Guide on APA formatting

How to cite sources, using APA formatting style

Let us introduce you to the most complete guide on American Psychological Association (APA) formatting style, which concerns in-text citations and reference lists. It is very simple to use and understand, and explains how to cite every source properly.

Key components of APA referencing

Author’s rules:

  • Initials should be separated by periods. For example Bond, M.C.;
  • Several authors should be divided by commas and ampersand. Bond, M.C. & Jameson, R.D.;
  • Several authors with the same surnames and initials: include the name in square brackets.

Date rules:

  • Date means the publishing date;
  • If you don’t know the publishing date, place ‘n.d.’ after author’s name.

Title rules:

  • The form of the title depends on the type of the source you are referencing.

Publisher’s rules:

  • If the source is from the US, you need to mention the city and state’s code in two capital letters;
  • If the source isn’t from the US, just state the city and the country, separated with comma.

Example: Surname of the author, initials. Date of publication. Title of the source. Publisher’s location. Published. Retrieved from URL.

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Basic requirements to the list of references

Reference list is a list of all the references you have used in your paper and includes the name of the author, publication date, title of the source and much more. According to APA formatting style, your list of references must be:

  • Situated on a separate paper at the end of your work;
  • Centered;
  • Arranged in an alphabetical order according to the author’s name. If the name isn’t available, you should use the title. In case there are several works of the same author, you need to order them according to the date. If the year of publication is the same, you need to organize the sources alphabetically according to the title and place a letter (a or b, for example) after the publication date.

Remember to provide references for every source you have used in your paper.

How to cite different references

In text citation should always follow the quote or a paraphrase inside the text. These are citations, which are situated inside the text and not on a separate piece of paper.

Such citations should be related to every quote and still be duplicated in the reference list. They include author’s surname and publication date. For example, Conrad (2011) claims… or … (Conrad, 2011).

The structure of such citation depends on the type of the citing material: whether it is a direct quote or not.

  • For direct quotes: the in-text citation should come right after the quote and contain the page number after the date. Such rule must be applied to all types of listed quotes;
  • If the quote is parenthetical, you don’t need to place the page number.
  • Two authors: If the source has two author, you need to include both with an ampersand or ‘and’ in between. For example, … (James & Gordon, 2016).
  • Three-five authors: When you cite such source for the first time, you need to list all of the names, using commas and ‘and’ before the last surname. For further cites you can write name of the first author and then add ‘et al’. For example, Johnson et al (2016) claimed..
  • Six+ authors: You need to indicate surname of the first author and then add ‘et al’, as in the example above.
  • Authors unknown: If you don’t know the author, you should write down first words of source’s reference. Usually it is its title. In case it is a book’s, reports or brochure’s title, you need to italicize it. For example, (On love and fear, 2018). If it is a title of a web page, a chapter or an article, you need to put quotation marks instead of italicizing it.
  • How to cite authors, which have several works, published in one year: You need to cite them, using letters a, b etc. after the date. Such letters should be assigned in a reference list, which is organized in an alphabetical order by the author’s name. For example, (Adams,2015c).

If such works were written by the same person, you need to state author’s surname and follow it with the dates in a chronological order. (Adams, 2009,2011,2017). If these works were written by different authors, you need to order references in an alphabetical way by separating the first author with a semicolon. For example: (Adams & Johnson 2016; Thomas & Davits, 2017).

Citing organization or a group

When you cite them for the first time, you need to write down the full title. Later you can shorten it.

  • For example: (International Healthcare Committee, 2017) and then (Healthcare Committee, 2017).

Citing secondary sources

In such a situation you need to state name and date of the original text and then put ‘as cited in’, followed with details of the secondary text.

  • For example, Adams (1985) as cited in Smith (2016).

Different types of sources

  1. Built-in citations don’t differ according to the source type unless author is unknown;
  2. List of references can greatly vary depending on the cited source.

