Getting Started With APA Citation

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What is APA Style?

The term “APA” refers to a style of writing and formatting that was created by the American Psychological Association.

A style guide provides a set of rules that govern the format and style of writing, particularly academic or scholarly writing. The purpose of a style guide is to provide uniformity in writing across disciplines, which makes it easier to read and understand academic writing. Using a style guide correctly also lends credibility to the document being written.

There are several different style guides in use today – for example, you may have heard of the APA Style, MLA Style, or Chicago Style. You may also see some of these styles mentioned as you conduct research in one of the library’s databases.

The APA style is primarily used in the social, behavioral, and health sciences, and it is ANU’s official style (latest edition).

APA standards provide rules on the following:

  • How to credit sources (create citations)
  • How to format & organize a paper
  • How to create a references page

Why do we cite?

There are two main reasons why we cite sources.  First, ethically it is important to give credit to the intellectual works of others.  Second, citation acts as a marker for the reader.  Similar to clicking on a hyperlink on a web page to get more information, in-text citations and references tell readers where to go to find more information about the source used in a paper or presentation.  As you advance in your academic endeavors, you may find that consulting reference lists used in articles you read to be helpful in advancing your own research efforts at finding new information sources.

What is a citation?

When writing a paper for class, you may be required to cite one or more outside resources that you used in your research. This simply means that you should find expert information sources to back up your writing, and cite (or quote) them in your paper. You will do this through the use of citations and references.

citation is broadly defined as a quote from a book, article, passage, or other text or author. A reference is broadly defined as something that refers a reader to another source of information. Citations and references contain the basic information that is needed to find a specific document, including the document’s author, title, and publication information.

Both citations and references are used to give credit to authors for original ideas and arguments. That means that whenever you make a reference to another document or use an argument from another author in your paper, you need to cite that document and give credit to the author for their ideas.

The APA style requires that two types of citations be provided for each outside source that you use in your writing: a references page citation, and an in-text citation.

What is an in-text citation?

When you are cite information from an outside source in your writing, the APA style requires that an in-text citation be provided immediately after the source is referenced.

These in-text citations require an author’s last name and the date of publication for the document, for example, (Smith, 2010).


  • Profit is “directly tied to employee motivation” (Mathias, 1984, p. 64).
  • Several studies (Anderson & Yost, 2014; Benson, 2001; Zimmerman & Ross, 1999) indicate that…

You can learn more about how to create in-text citations using the APA’s In-Text Citation Checklist.

What are reference page citations?

The source lists that appear on the references page of your work must provide the most complete information possible about a resource. These references are designed to help readers locate the resources that you use in your research and writing.

They must include the following elements:

  • Author
  • Date of publication
  • Title of Work
  • Publication Information


Gore, A. (2006) An Inconvenient Truth: The planetary emergency of global warming and what we can do about it. Rodale Press.

Carolina, D. (2014). A model-driven methodology for developing secure data-management applications. IEEE Transactions of Software Engineering, 40(4), 324-337. 10.1109/TSE.2013.2297116

You can learn more about how to create a reference list using the APA’s Reference List Guide.



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