APA Style

APA style, or “American Psychological Association style,” is used most frequently in social science departments and fields (Purdue Online Writing Lab).  However, no matter what your major is, you will likely use APA Style at some point. 

Steps of APA Style

1. Create your references page before you start writing your essay.

2. Determine what type of source you are looking at.  This is the hardest and most important part of the citation!  For example, there are significant differences between television broadcasts, series, or episodes.

3. Use a style manual or style handbook to create the references entry.  No one memorizes the rules, especially since they are updated every few years to keep up with new technology.  Instead, learn how to use the style manual.

4. Organize your list alphabetically.  If you have two authors with the same last name, look at their first names.  If you have two sources by the same author, look at the title, and so on.

5. Format the list using hanging indents.  This indent style requires that the first line of the citation is left-aligned, but any additional lines are indented by ½ inch.

6. If you are working with a large number of sources, consider making an Annotated Bibliography.

7. Format your essay using APA document style.

8. Create in-text citations.

In-Text Citations

The first time you reference any source in your writing, either with a direct quote or a paraphrase, you should use a signal phrase describing the author/s, with the parenthetical citation to indicate the credibility of the source. 


Cain and Burris (1999), noted scholars on transportation, argue that … (Conclusions section, para. 2).

After the first use of a source, you may choose between either signal phrases with the parenthetical citation or only parenthetical citation for your in-text citations.

To determine what appears in the in-text citation, use the author’s last names, year, and page or paragraph from the References entry!

For written sources, you will generally need to include a page or paragraph number in the parenthetical citation.  While a signal phrase can include names, titles, or years, it generally cannot include a page/paragraph number. In that case, you could use a signal phrase to introduce the source and include a parenthetical citation with the page/paragraph number.

Different Types of Sources

Here are some examples of how to cite some common types of sources on the References page in APA style. 


Cain, A., & Burris, M. (1999, April). Investigation of the use of mobile phones while driving. Retrieved from http://www.cutr.usf.edu/pdf/m

Database Article 

Eskritt, M., & McLeod, K. (2008). Children’s note taking as a mnemonic tool. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 101, 52-74. doi:10.1016/ jecp.2008.05.007.

Film (DVD)

Guggenheim, D. (Director), & Bender, L. (Producer). (2006). An inconvenient truth [DVD]. United States: Paramount Home Entertainment.

Film (General)

Spurlock, M. (Director). (2004). Super size me [Motion picture]. Available from IDP Films, 1133 Broadway, Suite 926, New York, NY 10010.

TV Series 

Fanning, D. (Executive producer). (2008). Frontline [Television series]. Boston, MA: WGBH.

TV Episode 

Smith, M. (Writer/producer). (2008). Heat [Television series episode]. In D. Fanning (Executive producer), Frontline. Boston, MA: WGBH.

TV Broadcast 

Pratt, C. (Executive producer). (2008, October 5). Face the nation [Television broadcast]. Washington, DC: CBS News.


Thomas, G. (1996). Breath. On Didgeridoo: Ancient sound of the future [CD]. Oxnard, CA: Aquarius International Music.


Weber, J. (1992). Toward freedom [Outdoor mural]. Sherman Oaks, CA.


Xbox 360 [Advertisement]. (2007, February). Wired, 15(2), 71.

Kayla |2019

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