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APA Style

A guide to APA formatting, in-text citation, and the References list

Citation Overview

Why Cite?

Most academic writing cites others' ideas and research, for several reasons:

  • Sources that support your ideas give your paper authority and credibility
  • Shows you have researched your topic thoroughly
  • Crediting sources protects you from plagiarism
  • A list of sources can be a useful record for further research

Different academic disciplines prefer different citation styles, most commonly APA and MLA styles. Besides these styles, there are ChicagoTurabian, ACSAP, and more. Only use the most current edition of the citation style.

Ask your instructors which citation style they want you to use for assignments.

When to Cite?

To avoid plagiarism, provide a citation for ideas that are not your own:

  • Direct quotation
  • Paraphrasing of a quotation, passage, or idea
  • Summary of another's idea or research
  • Specific reference to a fact, figure, or phrase

You do not need to cite common knowledge (ex. George Washington was the first President of the United States) or proverbs unless you are using a direct quotation. When in doubt, cite your source.


Many thanks to PSCC Libraries' excellent APA guide for sharing much of the content and organization.