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General APA rules

APA General Rules

You may wish to include additional material that supplements your work but is not integral to it (the results of a survey or questionnaire for example) in an appendix.

Begin each appendix on a separate page after your reference list and give each one a label and a title that describes its contents. If you have only included one appendix, label it “Appendix”; if you include more than one, label each one with a capital letter in alphabetical order (“Appendix A”, “Appendix B”).

You do not need to reference any appendices but simply signpost the reader in your text (e.g. See Appendix A).

If it is not possible to identify an individual author for a source, you may be able to use the name of an organisation or company as the author.

For example, if you want to reference a page on the website of the British Psychological Society, and there is no obvious author, you could use the British Psychological Society as the author in your reference.

Even if you have used an abbreviation in the in-text citation, you should still put the full name of the company or organisation in your full reference.

Example full reference

British Psychological Society. (2015, June 2). Discussing veterans’ mental health in St Petersburg.


Example in-text citations

If the organisation or company can be easily identified by an abbreviation or acronym, you should cite both the full title and the abbreviation the first time you cite the source in the text. In later references you can just use the abbreviation. See examples below.

First in-text citation

British Psychological Society (BPS, 2015) reported on a discussion of veterans’ mental health.

Veterans’ mental health was discussed at a meeting in Russia (British Psychological Society [BPS], 2015).

Later in-text citations

The BPS (2015) reported on a discussion of veterans’ mental health.

Veterans’ mental health was discussed at a meeting in Russia (BPS, 2015).

What do we mean by editions of a book?

The first edition of a book is the first time it is ever published. Some books only ever have one edition. Other books have a new edition published every few years.

A new edition of a book usually has updated content and any outdated information is removed. Authors, editors and sometimes even the title of the book might change between editions. It is best to read the newest edition of a book if you can, so that you are getting the most up-to-date information.

When you reference a book, you only need to include the edition information if it is not the first edition. You can usually see the edition details on the cover of the book or on the title page inside.

Example full reference (first edition)

Hansen, A. & Machin, D. (2013). Media and communication research methods. Palgrave.

Example full reference (second, third edition and so on)

Hansen, A. & Machin, D. (2018). Media and communication research methods (2nd ed.). Palgrave.

What is a reprint?

A reprint is when an older book is re-published with exactly the same content and no new information. This sometimes happens with classic books which are still popular.

Example reference for a reprinted book

Milgram, S. (2010). Obedience to authority (New ed.). Pinter & Martin. (Original work published 1974)

Example in-text citations

Milgram (1974/2010) was surprised by participants’ willingness to follow orders.

People can be surprisingly willing to follow orders (Milgram, 1974/2010).

In APA referencing, every time you refer to or quote from another person's work, you should provide a brief reference within the main body of your essay. This usually consists of the author's surname and the year of publication in brackets. You should also include page numbers if you are quoting or paraphrasing a specific part of the source (see also: Quoting and paraphrasing).

This brief reference is usually called a citation, an in-text citation, or a citation within the text.

There are two ways of citing within the text:

1. Direct citation

If you mention the author by name in the text, the citation only needs to include the year of publication (and any page numbers if relevant).

Example direct citation

Freud (1900) placed great importance on the significance of dreams.

2. Indirect citation

If you have not mentioned the author by name when referring to their work, your in-text citation should include the author surname, year of publication, and any page numbers if relevant.

Example indirect citation

Dreams were believed to be highly significant in psychoanalysis (Freud, 1900).


  • Direct and indirect citations are both equally suitable for use in your academic writing.
  • You can use either or both citation types within the same piece of work.
  • Choose whichever in-text citation style fits better with the flow of each sentence.

Check whether an organisation or group could be used as the author: see Company as an author. For online sources, there may be a screen name or username which you could use as the author: see Screen names / online usernames.

If there is no way to identify any kind of author for the source, you should begin your reference with the title of the source. If the title of the source is short, use the full title when citing in the text. For long titles you can use just the first few words. See examples below.

In the reference list, alphabetise this type of reference by the title (discounting any beginning words such as The, A or An).

Book with no author

Example full reference

Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (11th ed.). (2005). Merriam-Webster.

Example in-text citations

Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (2005) has a definition of cognition.

Cognition has a dictionary definition (Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary, 2005).

Online article with no author

Example full reference

Former mental health patient now works on ward that treated her (2020, May 21). BBC News.


