1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Overview of APA Format

Some General Rules for Citations and References

By

It is important for psychology majors to understand how to use APA format.

APA style is used in psychology, education and many other social sciences.

APA format is the official style used by the American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences. The basic guidelines for this format were laid out in a 1929 article published in Psychological Bulletin. These guidelines were eventually expanded into the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. APA format may seem difficult, but it will become easier once you familiarize yourself with the basic rules.

General Rules for APA Format

APA format dictates a number of specific guidelines for in-text citations and references. In virtually all instances, citations that appear in the text of your paper should be listed in the reference section. Learn more of the basic rules for documenting your sources in this guide to the general rules for APA rormat

In-Text Author Citations

Author citations should follow the basic author-date format, but there are a number of different guidelines for citing authors in APA style. Learn more about in-text author citations including when, where, and how to include these important elements in your paper.

In-Text Article Citations

The basic structure for citing articles that appear in journals and other periodicals follows the author-date format. APA format citations should include the author's last name followed by the date of publication. in-text article citations are very similar to the author citations, but be sure to click the link to see examples and learn more about what to do in special situations.

Author References

Before you create reference sections for your psychology papers, you should check out examples of references for books, articles, and other sources. The structure of the reference varies somewhat depending on who authored the source and how many authors are credited. Learn more about how to structure your author references in the reference section located at the end of your paper.

Article References

The rules for APA format provide guidelines for referencing articles that appear in academic journals and other periodicals. Article references will vary somewhat based on where the article appears and who authored the content. Learn more about how your article references should look and see some helpful examples that can point you in the right direction.

Book References

Book reference are usually very similar to journal article references and include the author's last name, first initials, publication year, book title, location, and publisher. You can find specific examples of basic book references, edited book references, and translated book references in this overview of book references in APA format

Electronic Sources

There are a number of special style concerns for referencing electronic sources in APA format. Online documents, journal articles, databases, online communications, and message boards all have unique referencing requirements. If you are looking for specific examples and tips for referencing electronic sources, check out the following article on electronic sources to learn more.

Students frequently email me to ask for dates of publication on many of my articles, but if you read the previously linked article then you probably already know that having these dates is not always necessary. Of course, if your instructor requires you to include them, feel free to ask. However, you can also use the notation n.d. - meaning 'no date' - in place of the publication year. Learn more about what to do about online articles with no date of publication.

Check Out Examples

Sometimes, the best way to learn what you need to do is to look directly at examples. Be sure to check out our growing collection of examples of APA format, which includes samples of a title page, reference page, table, journal article references, and electronic source references.

Final Thoughts

After spending weeks or even months researching, writing, and editing your psychology paper, you might be tempted to just print the thing out, hand it in, and be done with it. This can come back to haunt you later if your APA formatting is not in tip-top shape. Instructors DO pay attention to your paper's formatting and references and they will deduct major points from you assignments if you make mistakes. For example, on one of my first writing assignments in my

So take the time to carefully edit your paper for things like grammar, spelling, organization, and yes, proper APA formatting. I also highly recommend getting your own copy of the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. It is the authoritative guide and chances are that you will be referring to it for years to come.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.