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Get help with APA citation style

FAQ about APA Style

What is APA citation style?
APA citation style refers to the rules and conventions established by the American Psychological Association (APA) for documenting sources used in research projects.

How is Bryant & Stratton College’s APA Style Guide different from other colleges' APA style guides?
Bryant & Stratton College’s APA Guide is currently based on the 7th edition of Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Other institutions of higher education use the same approach to create their citation guides.

Why do I have to cite the source in my papers?
Citing is a way to give credit to the original creator. While there are many ways to do this, at Bryant & Stratton College we adhere to the American Psychological Associations style guide, also known as APA. Citing protects you from plagiarism, which is a serious crime in school and in the workplace! It also protects the creator from having his or her work stolen, and informs the reader where you received your information.

What do I cite?
When citing information in your writing, the necessary information includes: the name of the author; the most recent copyright date; the title of the source; the name of the publisher; and the location of publication. If you are using an article from a magazine or other periodical, you need to include the titles of the both the article and the periodical.

Where do I cite?
You need to provide citation information both in the text and on the references page. 

When do I cite?
If the idea is not your own and if it is not common knowledge, you are required to cite the source(s) in your writing. To avoid plagiarism, you need to provide citations for ideas that are not your own. These ideas include direct quotations, paraphrasing, summaries of another's ideas, and specific facts, such as statistics, that are not common knowledge. You do not need to cite common knowledge or proverbs unless you are using a direct quotation. When in doubt, cite your source.

What is common knowledge?
Common knowledge is information that most people in a certain culture or career field would know. For example, most Americans would know the date Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, or who killed Abraham Lincoln. As an other example, if you are writing for an audience of medical professionals, you don't need to cite what would be common knowledge in that field, such as medical terms and procedures. Keeping your audience in mind will help you determine what is common knowledge and therefore does not need to be cited. If you are not sure, go ahead the cite the information.

How do I cite?
You can follow the rules and examples about in-text citation and citations on the references page from the Bryant & Stratton College APA Style Guide and the 7th edition of Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. APA citation has two parts:

In-text citation: A brief note, used in APA style, at the end of a sentence or idea that gives an author credit for his or her ideas. This in-text citation must correspond directly with an end-of-text citation. An in-text citation provides enough information to allow readers to locate the source on the references page. Instructors may call this an in-text citation or a parenthetical citation.

End-of-text citation: A collection of information that will help the reader to find out more about a topic. Each end-of text citation should correspond directly to an in-text citation in a paper. Instructors may call this an end-of-text reference, a reference, or an end-of-text citation.

Both in-text and end-of-text citations must adhere to certain formatting requirements to be considered correct APA style.

What is APA formatting?
Your entire research paper should adhere to APA formatting requirements. These requirements include a cover page. An abstract is optional, but if your instructor requires one, the abstract should also be formatted according to APA style. You must double-space your paper, use one-inch margins on all four sides of the text, and include page numbers. In addition, you should use the same style and size of font throughout the paper. Consult your APA Style Guide for a sample paper that demonstrates proper formatting.

Are there any citation tools to create APA citations?
Yes. If your resources are from the library research databases, you can use the databases’ citation generators to create APA citations. Microsoft Word has a bibliography feature to help create citations. There are also some free citation generators available on the web, such as Citation MachineCitation MakerDocsCiteKnightCite, and Zotero. However, to ensure accuracy, you should double check the final draft's citations using the Bryant & Stratton College APA Style Guide.

Can I get any APA assistance from the campus librarians?
Yes. Instructors and students can ask questions at the library or learning resource center, call the librarians, or email APA questions to the librarians. Instructors can request APA instruction sessions for students. Visit the library services page at for more information.

Citation Glossary

An abstract is a concise summary of your paper, and should only include the most important information in your paper. The abstract is not required by all instructors, but is more likely to be required for longer papers. The abstract should begin on a new page, be one paragraph or approximately 150 words long, and be unindented. In academia, abstracts are often used to help a reader decide whether or not to read a paper. Therefore, an abstract is expected to include the conclusions reached by the writer.

Alphabetical order
Alphabetical order arranges information in a-z order . If creating a references page using the Bryant and Stratton APA Style Guide, entries are arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the first main word in the entry. If the first letter or word of a title in the entry starts with a, an, or the, skip over and move on to the first letter of the next main word. If your entry begins with a number that is written in numerical form, it precedes the letters of alphabetical order. If the number is written in word form, it should be placed in alphabetical order.

Annotated bibliography
An annotation is a brief description or note of explanation accompanying each entry in a bibliography or references page. The annotation is intended to describe, explain, or evaluate the subject and content of the source. If a bibliography includes annotations, it is known as an annotated bibliography.

An author is the originator, or writer, of a written work. The term author generally refers to the writer of a longer work, such as a book. Some works have multiple authors, all of whom should be listed on the references page. Some works have a corporate author. Although written by one or more individuals, works with corporate authorship were created under the supervision of a corporate entity. Government agencies, such as the Center for Disease Control or the Bureau of Labor Statistics, often publish documents with a corporate author rather than the name of one of more individual authors.

