How to Do APA References

by Justin King, Demand Media

The American Psychological Association citation system is one of the most important citation systems to master. APA style is used to cite sources when you are writing about topics in social science disciplines, such as anthropology, history or political science. The references section appears at the end of a document that has been formatted in APA style.


An APA reference page always begins on a new page that follows the end of a document's text or the end of any available appendices. Place the word "References" at the top of the page in the center-aligned position. Continue the running headers you used in the document on the references page. Set the page format to double-line spacing and leave one space after the title before beginning the entry for the first citation.

Source Type

To cite a source on the APA references page, determine the type of source -- articles from periodicals, books, public presentations, electronic sources and non-print sources.

Completing the Citation

APA citation listings begin with the last name of the author of a source followed by a comma and the first initial of the author's first name. Place the date of the publication in parentheses. If you are citing a smaller work within a larger work, then the title of the smaller work follows the date in quotation marks and without title caps. Place the title of the larger work next in italics and in title caps. Place any relevant issue or volume number and include page numbers if you are citing an article. An electronic reference will end with the phrase "Retrieved from:" followed by the URL of the site you are referencing.

Organizing Citations

Once you have completed the list of referenced works, ensure that the references are properly formatted. For references that extend beyond one line, indent all consecutive lines by 1/2 inch. This allows the reader to easily pick out the first line of each entry while scanning the page. Place the final list of references in alphabetical order beginning with the entry closest to the letter "A." If you are citing more than one work by the same author, place works in chronological order according to the date of publication.


  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Ed; American Psychological Association

About the Author

Justin King is a writer and scholar of environmental and public rhetoric. He holds a Master of Arts in writing studies from Saint Joseph's University and a Ph.D. from Purdue University. King has been contributing to online publications and print journals since 2004, as well as delivering talks on science writing and environmental theory throughout the United States.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images