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The Main Things to Know about APA Citation

The Main Things to Know about APA Citation

When you have to source and cite information for every academic paper, you start feeling overwhelmed with all the details to be followed. Eventually, it takes much time and effort to figure out exactly what needs to be included in the paper. There are a lot of academic formats, including MLA, APA, Chicago, and so on. You must follow the requested citation style throughout your paper.

If you are writing a paper for social sciences like nursing, psychology, sociology, or law, you will have to use APA citation. The APA, namely the American Psychological Association, is widely requested for academic assignments due to its visual and structural simplicity. However, you will definitely need to use the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association or a writer’s handbook if you are not familiar with this type of style. If you are in a rush, you can get some basic information below.

Major Elements of Your Paper

An average academic paper consists of four main elements: the title page, abstract, main section, and references list.

  • Title page

Your title page should include a title, author name, and school affiliation. Also, the page should contain the course number and name, the professor’s name, and the date of submission. Your title page should inform your reader about the topic and the author of your paper.

  • Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of your paper that immediately follows your title page. In APA formatting, your abstract should contain up to 200 words. However, there can be some variations depending on each particular publication and instructor requirements.

  • Main body

When it comes to an essay, the main body should include the considerations on the actual subject matter. When it comes to a research study or a lab report, you should split your body into further sections such as introduction, method, results, and discussion sections.

  • References

The reference section will introduce a list of all the used sources, including books, journals, articles, reviews, and so on. If you cite any piece of information in your paper, you should reference it properly. Don’t forget that any source cited in your paper should be specified in the final reference section. And any source specified in your reference section should be mentioned in your paper.

How to Manage In-Text Citations

It is crucial to cite your sources in the body of your essay. Thanks to the specific citation, you highlight your original ideas and actual evidence. Thus, it is necessary to include a citation for:

  • Direct quotations
  • Summaries
  • Paraphrases

Citing Your Sources

An in-text citation in APA allows the reader to find out the details about the author, year, and page of the source you are taking information from. An in-text citation usually looks like this: (Anderson et al., 2015, p.86). Pay attention to the fact that all the citation elements are separated by commas and enclosed in parentheses. You should always use a citation when you quote or paraphrase from another source! Here is the direct quotation taken from Ruth Anderson’s research study Adaptive Leadership Framework for Chronic Illness: Framing a Research Agenda for Transforming Care Delivery:

The Adaptive Leadership Framework, as proposed for management and business, suggests that problems and challenges arise from differing contexts. Technical challenges are such that the problem can be defined and an expert can be found with the know-how to solve it using expertise (Anderson et al., 2015, p.86).

When you just need to summarize or paraphrase a piece of information in APA, you need to include the author’s name and year without the page number:

The Adaptive Leadership Framework, as proposed for management and business, suggests that problems and challenges arise from differing contexts (Anderson, 2015).

Electronic Source

More and more information you use for academic purposes is taken from online sources. While you have no page to cite, you will include a paragraph (para.) number instead:

The Adaptive Leadership Framework for Chronic Illness guides researchers to develop the evidence base for extending patient-centered care through and beyond treatment decisions by focusing on the relationship between patient and provider as they co-manage chronic illness over time (Anderson et al., 2015, para. 7).

Author Named in Signal Phrase

If the author’s name remains unknown, the APA pattern will be changed slightly. You will write the year in parentheses just after the author’s name, while the page or paragraph number will be placed at the end of the quote. If you have a piece of information paraphrased, you will have to leave the page number off.

Anderson et al. (2015) use yellow for technical challenges and technical work, green for adaptive challenges and adaptive work, and blue to indicate that providers will address both technical and adaptive challenges and employ both technical and adaptive care approaches (p.86).

When Not To Cite

If you are using the information that is viewed as common knowledge (Water boils at 100 degrees), you do not have to add any citation.

APA Citation Patterns

The people reading your academic paper formatted in the APA style will want you to use proper citations to organize your references page. In APA, all the details that need to be included for readers include:

  • The author’s name (always written Last Name, First Initial);
  • The year of the publication (always written YEAR, Month DD);
  • The title of the work (only capitalize the first letter of the first word);
  • The edition of the work (always written #th ed.);
  • The location of the publisher;
  • The publisher of the work;
  • The website, if available.

With clearly defined APA rules, you cannot just list the information as bullet points in your References! The order and format of the information also need to be organized properly. Moreover, your in-text citations should correspond to your citations. The author’s name you use in the in-text citation must be indicated as the author’s name in your citations.

Print Work

A citation taken from a print work needs to be written in this format:

Nielsen, G.A. et al. (2012). How-to Guide: Reducing Patient Injuries from Falls. Institute for Healthcare Improvements. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Online Article

A citation for an online piece of work needs to be written in this format:

Ramkumar, P. (2018, July 23). How Bundling Care Hurts The Patients Who Need It The Most. Forbes. Retrieved from

Journal Article from a Database

A citation for an article taken from one of the Library databases needs to be written in this format:

Hussein, S. & Moonesar, I.A. (2018, September). Abu Dhabi Healthcare System- Diagnosis Related Group Perspective. International Journal of Medical, Pharmacy and Drug Research (IJMPD), 2(1), 14-23. Retrieved from

Remember that every piece of information must be used as an independent sentence and separated from the next piece of information. If you fail to find all the necessary information on the used source you are about to cite, you should skip it in your citation.

The Bottom Line

When it is all said and done, having sufficient knowledge about APA citations will only turn you into a better writer. The whole process won’t get you down. The amount of time you need to cite sources won’t be too immense. If you are about to proceed with your first APA citation, you can try an online citation generator. When you get used to the APA routine, you will handle it in a few minutes. So be attentive to every little detail and keep on citing your sources!

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