APA referencing style

The American Psychological Association, APA referencing style is the most widely used formatting and referencing style in the Social Sciences and Education. The ''APA referencing Style'' is an author-date style for citing and referencing information in assignments and publications. The referencing style guide provides a set of rules on how to acknowledge the thoughts, ideas, and works of others when you use them in your work. APA referencing style is known as an author-date style of referencing because only the author’s surname and the year of publication are necessary to refer to in the body of the essay itself. The rest of the information can be found in the reference list, at the end of your essay. Academic writing and APA referencing style are about the quality of sources. Source material must be documented in the body of the paper by citing the author(s) and date(s) of the sources. The underlying principle is that the ideas and words of others must be formally acknowledged. The reader can obtain the full source citation from the list of references that follows the body of the paper. 

APA is the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States, with more than 122,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants, and students as its members.

APA referencing style includes two main parts namely; A citation within the text of your assignment or paper and a list of references at the end of your assignment or paper. Based rules for in-text citation are;

a)  In APA referencing style, in-text citations usually require the last name of the author(s) and the year of publication. All you need is the author’s surname, and the year it was published, and the page number (most of the time).

b)  Place in-text citation before the full stop. e.g. .....this week (Aligba, 2020).

c)  As per APA referencing style, a page number is included when using a direct quote. Place a comma after the year. Use p. for a single page, pp. for multiple pages e.g. (Ajayi, 2021, p.134) or Ajayi, 2021, pp.134-140).

d)  When you paraphrase a passage or refer to an idea contained in another work, a page number is not required. However, it is ''encouraged'', especially when you are referring to long work and the page numbers might be useful to the reader.

e)  If there is no date, the abbreviation ''n.d''. may be used e.g. (Aligba, n.d.)

f)   If work is not yet published but published online ahead of the print, use ''in press'' e.g. (Ajayi, in press)

g)  Works with the same author(s) and same year:

1.  Place an a, b, c, etc. after the year

2.      The letters are allocated in the reference list where references with the same first author’s last names are organized alphabetically by title. The first reference listed uses "a", the second uses "b" etc.

3.      If "in the press" is used, place dash between "press" and relevant letter eg. in press-c

4.      Use APA referencing style format each time the references are used in-text. This includes a single reference within parentheses or multiple works in the same parentheses.


Reference List as per APA Referencing Style

All references or information sources cited in any written work (i.e. essays, reports, research papers, etc.) need to be listed in a reference list on a separate page at the end of your assignment, headed ‘References’ or ‘Reference List’. The reference list provides all the details necessary for the person reading and/or marking the assignment to locate and retrieve any information source cited. An accurate and properly constructed reference list provides credibility to the written work it accompanies.

The purpose of the reference list is to allow your sources to be found by your reader.  It also gives credit to authors you have consulted for their ideas.  All references cited in the text must appear in the reference list, except for personal communications (such as conversations or emails) which cannot be retrieved.

Basic rules for referencing, as per APA referencing style are:


1.  The reference list is arranged in alphabetical order of the authors’ last names.

2.  If there is more than one work by the same author, order them by publication date – oldest to newest (therefore a 2004 publication would appear before a 2008 publication).

3.  If there is no author the title moves to that position and the entry is alphabetized by the first significant word, excluding words such as “A” or “The”. If the title is long, it may be shortened when citing in the text as per APA referencing style.

4.  As per APA referencing style “&”, instead of “and”, is used when listing multiple authors of a source.

5.  The first line of the reference list entry is left-hand justified, while all subsequent lines are consistently indented.

6.  In APA referencing style, capitalize only the first word of the title and the subtitle, if there is one, plus any proper names. i.e., only those words that would normally be capitalized.

7.  Italicize the title of the book, the title of the journal/serial, and the title of the web document.

8.  Do not create separate lists for each type of information source. Books, articles, web documents, brochures, etc. are all arranged alphabetically in one list while using APA referencing style.


How to refer books, chapters in an edited book, journal articles, web pages, and online

report or document as per APA referencing style.

APA referencing style for Books

Format - Surname and initials of author/s (Publisher year). Title of book in italics. (Edition if later than 1st). Place of Publication: Publisher.

Example - Ajayi, E.E., & Aligba, S.O. (2020). Fundamental issues in research methodology. (2nd ed.). Makurdi: Heritage Publisher.

