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Ready, Set, Cite (APA)

A guide providing an in-depth explanation of and examples of using the publication style of the American Psychological Association

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Why Cite Your Sources?

When you write a research paper, you use information and facts from a variety of resources to support your own ideas or to help you develop new ones. Books, articles, videos, interviews, and Web sites are some examples of sources you might use. Citing these sources of information in your work is essential because:

  • It gives credit to the author of the original work who provided you with the information or idea
  • It allows your audience to identify and find the source material in order to learn more about your topic
  • It gives your paper more credibility because it shows you're supporting your arguments with high-quality sources and it also helps earn your readers' trust because you're telling your readers the source of your facts so that they can confirm them for themselves
  • It helps you avoid plagiarism

What is APA Style?

APA style was created by social and behavioral scientists to standardize scientific writing. APA style is most often used in:

  • psychology,
  • social sciences (sociology, business), and
  • nursing.

If you're taking courses in any of these areas, be prepared to use APA style.

For in-depth guidance on using this citation style, refer to Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. We have several copies available at the MJC Library at the call number BF76.7 .P83 2010.

APA Style Affects Your Paper in Three Places

Whenever you use a citation style (ANY citation style!) you will be governed by that style in three ways:

  1. The general format of the paper. This includes margins, font, page numbers, line spacing, titles, headings, etc.
     
  2. The bibliography. The bibliography is the cumulative list of all sources used in your research. In APA, this is called the References list. How do you cite a printed book vs. a book found on a database vs. a book found on the Web? 
     
  3. In-text citation. Citing sources within the body of your paper let's your reader know you are incorporating someone else's words/research/ideas.

Accuracy & Precision

APA style (any citation style, in fact) presents researchers with a set of strict rules....not vague guidelines.  Accuracy and precision are vital to the citation process. Always check your work carefully to ensure you've followed all conventions, including font styles, capitalization, punctuation, alphabetization, and format concerns.