Example in-text citations

When citing in the text, use double quotation marks around the title. You do not need to use the quotation marks in the reference list (see above). You can shorten the title if it is long.

“Former mental health patient” (2020) tells one service user’s story.

Personal experience of mental health care can be useful (“Former mental health patient”, 2020).

If there is no way to establish the publication date of a source, use (n.d.) instead of the year. This stands for “no date”.

Example full reference (online article with no date)

Martin, B. (n.d.). Does stress cause heart disease? PsychCentral.

Example in-text citations

Martin (n.d.) described the effect of stress on heart disease.

Stress has been found to have an effect on heart disease (Martin, n.d.).

If you have quoted or paraphrased from a source which has no page numbers (e.g. a website) you should instead provide a paragraph number in the in-text citation. For example, starting from the top of the page, the third paragraph down would be paragraph 3. This is abbreviated to para. 3. The paragraph number is placed wherever you would normally put page numbers.

For longer documents you can use a chapter number/title or section heading, followed by the paragraph number within that chapter or section.

Example in-text citations using paragraph number

Filer (2014) states that “The safety of patients and the public is paramount” (para. 19).

“The safety of patients and the public is paramount” (Filer, 2014, para. 19).

Journal articles with no page numbers

Some online journals do not use page numbers. If this is the case, when quoting directly from the article, use paragraph numbers as above in the in-text citation.

In the full reference in the reference list, if the article has no page numbers, just leave them out.

Some online journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. If this is the case, in the full reference in your reference list, you should include the article number after the volume/issue number (where the page numbers would usually go).

Example full reference with article number

Ames, H., Glenton, C. & Lewin, S. (2019). Purposive sampling in a qualitative evidence synthesis: a worked example from a synthesis on parental

perceptions of vaccination communication. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 19, Article 26.

Page numbers and e-books

Some e-books do not provide page numbers. You should not use location numbers in Kindle e-books as page numbers. Instead you should use chapter numbers or chapter titles in your in-text citations, followed by the paragraph number within that chapter (see example above).

Quoting from audio-visual sources

For audio-visual sources, such as videos or podcasts, you can use a timestamp instead of page numbers for quotations. Use the timestamp from where the quote begins.

Example quotation using timestamp

It has been suggested that “sports performance is all in the mind” (King, 2017, 5:11).

Source with one author

Example full reference

Miller, R. L. (2015). Community psychology, evaluation, and social critique. American Journal of Evaluation, 36(1), 89-99.

Example in-text citation

Miller (2015) studied the relationship between community psychology and evaluation.

Community psychology has been found to have an influence on evaluation (Miller, 2015).

Source with two authors

Example full reference

Knifsend, C. A., & Juvonen, J. (2014). Social identity complexity, cross-ethnic friendships, and intergroup attitudes in urban middle schools. Child

Development, 85(2), 709-721.

Example in-text citation

Knifsend and Juvonen (2014) studied cross-ethnic friendships.

Cross-ethnic friendships have been shown to influence intergroup attitudes (Knifsend & Juvonen, 2014).

Source with three or more authors

Example full reference

Heaney, C. A., Walker, N. C., Green, A. J. K., & Rostron, C. L. (2015). Sport psychology education for sport injury rehabilitation professionals. Physical

Therapy in Sport, 16(1), 72-79.

Example in-text citations

For sources with three or more authors, use the first author's name followed by et al. in your in-text citations. Et al. is a Latin phrase meaning "and others". See examples below.

Heaney et al. (2015) carried out a systematic review of sport psychology education.

Evidence for sport psychology education has been systematically reviewed (Heaney et al., 2015).

What’s the difference?

Quoting from a source means repeating a small amount of the author’s writing word-for-word.

Paraphrasing a source means putting the author’s idea(s) into your own words.

Both quoting and paraphrasing can be appropriate in your academic work. Generally it is best to use a combination of the two. Quoting can be useful when you feel it is important to use the author’s exact wording; on the other hand, paraphrasing shows that you have understood the source by summarising it in your own words.

Whether you are quoting or paraphrasing, it is essential to provide an in-text citation and a full reference in the reference list for the information you have used.


If you quote directly from a source, the in-text citation should include the page number(s) of the section you have quoted or paraphrased. A letter p is used for single pages, while pp refers to multiple pages. If the source does not have page numbers, see No page numbers.

