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September 20, 2017

References Versus Citations

Timothy McAdooSlices-of-apples-juxtaposed-by-slices-of-oranges-183352038_997x1055by Timothy McAdoo

In the Publication Manual and in many, many blog posts here, we refer to both references and citations. If you are new to writing with APA Style, you might wonder “What’s the difference?” Like this apple and orange, they are created separately but work well together!

 

References

Small green apple onlyReferences appear at the end of a manuscript. They follow a whowhenwhatwhere format. For example:

McAdoo, T. (2017, September 20). References versus citations [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2017/09/References-versus-citations

They appear (a) so you can give credit to your sources and (b) to provide a path for your readers to retrieve those sources and read them firsthand.

 

Citations

Small orange onlyCitations appear in the body of your paper and point your reader to your references. For that reason, we sometimes call them in-text citations. They are also sometimes called simply cites. Citations can appear in a paper in two ways:

 

  • parenthetically: (Becker, 2012; Lee, 2016; McAdoo, 2017) and
  • narratively: Becker (2012), Lee (2016), and McAdoo (2017) wrote blog posts about APA Style.

Include them in a paper to support claims you have made and/or to provide the sources for paraphrases and direct quotations.

As shown in the examples above, citations are almost always composed of an author surname or surnames and a date. The surname(s) that appear in a citation must exactly match those used in the reference. Likewise, the year in the citation matches the year shown in the reference. When the reference has a more precise date, the in-text citation includes the year only. For example, compare the reference and the in-text citation for a tweet. For more about creating in-text citations, see Writing In-Text Citations in APA Style.


Citations versus references

As noted above, most citations include author names; but, because some references have no author, their citations also have no author: When the reference includes no author, the citation includes the title (or a short version of the title). Also, many types of legal references do not include author names. To learn more about legal references and citations, see Introduction to APA Style Legal References.

 

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