Ethical Research

APA Manual image

Most commonly used in the social sciences (Psychology, Sociology, etc.), the American Psychological Association (APA) citation format is covered in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. While there are similarities to the MLA citation format, especially as applied to in-text citations, there are notable differences.

Known for its simplicity, examples of the APA style can be seen below.

American Psychological Association (APA) Style Guidelines Overview and Examples

*Information adapted from Purdue's University's Online Writing Center (OWL)

Type APA papers on 8.5 x 11 inch paper. Margins should be 1 inch on all sides. Text should be double-spaced with two spaces after punctuation in between sentences. Use legible font in 10 to 12 pt. size. Include a page header at the top of every page. To create a page header, click the 'Insert' tab in Microsoft Word and choose the 'Header' option. Make sure your header is flush with your left margin. Abbreviate your title to 50 or fewer characters. Then insert the page number flush with the right margin.
Title Page
Title pages should include the "Running header: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header. In the upper half of the title page, type your name, the byline, and affiliation centered on separate lines.
On a new page, center and type the word "Abstract." Beginning with the next line, type a double-spaced paragraph of 120 or fewer words containing your topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions.
Main Body
The top area of the body pages should contain the header and the page numbers. Page margins should be 1 inch. Indent first lines of paragraphs one half-inch from the left margins. This can usually be done by hitting the tab key when you start a new paragraph.
APA uses a five heading system to separate paper: Level 1: Centered, boldface, and lowercase heading; Level 2: Left-aligned, boldface, uppercase, and lowercase heading; Level 3: Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with period; Level 4: Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.

Use the past tense or present perfect tense when using signal phrases to describe earlier research, e.g., "Klotter (1998) has found." Follow the author-date method of in-text citation: (Jones, 1998).

Place direct quotations longer than 40 words in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented five spaces from the left margin. Type the entire block quotation on the new margin and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation five spaces from the new margin. Place the parenthetical citation after the closing punctuation mark.

A Work with One or Two Authors

Name the author(s) in the signal phrase or in the parentheses each time you cite the work. If there are two authors, use the word "and" between the authors' names within the text and use the ampersand in the parentheses.

Research by Livingston and Stevens (2007) supports...

(Livingston & Stevens, 2007)

A Work by Three to Five Authors

List all the authors in the signal phrase or in parentheses the first time you cite the source. Use the word "and" between the authors' names within the text and use the ampersand in the parentheses.

(Adler, Baird, Myers, & Ruth, 2015)

In subsequent citations, only use the first author's last name followed by "et al." in the signal phrase or in parentheses.

(Adler et al., 2015)

Six or More Authors

Use the first author's name followed by et al. in the signal phrase or in parentheses.

Harris et al. (2001) argued...

(Harris et al., 2001)

Unknown Author

If the work does not have an author, cite the source by its title in the signal phrase or use the first word or two in the parentheses. Titles of books and reports are italicized or underlined; titles of articles, chapters, and web pages are in quotation marks.

A similar study was done of students learning to format research papers ("Using APA," 2001).

Note: In the rare case the "Anonymous" is used for the author, treat it as the author's name (Anonymous, 2001). In the reference list, use the name Anonymous as the author.

Organization as an Author

If the author is an organization or a government agency, mention the organization in the signal phrase or in the parenthetical citation the first time you cite the source.

According to the American Psychological Association (2000),...

If the organization has a well-known abbreviation, include the abbreviation in brackets the first time the source is cited and then use only the abbreviation in later citations.

First citation: (Mothers Against Drunk Driving [MADD], 2000)

Second citation: (MADD, 2000)

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 (viz., alphabetically), separated by a semi-colon.

(Barbaccia, 2005; Burch, 2003)

Authors With the Same Last Name

To prevent confusion, use first initials with the last names.

(M. Johnson, 2001; L. Johnson, 1998)

Two or More Works by the Same Author in the Same Year

If you have two sources by the same author in the same year, use lower-case letters (a, b, c) with the year to order the entries in the reference list. Use the lower-case letters with the year in the in-text citation.

Research by White (1991a) illustrated that...

Introductions, Prefaces, Forewords, and Afterwords

When citing an Introduction, Preface, Foreword, or Afterwords in-text, cite the appropriate author and year as usual.

(Scheier & Silva, 2002)

Personal Communication

For interviews, letters, e-mails, and other person-to-person communication, cite the communicator's name, the fact that it was personal communication, and the date of the communication. Do not include personal communication in the reference list.

(E. Smith, personal communication, January 4, 2001).

A. P. Smith also claimed that many of her students had difficulties with APA style (personal communication, November 3, 2002).


Your reference list should appear at the end of your paper. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text.

Your references should begin on a new page separate from the text of the essay; label this page "References" centered at the top of the page (do NOT bold, underline, or use quotation marks for the title). All text should be double-spaced just like the rest of your essay.

Single Author

Last name first, followed by author initials.

Berndt, T. J. (2002). Friendship quality and social development.

Current Directions in Psychological Science, 11, 7-10.

Two Authors

List by their last names and initials. Use the ampersand instead of "and."

Wegener, D. T., & Petty, R. E. (1994). Mood management across affective states:

The hedonic contingency hypothesis. Journal of Personality and

Social Psychology, 66, 1034-1048.

Three to Seven Authors

List by last names and initials; commas separate author names, while the last author name is preceded again by ampersand.

Kernis, M. H., Cornell, D. P., Sun, C. R., Berry, A., Harlow, T., &

Bach, J. S. (1993). There's more to self-esteem than whether it is

high or low: The importance of stability of self-esteem. Journal of

Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1190-1204.

More Than Seven Authors

List by last names and initials; commas separate author names. After the sixth author's name, use an ellipses in place of the author names. Then provide the final author name. There should be no more than seven names.

Miller, F. H., Choi, M. J., Angeli, L. L., Harland, A. A., Stamos,

J. A., Thomas, S. T., . . . Rubin, L. H. (2009). Web site usability

for the blind and low-vision user. Technical Communication, 57,


Organization as Author

American Psychological Association. (2003).

Unknown Author

Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary (10th ed.).(1993). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

NOTE: When your essay includes parenthetical citations of sources with no author named, use a shortened version of the source's title instead of an author's name. Use quotation marks and italics as appropriate. For example, parenthetical citations of the source above would appear as follows: (Merriam-Webster's, 1993).

Articles in Periodicals

Harlow, H. F. (1983). Fundamentals for preparing psychology journal articles. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 55(3), 893-896.

Electronic Resources with and without a DOI

Online articles follow the same guidelines for printed articles. Include all information the online host makes available, including an issue number in parentheses. In addition, you will need to include either the URL where you found the electronic resource or the digital object identifier (DOI).

Bernstein, M. (2002). 10 tips on writing the living Web.

A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 149. Retrieved from

Wooldridge, M.B., & Shapka, J. (2012). Playing with technology:

Mother-toddler interaction scores lower during play with electronic toys.

Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 211-218.