How to use sources

APA Style Guide


APA is the citation style that is most commonly used in the fields of healthcare, business, and the sciences. APA stands for American Psychological Association, so APA is also the most common style within the discipline of psychology. Anyone who is studying for a degree in any of these areas should thus become very familiar with the APA style, because almost all papers in the curriculum will probably require it.

When working with APA style, an important special consideration has to do with the year of publication for sources that are cited. For many papers in APA style, and especially for papers at a more advanced level of study, it is often a requirement that sources cited are recent (usually within 3, 5, or 10 years old). This is because APA is used in the sciences, and for a research paper in the sciences, it is important to ensure that all the research cited is still valid and not outdated.

Download APA Style Manual 6th ed. (PDF)*

Overview of features

Title page

The title page in APA style is supposed to be its own independent page. It would appear that in many official sources, including the APA manual itself, there are errors regarding the formatting of the title page. The best current information indicates that the title page should have three lines:

  1. Title of the paper (in uppercase and lowercase)
  2. Name of the writer (Firstname Lastname)
  3. Name of the writer's institution

This text should be double-spaced, center-aligned, and situated about a third of the way down the title page. In the current edition of APA, this is all the information that is required. An author note can also be placed near the bottom of the page if needed.

Running header

The running header is a unique feature of the APA style. The running header consists of an abbreviation of the title of your paper. So, if your paper were called "SWOT Analysis for Amazon, Inc.," then the running header may just be "AMAZON" in all capitalized letters. On the title page, it is necessary to also include the text "Running head:". So, on the title page, the header will say "Running head: AMAZON", while on all the other pages, the header will just say "AMAZON".

This text should be left-aligned in the header, and page numbers (starting with the title page as the first page) should be right-aligned in the header.

In-text citations

In-text citations for APA style follow this general template: (Lastname, year, p. #). An example would be (Inwagen, 2011, p. 233). The page number can be omitted if the reference is to a source in general and not to a direct quote from that source. If the cited source has more than one writer, which is common in the sciences, then the rules change a little. Here is are the formats for 1 writer, 2 writers, 3-5 writers, and more than 5 writers.


number of writers




(Lastname, year)

(Inwagen, 2011)


(Lastname & Lastname, year)

(Deleuze & Guattari, 2001).


First time in the paper: (Lastname, lastname, & lastname, year); later references in paper: (Lastname et al., year)

(Inwagen, Deleuze, & Guattari, 2005); (Inwagen et al., 2005)


(Lastname et al., year)

(Inwagen et al., 2005)

In addition, the formatting of in-text citations can also change a little if the authors' names are mentioned in the text of your sentences themselves. For example, either of the following would be acceptable:

  • Some philosophers have made agnostic arguments about cosmology (Inwagen, 2011).
  • Inwagen (2011) has made interesting arguments about cosmology.

And with page numbers, the lines would look like this (the quote is fictional):

  • One philosopher suggested that "we don't know if the universe is made of order or chaos" (Inwagen, 2011, p. 101).
  • Inwagen (2011) suggested that "we don't know if the universe is made of order or chaos" (p. 101).

As you can see, the structure of the in-text citation changes depending on whether you include the name of the author in the text of your sentence.

Online sources

Citations for online sources are similar to citations for books and journal articles. However, given that online sources often do not have page numbers, the standard format looks like this: (Lastname, year, para. #). In other words, it is just like citing a page number, except instead of "p." for the page you should use "para." for the paragraph.

Also, if you are not using a direct quote from the source, then you can omit the paragraph number and just cite (Lastname, year).

References page

The references page for APA style is fairly straightforward. Here is how it should look for three common forms of entries: books, journal articles, and online sources.

type of source




Lastname, F. F. (Year). Title looks like this. City, SS: Publisher.

Inwagen, P. (2014). Metaphysics. New York, NY: Westview Press.

Journal article

Lastname, F. F., Lastname, F. F., & Lastname, F. F. (Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, vol.#(iss.#), p.#-p.#.

[>5 names: list first 5, then ". . .", and then the final name.]

Goodwin, V. L., Whittington, J. L., Murray, B., & Nichols, T. (2011). Moderator or     mediator? Examining the role of trust in the transformational leadership paradigm. Journal of Managerial Issues, 23(4), 409-425.

Online source

Author. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of publication. Retrieved from URL

[If the author is a person instead of an organization, then use Lastname, F.]

Douthat, R. (2018, November 7). Midterms deliver an American stalemate. The New York Times. Retrieved from


This APA style guide is thorough and has captured the most common elements of APA style that are likely to emerge when you write any APA essay. By following the parameters of this guide, you can help ensure that your paper is in congruence with APA style standards. Please also feel free to peruse full-length APA sample essays that can be found on Writer Tools, if you would like to feel more confident in how a completed APA paper is supposed to look.

* Citation style manuals are available from third-party websites. Writer Tools does not condone copyright infringement and you are responsible for the use and reliability of third party downloads and tools. Writer Tools makes no claims or warranties.