Whether you're writing a paper for a class or creating your dissertation-length study, APA citation is very important. Different areas of study use different forms of citation for sources and for creating a bibliography or works-cited page. Other forms include MLA and Chicago Style. APA is used primarily by those in the social sciences, including psychology, nursing, economics and business writers. Citing sources can be hard work, but many textbooks and websites that explain the style format are easily accessible.


Using APA style for citing sources is very important to avoid charges of plagiarism. Every time you use someone else's ideas in your work, even if it's not an exact quote, you must cite the author in your work. Paraphrasing and summarizing involves changing the exact wording but not the major thoughts and ideas of the original author. In college, and even in some high schools, teachers can fail students for not citing sources in their work. Plagiarism is when you steal someone else's ideas, even if you do this accidentally by forgetting to insert a citation. At some universities and colleges, students can fail a course or even be suspended from school indefinitely for multiple charges of plagiarism. Always cite someone else's ideas in your writing.


The three sides of the rhetorical triangle are ethos, pathos and logos. Aristotle once called rhetoric the art of speaking or writing effectively. In order to be a great writer, you must employ the three sides of the rhetorical triangle equally in your work. Citing sources strengthens the ethos aspect of your paper. Ethos is when you appeal to your reader's sense of your credibility and authority as a writer. In order to show your readers that you know what you're writing about, you should refer to scholarly sources and studies that back up what you're trying to claim in your writing. You can establish authority in your topic area by citing sources that show you're knowledgeable.

Future Scholars

A bibliography, or works-cited page, is a list of your sources that you have used or read to create your essay. When you began researching your topic, you had to read texts and studies that listed sources in their works-cited pages, which helped you decide what to write about in your essay. Because writing is participating in an ongoing conversation between scholars, your list of citations can inspire future scholars and help them find sources to start their own research and write essays. Think of your bibliography as a map that will lead future students to great ideas and new discoveries.

Fitting In

Many scholarly journals and classrooms have strict rules about publishing and essay formats. By following APA format in your writing, you fit in with other writers in your field and look professional. APA format is familiar to advanced readers who research and write primarily in a specific area of study. By sticking to one method of formatting, readers can easily follow your ideas in your work and not become confused by unfamiliar or incorrect formats.