APA referencing style for Chapter in an edited book

For books where each chapter is written by a different author, under APA referencing style, you need to reference the individual chapters within the complete books:

Format - Surnames and initials of chapter author/s (Publisher year). Chapter title. In Initials and surnames of editor/s (Ed.), Title of book in italics (page numbers of the whole chapter). Place of publication: Publisher

Example - Ajayi, E.E., & Aligba, S.O. (2020). Psychometrics in educational settings. In A. Ali & E. Haruna (Eds.), Applied research: Practical applications of research theory (pp. 123-143). Makurdi: Prestige Publishing Limited

APA referencing style for Journal articles

Format - Surnames and initials of chapter author/s (Publisher year). Title of article. Title of journal in italics, volume number in italics (issue number), first-page number-last page number.

Example (article with 1-7 authors) - Ajayi, E.E., Zaria, L.I., Alachi, V.O., Ali, A.A., James, K.L., Fabunmi, B.B., & Ajayi, V.O. (2021). Improving upper basic students’ critical thinking in social studies using PEDDA and IEPT instructional strategies. International Journal of Literacy and Education, 1(1), 22-28.

Example (article with 8 or more authors) - Ajayi, E.E., Achor, E.E., Otor, E.E., Aboho, D.A., Ali, A.A., Ademola, A.S., ...... & Ajayi, V.O.(2018). Effects of experiential and inquiry teaching strategies on upper basic students’ achievement in social studies. Journal of Education, Benue State University Makurdi, 18(1), 119-129.

APA referencing style for Web pages

Format - Organisation name or surname and initials of author/s (Publisher year).Title of report. Retrieved from URL.

Examples - Ajayi, E.E. (2020). Social studies and emotional intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.journalss.com/articles/sonce.

APA referencing style for Online report/document

Format - Organisation name or surname and initials of author/s (Published year). Title of report. Retrieved from URL.

Example - National Cancer Institute. (2020). Taking part in cancer treatment research studies (Publication no 16-8931). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Health. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patienteducation

APA referencing Style, 7th Edition

In October 2019, the American Psychological Association (APA) introduced the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual, which replaces the 6th edition published in 2009. The 7th edition addresses these changes by providing better and more extensive guidelines.

Some of the important features of APA referencing style include:

1. The reference list begins on a separate page.

2. Entries in your reference list appear in alphabetical order by the surname of the first author.

3. APA referencing style uses a hanging indent. This is where the lower lines hang inwards underneath the top line.

4. APA referencing style has opposite rules for the capitalization of titles (as mentioned earlier) between the in-text citations and the reference list (sentence case).

5. Sentence case is used for capitalization of reference list titles. As per APA referencing style,  capitalize only the first letter (and any proper nouns) of titles and subtitles of any book, articles, reports, web pages chapters, and titles of unpublished periodicals in reference list entries. Capitalize the first letter of all significant words in periodical titles (they are treated as proper nouns).

6. APA referencing style uses an ampersand (&) between authors’ surnames, NOT “and”. But if you are using the authors’ surnames in a sentence then “and” is used, as per the normal rules of writing.

7. Present both DOIs and URLs in your reference list as hyperlinks (i.e. beginning with “http:” or “HTTPS:”). It is acceptable to use either the default display settings for hyperlinks (e.g. usually blue font, underlined) or plain text that is not underlined. Leave links live if the work is to be published or read online. This is a significant change from APA referencing style, 6th edition.

8. When a DOI or URL is long or complex, you may use short DOIs or shortened URLs if desired. Use the short DOI service provided by the International DOI Foundation (http://shortdoi.org/). Enter a cut and paste of the DOI and this service will create a new short DOI.

9. Do not include a retrieval date for a reference, unless it is from a webpage that is inherently designed to change (e.g. a dictionary entry, Twitter profile, Facebook page, map generated by Google Maps) or reflects information that changes over time (a website that updates information frequently, such as Stats NZ). Provide a retrieval date, when needed, before the URL, e.g., Retrieved December 2, 2019, from https://xxxxx.

10. APA referencing style, 7th edition does not require that the city, state (US), or country where the book was published be provided. This is a significant change from APA referencing style, 6th edition.