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How to Cite Online Sources Using APA

by Darla Himeles, Demand Media

    The American Psychological Association (APA) style guide is the required writing guide for many professional and academic publications. All APA citations, including online source citations, prioritize different information than those citations required by the Modern Language Association (MLA) and Chicago style guides. For example, because APA is used for scientific writing, APA style places greater emphasis on the date a study or article is published than MLA does. In fact, the date is the second item listed in an APA reference list citation.

    Items you will need

    • Computer with Internet connection
    Step 1

    Gather all relevant publication information for each online source you use and store this information in a database, a bibliographic software program or a word processing program. This information may include the author or authors, title of article, title of journal or newspaper, publication date and, if the referenced material may change over time, as with an encyclopedia article, the date you accessed the material. Also note related information like the volume number, issue number, page or paragraph number, title of the website and the full URL or web address. If the article includes a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) number, note that as well.

    Step 2

    Alphabetize your sources by the last name of the first author, or, if no author exists, use the first word of the article’s title. After the author, or, if no author is given, the title, place the date (year, or year, month day) in parentheses. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word of the title, the first letter of the first word after a colon in the title and any proper nouns. All other words in the title should be left in lowercase. Next write the title of the source, like Any Town Newspaper or Journal of Psychology in italics followed by, if available, the volume and issue number. If the source is paginated, include page numbers. If it is not paginated but several pages long, include paragraph numbers. Finally, write “Retrieved from” followed by the full URL of your source. If a DOI is available, write doi: followed by the full number, with no space between the colon and the first digit, instead of the URL.

    Step 3

    Format your citation list and check for proper indentation and capitalization. APA citations are formatted such that the first line of every source is flushed left, and each subsequent line of the same source is indented five to seven spaces. Separate each piece of information in the citation with either a period or a comma. Here are two sample citations for online sources: Smith, W. (2010). Correlations between marital status and heart health. Heart [indent here or wherever the line break falls] Psychology, 44 [italics], 333-337. doi:10.1048/0378-6133.24.2.227 Tayson, L. S. & Smith, W. (2004, January 10). Can marriage increase heart [indent here or wherever the line break falls] health? Your Town Times [italics]. Retrieved from http://www.yourtowntimes.com

    Step 4

    Insert in-text citations for online sources throughout your article or report as you would for other APA sources. For example, for the second online citation example in step 3, you could make an in-text citation in one of the following ways: “Tayson and Smith (2004) argued that a stable marriage of over five years might improve heart health.” Or, “A stable marriage of over five years might improve heart health (Tayson & Smith, 2004)." Or, “In 2004, Tayson and Smith argued that a stable marriage that lasts over five years might improve heart health.”

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    Tips

    • If you use an online source that lacks key publication information or is otherwise difficult to cite, check the APA style guide website (see Resources) for unusual reference examples or to search for the type of citation you are trying to write. If you cannot find an example, use a citation that most closely conforms to APA.
    • Always cite every source you use in your writing.
    • When in doubt, it is better to include too much information about your sources than too little.

    Resources

    About the Author

    Darla Himeles is a freelance writer, editor and poet living in Castine, Maine. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College's English and education programs and a current student in Drew University’s MFA in poetry and poetry in translation program, Himeles writes frequently about education, wellness, writing and literature.

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