A bibliography is another term for a references page or a works cited page. A bibliography is an alphabetical list of citation entries related to a specific topic. Bibliographies can include annotations. They include reference citations for all information sources consulted and used within the research document. Bibliographies are generally provided at the end of journal articles, book chapters, and research papers. Although bibliography is a common term, when writing an APA paper, you should use the term references page for your list of sources used.

A citation is an entry in a document that contains the necessary information to locate a specific information source. Citations are found in text and on the references page. Citations must follow strict formats which can be found in style manuals. Bryant & Stratton College uses APA Style.  

Copyright date
A copyright date, or publication date, is the day on which a book or periodical is or is planned to be published. If a work has multiple copyright dates, such as a book with several editions, the most recent date should be used. The copyright date helps students determine how current the information is. 

DOI (Data Object Identifier)
The DOI (Data Object Identifier) is used for electronic sources, such as a journal in a subscription database, to provide location information in citations. The DOI is a series of numbers representing the unique identifier of the content (database name) and link to the content (the URL). If no DOI is provided by the database, then the standard retrieval statement must be used in the citation entry.

The DOI is a unique alpha-numeric code that is assigned to articles and books by their publishers when an electronic version is available. When you have a DOI, you don't need to state a URL or database name. 

An edition refers to all copies of a book, pamphlet, single sheet, etc., printed from the same typographic image and issued by the same entity in the same format at one time or at intervals without alteration. Books often have multiple editions, which means some portion of the content has been updated. It is important for students to indicate which edition of a publication they are using.

Hanging indent
A hanging indent is one element used in properly formatting citation entries on a references page. Each entry’s first line must align flush to the left margin and every subsequent line must be reverse indented five spaces, or half an inch. You can create hanging indents automatically using Microsoft Word. Using the keyboard command Control-T will create a hanging indent.

Home page
A home page or a start page is the initial or main web page of a website or a browser. The initial page of a website is sometimes called the main page as well. When using websites as sources, it is not enough to merely cite the home page. Students should use the precise URL of the web-based article they are citing.

In-text citation
An in-text citation is incorporated within the main text of the document, usually with a signal phrase or at the conclusion of a sentence or paragraph. An in-text citation provides enough information to allow readers to locate the original source documentation on the references page. The three required pieces of information are author's last name, year published, and page number for print or PDF sources or paragraph number for HTML files. 

Page number
A number assigned in sequence to a page in a manuscript, book, pamphlet, periodical, etc., to facilitate reference. Page numbers are written or printed in the header or footer, usually centered or in an outer corner. When citing, page numbers are used for print documents and PDF files, but paragraph numbers are used for HTML files.

Plagiarism is the act of using or presenting another’s original ideas or concepts and representing them as original work. Writers are guilty of plagiarism when they do not provide citation information for sources and are not giving proper credit to the original creator.

Under U.S. copyright law, publication is the act of distributing copies of a creative work to the public by sale, lease, rental, or lending. Another meaning of the word indicates documents such as books, magazines, journals, and newspapers. Both published and unpublished works are protected by copyright laws.

A publisher prepares and issues printed materials for public sale or distribution, normally on the basis of a legal contract in which the publisher is granted certain exclusive rights in exchange for assuming the financial risk of publication and agreeing to compensate the author, usually with a share of the profits. 

Publishers are often corporate entities, but some works are self-published, or printed and distributed for sale by the author. Examples of publishing companies are Cengage, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, and Random House.

A reference is another word for a source. In APA, the references page is a list of all sources used and cited within the text of the paper.

Running head
A running head is an Identifier found along the top of a word processing, spreadsheet, slide show, or other electronic document page. It includes  important document information such as page number, document title, date, or author name.  

A title is a word, phrase, sentence, single character, or sequence of characters usually appearing on or in an item, naming the work(s) contained in it, for purposes of identification and reference. Titles can refer to relatively short documents like chapters or articles, or longer works such as books, movies, and journals. If using an article from a magazine, for example, you should include the titles of both the article and the magazine itself.

A URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator and is another name for a web address. When citing, the URL should provide enough information that a reader can locate the exact source used.

Volume and issue numbers
In relation to periodicals, volume refers to all the issues of a specific journal or magazine for a limited time period, usually one year. For books, volume indicates the order of a book in a series or set.

In a quarterly, periodical, newsletter, or literary journal, the volume number refers to the number of years a journal has been in publication, while the issue number refers to the number of individual publications during the year.  

You must provide exact volume and issue numbers when creating citations. Without this information, readers will not be able to easily locate your source.

Web page
A web page is one page on a particular website and has its own unique URL address. Web page sources vary in quality and students should be aware that many web pages are not suitable sources for academic research. When citing web page sources, the exact URL must be included along with other information such as author, title, and date of publication.

Links to websites that do not include in the address are suggested as information helpful for students and faculty. The websites are not affiliated with Bryant & Stratton College.