APA format for citing books

Referencing a book is the basis of any formatting and it matches the above example except the ‘URL’ part. Example of book citing:

  • Johnson, A.G., Stevens, S. (2018). Amazing creatures: Forests of Indonesia. Paris, France: My publishing.

Citing edited sources

This format is very similar to formatting the initial book and you only need to include the extra notification (Ed(s)). Here is how citing of an edited book will look like:

  • Smith, A.P. (Ed). (2012). How to reference sources properly (2nd ed.). London, UK: Self-publishing.

Citing book chapters

Edited books are a set of chapters, which were written by various authors. If you need to reference a certain chapter, it is necessary to use a specific format. Here is the basic approach in such a case:

  • You shouldn’t italicize book’s chapter;
  • Editor’s initials should be placed before his surname.

In the example below, A.J Cyrus is chapter’s author and K.H. Miller is book’s editor.

Cyrus, A.J. (2011). Basic principles of formatting. In K.H. Miller (Ed.) How to apply APA style (3rd ed., pp. 59-78). London, UK: Rose Publishing.

Citing an electronic book

Referencing an electronic book is similar to referencing a regular book. You only need to change publisher’s name on the URL.

Name of the author, initials (Ed(s).), (Year) Title of the source. Extracted from URL

  • Example: Williams L., Liam P.P. (2016). All you need to know about APA formatting. Extracted from

The structure of an electronic book chapter is the same as with a chapter of an edited book and you only need to change publisher’s name on the appropriate URL. Here is the basic structure:

Chapter’s author last name, initials. (Year of publication). Title of the chapter. Initials of the editor, surname (Ed.) Example:

Wembley, S.J. (2011). On friendship. In S.Q. Johnson (Ed.) About love and other feelings (2nd ed., pp. 140-156). Extracted from

Citing journal articles

Articles are different from books and citing such sources doesn’t require including the publisher or location. In case with a journal article, such data is replaced with journal’s title, volume, number of the issue and page. Basic structure:

Surname of the author, initials. (Year). Title of the article. Title of the journal. Volume number (issue if needed), numbers of pages. DOI (if the sources is online) or Extracted from URL

Johnson, R.T. (2013) Citation: how to do everything right. Wembley Journal, 56(3), 76-78

Citing printed and online newspaper articles

Basic citing structure for such sources:

Surname of the author, initials, (Y/M/D). Title. Newspaper’s title, section, pp. Extracted from URL (for online articles). Example:

  • Smith, W. (2016). Latest updates on formatting. Stanford Post, Scientific news, pp. 11

If you need to cite a picture, using an APA format, you need to write author’s surname and initials, date of publication, image of the title and type of media (photograph, infographic, painting etc.) and add an URL.

  • Sisley C. (1980). Lifestyle of teenagers [photograph]. Retrieved from

If you need to cite a movie, you should indicate producer’s name, his initials and surname of the director, director’s initials. (Release year). Film title. Country and studio.

  • Bradley C. (Producer) & Bradley C. (2018) A star is born. United States of America: Warner Bros.

If you want to cite a television program, you should indicate writer’s surname, initials (writer), & surname of the director, initials (director). (Release year). Title of the episode [TV series episode]. Surname of the executive producer (Executive producer), Name of TV series. City and State of the channel: Studio, Network or Distributor.

When citing a song in an APA Format you need to follow common rules. If writer’s surname is indicated, you should write it with initials. If not, write the full stage name. After the title you need to indicate full name of the artist. Example of a song citing will look as follows:

  • Surname of the writer, initial(s). (Copyright year). Title of the song [artist’s name]. Album title [recording medium, i.e. MP3, CD etc.]. Label location: label. (Recording date)

Citing a website

If you need to cite a website, you should follow a common structure:

  • Surname of the author, initials. (Y/M/D). Title. Extracted from URL.

As you see, referencing different sources is not that difficult if you know all the rules and requirements. Mcessay writers recommend you to print out all of the rules indicated above. This will save your time and you won’t have to look for necessary information online every time you need to use APA formatting style.