APA

The APA referencing style uses author-date parenthetical in-text citations based on the Harvard style. It is commonly used in Psychology, but it is also used in other disciplines.

APA style guides

Library resource

Online resource

Referencing in APA

Let's go through the steps of how to use a style guide to reference in APA, using the Monash APA guide.

The reference list entry

Start by doing the reference list entry. If you get this right early on, it will save you a lot of time.

Figure 1: Journal and authors of an article
Figure 1: Journal and authors of an article

 1. Identify what the source is, where it’s from, and who it’s by.

Is it a book? A journal article? An interview? Did you access it online? How many authors does it have? The source’s characteristics influence how to reference it.

Say for instance you need to reference a journal article that you found online, such as in Figure 1. Figure 1 shows the information that is at the top of the first page of the article. This information tells you that it is an article from a journal, and that there are five authors.

Figure 2: APA guide reference list entry with hanging indent
Figure 2: APA guide reference list entry with hanging indent

2. Find a matching example in your style guide.

The aim is to find the closest example possible in your chosen APA style guide. For the following examples, we’re using the Monash APA style guide.

In the style guide, you can find examples for an online journal article that is written by two to seven authors, as in Figure 2. Note that reference list entries in APA use a hanging indent. This is where the second and subsequent lines of the entry are indented. You can select hanging indent in the paragraph options of your document.

Figure 3: A half completed APA reference list entry with hanging indent
Figure 3: A half completed APA reference list entry with hanging indent

3. Write out the reference following the style guide examples.

Your aim at this point is to make the information that you have match the order and formatting of the information from the style guide. This includes the details such as punctuation. If you’re ever unsure, remember that your markers care most of all about consistency and having enough information to be able to locate the source themselves. Check over your references to make sure they’re following the same principles and formatting.

Author names

First, you need to identify all the authors’ surnames (also known as their last name, or family name). In this case they are Keller, Murphy, Prior, DaCosta, and Schmidt. Then, you need to work out the authors’ first name initials, and write the initials after each author’s surname:

Keller, S. C., Murphy, S., Prior, S., DaCosta, G., & Schmidt, B.

Article and journal title

Then comes the year of publication in parentheses, the article title and the journal name (in italics), as in Figure 3.

Publication details

After that, you need the volume number and, if available, the issue number. You will also need the page range. Sometimes you may need to look elsewhere in the article or on the journal’s website to find out these details.

Finally, if you found the article online, you have a couple of options. Look to see if the article has a DOI—a Digital Object Identifier. This is like a stable URL. If so, then according to the Monash style guide, you will put the DOI after the page range.

Figure 4: Completed APA reference list entry with hanging indent
Figure 4: Completed APA reference list entry with hanging indent

A finished reference

Following the above steps, Figure 4 is what your reference list entry will look like.

In-text citations

When you use APA, you need to use parenthetical citations in the body of your work to show where the information comes from. Monash’s APA guide provides information on how many authors’ names to include.

Three to five authors

Rule

Cite all surnames and publication year the first time, thereafter only the first surname followed by et al.

Citation examples 

The first time cited: ...(Brown, Soo, & Jones, 1990).
Brown, Soo, and Jones (1990)...
thereafter:
...(Brown et al., 1990).
Brown et al. (1990)...

For the example we used earlier, note that since we have five authors, you’d need to give all five authors’ surnames the first time you cite them, then say Keller et al. when you cite the article after that. Include page numbers in your citations whenever you use quotes, specific data or a close paraphrase. For the example we have been using, you could write:

Keller, Murphy, Prior, DaCosta, & Schmidt (2008, p. 852) show that …

Research by Keller et al. (2008, p. 854) explains …

If you are summarising the main idea of the whole article, you don’t need a page number.

Check your guide

Always remember to have your chosen style guide open while you are referencing—even if you use referencing software. It’s useful to look out for inconsistencies, and to make sure that you have all the right information in the correct order and format. Check out the style guides listed above.