If a quotation is less than 40 words long, you should include it within the main body of your essay and enclose it in double quotation marks.

Example quotations of less than 40 words

Sheen (2012) found that “participants who liked popcorn were more likely to believe in ghosts” (p. 13) which contradicts previous studies.

Contrary to popular belief, “there is no evidence whatsoever that cats have nine lives” (Lloyd Webber & Eliot, 1980, pp. 109-110).

If a quotation is more than 40 words long, you should separate it from the main body of your essay, starting on a new line and slightly indented from the left margin. Do not use quotation marks in this case.

Example quotation of more than 40 words

One study found a link between pet ownership and time spent outdoors:

In this longitudinal study it became apparent that participants who owned a pet dog were significantly more likely to spend over 5 hours a week in local parks and green areas. The reasons for this are unclear, and it is possible that the purpose of these park visits may never be established. (Laslow, 2008, pp.19-20)


When paraphrasing from a source, you do not need to use quotation marks, but you should still provide an in-text citation with the author and date. Page numbers are not essential when paraphrasing, but you should include them if it helps your lecturer when marking your work. For example, if you are paraphrasing from a book, page numbers should be included in the citation to help the lecturer find the relevant section.


Singh (2000) found that praising students’ work had a positive impact on their performance.

More recent research concluded that dress codes did not affect employee productivity (Marx, 2006, pp. 6-7).

At the end of any piece of written work, you should include a list of references. This should consist of every source you have referred to in your in-text citations. The reference list should include full details for every source.

For example, if you have referred to the 1994 book Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel in your essay, your in-text citation might look like this:

(Wurtzel, 1994)

The full reference in your reference list would look like this:

Wurtzel, E. (1994). Prozac nation: young and depressed in America. Quartet Books.

Anyone reading your work should be able to use the brief information provided in your in-text citation to find the full reference in your reference list.


  • Any source mentioned in an in-text citation should also be included in the reference list.
  • Any source included in the reference list should have been mentioned in at least one of your in-text citations.
  • Your reference list should be in alphabetical order by author. See No author if there is no author listed.

If a reference takes up more than one line, the second line onwards should be indented 1.25cm from the left margin. You can do this in Word using the Hanging Indent option in the Paragraph menu.

Do not use bullet points or numbering in the reference list.

If you know the author’s real name

If you know the real name of an author, you can use both their real name and their screen name (online username) when citing sources such as blog posts or YouTube videos. The real name is given first, followed by the screen name in square brackets. See example below.

In the case of online videos, the person who created the video is classed as the author.

Example full reference: YouTube video where the author’s real name is known

In the example below, the YouTuber Natalie Wynn makes videos using the screen name ContraPoints.

Wynn, N. [ContraPoints]. (2020, February 16). Shame [Video]. YouTube.

Example in-text citations

If the author’s real name is known, use their real name when citing in the text.

Wynn (2020) explained how shame can affect our understanding of sexuality.

Our understanding of sexuality can be affected by shame (Wynn, 2020).

If you don’t know the author’s real name

If there is no way to establish the author’s real name, you can use their screen name in the reference. See examples below.

Example full reference: YouTube video where author’s real name is not known

Academy of Ideas. (2020, May 20). The psychology of the anti-hero [Video]. YouTube.

Example in-text citations

If you don’t know the author’s real name, use their screen name when citing in the text.

Academy of Ideas (2020) explained how heroism is linked to good citizenship.

Heroism may be linked with good citizenship (Academy of Ideas, 2020).

Difference between DOI and URL

A URL is the online address for a website or online resource. For example, the URL for the BBC website is

A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is a unique identifying number used only for academic literature which is published online. The advantage of a DOI is that it is a unique number linked to one specific article and does not change over time.

Watch a short video explaining DOIs and how to use them.

Identifying DOIs

A DOI is a long number which always starts with 10. Here is an example DOI: 10.1177/1098214014557694

If an online article has a DOI, you will usually find it at the beginning of the article with the letters DOI in front of it (DOI may be in uppercase or lowercase).

When to use a DOI or a URL

If the source you are referencing has a DOI, you should always include the DOI in the reference. If the source does not have a DOI, you can use the URL instead. Use the DOI or the URL – not both!

How to format a DOI in a reference

When you use a DOI in a reference, you should format it as a link. To do this, just add the prefix directly before the DOI number. This turns the DOI into a working link.