How To Cite The APA Manual: A Look At The Details

by CJ McDaniel // February 19  

This article focuses on how to cite the APA manual and other related information you need to know. Keep reading to learn more.

Before writing a research paper, one has to read several books and articles related to that topic. These articles and books will need to be referenced in your work. There are other referencing styles like Chicago manual Style, IEEE style, AMA Style, and MLA besides the APA.

However, the APA is one of the most popular citation styles in research paper writing, especially for social sciences, communication, education, and related fields.

What Is APA Manual?

APA stands for American Psychological Association. The association develops the APA manual as a guide to authors in writing. You can use this referencing style in research papers, books, journals, blogs, and online articles. The latest APA manual is the 7th edition published in 2020.

Why Use The APA Manual?

The APA manual guides the author in making a clear presentation of his work. The writer knows how to place sections properly, apply punctuations appropriately and use the correct in-text and reference page formatting. A clear presentation helps the reader focus on the main points and know how to find them easily.

When citing related articles, the author reveals that the written words are not initially his. For every quote, opinion, and phrase that is not yours, you should give the author credit. Not doing this would amount to plagiarism. If a reader doubts an assertion you have made, it can be confirmed by looking up the citation you made that assertion.

You should also use the APA manual when you need to compare varying opinions. Your reader can compare your view in the article regarding the idea in the article you have cited.

Who Can Use The APA Manual?

The APA manual can be used by undergrad and graduate students for research papers, theses, and dissertations. It can also be used by professionals in various fields in the preparation of manuscripts for publication. Fields that can use the APA manual include social sciences like anthropology, psychology, history, sociology, etc. Also, the education and communication fields and engineering can make use of the APA manual in writing.

How To Cite The APA Manual

The APA manual can be applied in two ways:

  1. In the body of the work as an in-text citation and
  2. On the reference page of the work.

In-text Citation

The body of your work will contain other articles you have read. You may have got these articles from journals, books, websites, and blogs. The APA manual provides a proper way of citing these articles. The general format is as follows:

In-text Citation

  • The last name of the author followed by a comma (Granville,)
  • If the work has two authors, use the last names of both separated by an ampersand. (Granville & Jon)
  • For three to five authors, you can list five authors the first time the source is cited. In subsequent citations for the same work, use only the first author and et al.(Granville, Jon, James, Nick, & Cole)
  • If there are more than five authors, use the last name of the first author followed by “et al.” (Granville et al.)
  • The year of publication. (2020)
  • The page number where a direct quote is used. (Granville, 2020, p. 79)

Reference Page

The reference page should be headed “References.” It lists all the sources you have cited in your work. These sources are listed in alphabetical order using the surname of each author. Where an author has more than one work cited, the work with the earlier date comes first. One-author entries precede multiple-authors. The format of your reference page is as follows:

  • The last name of the author, with the first and middle names, initialed. There should be spacing between the initials. (Bruce, T. A.)
  • If the work has two authors, use the last names with their initials, both separated by an ampersand.
  • For more than three authors, there should be a comma after every author. Before the final author, put a comma and an ampersand.
  • The article title should be in sentence case.
  • In a Journal, all significant words in the Journal title should be capitalized and in italics.
  • Include the Journal issue number and the volume if paginated separately. If the pagination flows from one issue to the next, do not include the issue number. The volume number is written in italics and it comes before the issue number placed in parentheses.
  • For Website titles, use sentence case.
  • When citing an online resource, you should provide the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) when available or the URL.
  • All lines after the first line of each entry should be indented one-half inch from the left margin.

With some minor modifications, You can use the guidelines given above for citing several resources. Examples are given below:


Name of the author (surname first and other names Initialed).

  • – Granville E.
  • Year of publication (in parenthesis) – (2020)
  • Title of the article –
  • The name of the journal (in italics) – South African Journal of Cultural HistoryThe volume number and issue number, if available.
  • The pages you have cited. – p. 20-24


In-text: (Derwing et al., 2002)

Reference page: Derwing, T.M, Rossiter, M.J., & Munro, M.J. (2002). Teaching native speakers to listen to foreign-accented speech. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 23(4), 245-259.


  • Name of the author
  • Year of publication
  • Book title in italics
  • City of Publication
  • Publisher


In-text Citation :( Brownlie, 2003, p. 15)

Reference Page: Brownlie, I (2003). Principles of public international law (Oxford University Press)

Online Resources

  • Last name with Initials of first and middle names
  • Year, month, and day in parentheses
  • Article title
  • Publication name in italics
  • URL


In-text citation: (Wright, 2020)

Reference page: Wright, L. (2020, December 20). The Plaque year: The mistakes and the Struggles behind America’s coronavirus tragedy.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

With the volume of information that’s released on the web, authors risk losing their works to infringements and outright theft. The APA recognized this gap in online publishing. The DOI is a novel initiative of the APA to identify published materials online.

This identification is made using strings of numbers, symbols, and letters that You will permanently attach to work. Such numbers are unique to the work. The aim is to protect the works of authors that have been released into the web.

Previously, online applications can be identified only by their URL. The challenge with this is that the URL can change. Once an online material acquires a DOI, you cannot change it. Even if the URL changes, the DOI does not change.

The APA manual requires that DOI be included in the citation. Where the article doesn’t have one, then you can make use of the URL. The DOI is usually written at the end of the reference; thus: https://doi.0rg/xxxxx.

You can find the DOI on the first page of the online article, the database landing page, the citation generated by the database, or near the copyright notice. You can also search for it on

Common Errors In Using The APA Manual

The student writing a paper for the first time will most likely make mistakes in the citation. Professionals who have used the manual for a long time are still at risk of making mistakes. The best option is to note these mistakes, check them against what is contained in the manual, make your corrections and learn. The more you use the APA style of citation, the better your work will turn out. The following errors have been identified.

  1. Mix-up in In-text citation – some writers mix up the sequence of names, year, and title. There is also the issue of citing full names where only the last name is required. The mix-up can again happen where there are several authors. Knowing when to list them and when to use one author “et al.” is essential.
  2. Incorrect Quotations – the citation may be correct, but the quote itself is wrongly written.
  3. Wrong Spacing – APA citations are double spaced. You might make the mistake of using single line spacing.
  4. Improper indentation
  5. Incorrect punctuations – this might alter the flow of your presentation.
  6. Wrong use of italics.
  7. Spelling inconsistency, especially in in-text citation and the reference page. Misspelling an author’s name is also poor citation.
  8. Wrong use of capitalization and sentence case
  9. Wrong use of ampersand.
  10. In-text citation not corresponding with reference page.


The APA style reduces biased words in a written work. It is different from other referencing styles like MLA, OSCOLA. The citations in each are different from the rest. The difference applies to how the dates are placed, including author’s name and the capitalization.

The APA style is an excellent guide for every author who wants to publish a precise, articulate, and error-free work. It would be best to ask your supervisor when you are not sure of the citation style to use. Where the APA style is chosen, be sure you are using the current edition.

Also, take note of special requirements like a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) for an online resource. If it is not required, the URL should suffice to make your citation simpler.

Through this article, hope that we are able to provide useful information on how to cite the APA manual.

About the Author

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!