials); (b) the year of publication; (c) the title of the article with only the first words of the title and subtitle capitalized; (d) the title of the journal, italicized and with all main words capitalized, followed by a comma; e) the volume number, italicized, the issue number in parentheses and not italicized, and then the page numbers. Do not include the abbreviations Vol or pp; f) the DOI if there is one.  For example:

    Taneja, A., Fiore, V., & Fischer, B. (2015). Cyber-slacking
            in the classroom: Potential for digital distraction in
            the new age. Computers and Education, 82, 141-151.
            doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.11.009 

    Journal Article without DOI: Omit the DOI in cases when there is none on the article, for example for a older print version of a journal article: 

    Cuesta, M. J., Peralta, B., & DeLeon, J. (1994). Schizophrenic syndromes
           associated with treatment response. Progress in Neurology,
           Psychopharmacology, and Biological Psychiatry, 18,

    Magazine article:
    Add the month of publication after the year for magazine articles (see the following example). If there is no author, the title of the article is substituted.

    Walter, C. (2006, December/January). Why do we cry? Scientific
           American Mind, 17
    (6), 44-51.

    Online magazine article: Use the magazine format, but add the URL at the end.

    Clay, R. (2008, June). Science vs. ideology: Psychologists fight back
           about the misuse of research. Monitor on Psychology, 39(6).
           Retrieved from http://www.apa.org 

    Newspaper article: Give the month and day after the year. If there is no author, the title of the article is substituted.

    Fox, M. (2007, September 15). Loneliness linked to genes, researchers
           say. The Vancouver Sun, p. B4. 

    Online newspaper article:
    Use the newspaper format, but add the URL at the end.

    Fox, M. (2007, September 15). Loneliness linked to genes, researchers
           say.The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from http://www.vancouversun.com
    Motion Picture:  Begin with the names of the producers and directors.

    Gigliotti, D. Gordon, J. & Russell, D. O. (Producers), & Russell, D.
           (Director). (2012). Silver linings playbook [Motion picture].
           [With B. Cooper, J. Lawrence, R. De Niro, & J. Weaver].    
           United States: Weinstein Company-Mirage Enterprises.        

    Abstract of an article: The reference citation for an Abstract of an article found on a database (PsycINFO) (without a DOI):

    Ludwig, D. N. (1996). Preschool children's cognitive styles and their social
           orientations [Abstract]. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 70, 915-921. ​

    "Informally published"documents from a web site: If an author is identified, begin with the author's name; if not, use the title. If no publication date is given, use n.d. (no date).

    A short biography of Jean Piaget. (1999). Retrieved from

    Shaver, P. R., & Fraley, R. C. (n.d.). Self-report measures of adult
    . Retrieved from