How to Format APA Citation / Style
Citation Styles

How to Format APA Citation / Style

Out of all the citation formats and styles, APA might be one of the most common ones you come across. But it is also not the easiest citation style for most people and can be a source of stress and headache.

Let’s first begin with the basis of how to format APA citation or APA style. As most may already know, any type of research based paper requires all informations and facts consulted to be cited; otherwise your entire paper can be considered plagiarism. So citing is obviously an important step when writing a paper. Another thing to keep in mind is that just citing will not do the job. If you want to create and format your APA citation properly and want to make sure that you get the best grade possible without having points being deducted for improper or missing citation style, then it is important that you follow the following steps. There are two sections when it comes APA citation and styles: in-text citation and the references section.

1) References page for APA Citation / Styles

While everyone has different ways to tackle how to format APA citations, the most efficient and the best way in my opinion is to start with the references page rather than attempting to tackle the in-text citation section. And I’ll even share ways to make the creation of references correctly and quickly, saving you possibly hours of your time for APA style formatting. The reason why I advise you to start your APA citation with the references page is because without the proper and correct citation, you are at risk of placing your in-text citation incorrectly. For example, if the title of the source used is “The Great Gatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald, then most likely, the correct reference citation will start with “Fitzgerald,” meaning that your in-text citation should also look like this: “(Fitzgerald, 2010),” not “(Great, 2010)” with the first word of the APA reference being the one you choose to use in your in-text citation - in this case, the last name.

The reference page is a separate page at the end of your paper where you list all the works you use. At the top of the page, title your page and call it “References” as you center the title at the top of the page. Then alphabetize the entries in your list by the author's last name, using the letter-by-letter system (ignore spaces and other punctuation). While you spell out the entire last name of the author, this does not apply to the author’s first and middle name as the first and middle name should only be written in initials for correct APA citation and style. If the author's name is unknown, you may simply alphabetize you APA citation referencing by the title, ignoring any A, An, or The.

Now that you have listed the names of the authors in proper APA style, it is now time to list the dates. Always spell out the names of months in the text of your paper. In accordance to APA citation / style, you can either use the day-month-year style (21 July 2016) or the month-day-year style (July 21, 2016) but the important part is to be consistent and not switch around with the styles. As you might have already noticed, if you chose to move forward with the month-day-year style for your APA citation, be sure to add a comma after the year.

2) In-text Citation for APA Citation / Style

The APA in-text citation is quite simple. After every new information you add in your essay, you must include where you got that information from, in parenthesis right after your sentence and before the period. What goes in the parenthesis now depends on your citation and is usually (Last name of author, year published, p.#). See example of a correct APA citation below:

APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).

Alternatively, you may also cite your APA citation in the following way where you mention the last name of author (date), quote, and then specify the (p.# in parenthesis)

Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199)

3) General Formatting of APA Citation / Style

While there are general rules listed in the APA manual, the best thing to do is to follow the guidelines provided by your professor since every professor may have different requirements for how you format your APA citation and APA style. However, if your professor does not provide any specification, then here’s some rule of thumb for APA citation / styles:

  • The title page of your APA formatted paper should mention: title of your paper, name of the author (your name), your professor’s name, and your educational institution's name
  • All pages following the title page must have a running head in the upper left corner which states the title of your paper
  • All pages following the title page must have a page number in the upper right corner.
  • Everything should be double-spaced with 1” margins on all sides of your document.
  • Always use Times New Roman font, size 12.

Imagine the sources you use or plan to use for your essay as a fried egg. The yolk of the egg is easier to contain as it is solid and types of sources in the yolk when formatting your paper for APA citation/style is easier to categorize. This includes sources like books, journal articles, and dissertations. Surrounding the yolk are runny, nebulous white, which does not have much of a definition and is harder to contain. The types of sources in the white such as interviews, blog posts, and tv shows are a little more complicated to cite. However, the standard APA formatting for the sources in white are quite simple with four elements: author, date, title, and source.

For example, here is a sample APA citation for a blog with all four elements available:

  Tsay, E. (2016). Collected seeds of wisdom. Stanford. Retrieved from

You may however, encounter sources where not all four elements are listed. For example, if your source is missing an author then your APA citation would look as follows:

  Collected seeds of wisdom. (2016). Stanford. Retrieved from

If your source is missing a date, then when citing in APA, simply replace where the date should be, with (n.d.):

  Tsay, E. (n.d.). Collected seeds of wisdom. (2016). Stanford. Retrieved from

Note that the above references is not accurate to its’ source as it has been altered for the purpose of exemplifying different scenarios you may encounter when citing sources in APA citation/style.

APA egg

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