January 23, 2014

When to Use Author Initials for Text Citations




by Tyler Krupa

You probably already know that references in APA Style are cited in text with an author–date system (e.g., Adams, 2012). But do you know how to proceed when a reference list includes publications by two or more different primary authors with the same surname? When this occurs, include the lead author’s initials in all text citations, even if the year of publication differs (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 176). Including the initials helps the reader avoid confusion within the text and locate the entry in the reference list. For example, let’s look at the following two references and their corresponding text citations.


Campbell, A., Muncer, M., & Gorman, B. (1993). Sex and social representations of aggression: A communal-agentic analysis. Aggressive Behavior, 19, 125–135. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1098-2337(1993)19:2<125::AID-AB2480190205>3.0.CO;2-1

Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., & Brunell, A. B. (2005). Understanding the social costs of narcissism: The case of the tragedy of the commons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1358–1368. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167205274855

Text Citations

First citation: Many studies (A. Campbell, Muncer, & Gorman, 1993; W. K. Campbell, Bush, & Brunell, 2005) have shown . . . .

Subsequent citations: Both A. Campbell et al. (1993) and W. K. Campbell et al. (2005) provided participants with . . . .

As you can see from the examples above, even though the year of publication differs in the two Campbell references, the lead author’s initials should be included in all text citations, regardless of how often they appear.

Although this rule seems straightforward, one thing that trips up some writers is how to proceed when different lead authors with the same surname are also listed in other references in which they are not the lead author. To help illustrate what should you do, let’s look at the earlier Campbell examples again, but now let’s add some additional references.


Brown, Y., & Campbell, W. K. (2004).

Campbell, A., Muncer, M., & Gorman, B. (1993).

Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., & Brunell, A. B. (2005).

Smith, L. N., Campbell, A., & Adams, K. (1992).

Although you may be tempted to include the initials every time the surname Campbell appears in the text citations, note that per APA Style, the initials should be included only when Campbell is the lead author. Therefore, initials should be used for only two of the above four references in the text citations.

Text Citations

First citation: Many studies (Brown & Campbell, 2004; A. Campbell, Muncer, & Gorman, 1993; W. K. Campbell, Bush, & Brunell, 2005; Smith, Campbell, & Adams, 1992) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: . . . as was done in previous studies (Brown & Campbell, 2004; A. Campbell et al., 1993; W. K. Campbell et al., 2005; Smith et al., 1992).

Another related item to note is that if the reference list includes different lead authors who share the same surname and first initial, you should provide the authors’ full first names in brackets (see the Publication Manual, p. 184).


Janet, P. [Paul]. (1876).

Janet, P. [Pierre]. (1906).

Text Citations

(Paul Janet, 1876; Pierre Janet, 1906)

We hope these examples clear up any points of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

January 17, 2014

Timestamps for Audiovisual Materials in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Audiovisual materials like videos, podcasts, movies, and television shows can make excellent sources for academic papers. To point the reader of a paper to a specific spot in an audiovisual source—such as when you cite a direct quotation—include a timestamp in the APA Style in-text citation, just as you would include a page number under analogous circumstances for a print source like a book or journal article. This post will show you how.


Use a Timestamp to Cite a Direct Quotation

To cite a direct quotation from an audiovisual source, include a timestamp in the in-text citation alongside the author and date indicating the point at which the quotation begins.

Here are two examples from a YouTube video about cognitive behavioral therapy that features interviews with both practitioners and clients. The first citation is for a block quotation, and the second is for a shorter quotation (<40 words).



The treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy may seem extreme to a person who does not experience the difficulties associated with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Professor Paul Salkovskis addresses this concern:

That’s rather like saying, if someone’s got a broken leg . . . “Why should you have a plaster cast on? That’s extremely unnatural. No one else has a plaster cast.” And the idea is you often have to do things in a very different way in order to put them right. (OCD-UK, 2009, 4:03)

One patient who experienced the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy stated that it was so remarkable for her that “I began to think impossible things, like I could even invite people home” (OCD-UK, 2009, 4:50).

 The timestamp reflects the format shown on the source—here, the video is counted in minutes and seconds. To cite a quotation appearing before the 1-minute mark, or from a video less than 1 minute long, include a zero in the minutes column (e.g., 0:32).

 This example also demonstrates how to incorporate details into the narrative to provide context. Neither of the individuals quoted above are the author of the video (which for retrieval in the reference is the name of the user who posted the video to YouTube, OCD-UK). Thus the quoted individuals’ names or descriptions appear in the narrative, and the citation appears parenthetically.

 Reference list entry: 

OCD-UK. (2009, February 26). A guide to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds3wHkwiuCo


Use a Timestamp to Help the Reader Locate Paraphrased Information

 You can also include a timestamp for a citation of paraphrased information if you decide the timestamp would help the reader find the information—for example, if you’ve used information from only a part of a long video. Again, this same principle governs when you should include page numbers (or section names, or any other part of a source [link to post]) in paraphrased citations to print materials.

 Here is an example from a video interview with Aaron Beck, a pioneer of cognitive behavioral therapy. The video is more than 2 hours long, so the timestamp will help the reader find the part we’ve referenced, even though the information is only paraphrased.



Beck has stated that the future of cognitive behavioral therapy should be founded in evidence-based treatment (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2012, 1:30:40). He hypothesized that scientists may even be able to learn which therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy, or even gene therapy or psychogenomics) will be most effective for a given individual, allowing therapists to personalize treatment for best results.


Reference list entry: 

Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. (2012, March 30). Aaron T. Beck, M.D. interviewed by Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BZp7ZiAE3c


 Timestamp Ranges

 Although it’s sufficient as far as APA Style is concerned to provide the timestamp at which the cited information begins, you can also include a timestamp range if you think it would help the reader. To refer to a range of time in an audiovisual source, use an en dash between the two timestamps, just as you would use an en dash in a page range. Present both timestamps in full, just as you would present two page numbers in a range in full (e.g., pp. 219–227, not pp. 219–27). 

 Here is an example:

Beck provided several examples of how evidence-based treatments should form the foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2012, 1:30:40–1:33:35).



 We hope this post has helped you understand how to use timestamps when citing audiovisual materials in an APA Style paper. You may also be interested in our posts on citing YouTube videos, videos from the PsycTHERAPY streaming video database, podcasts, and speeches. See Publication Manual§ 7.07 and the APA Style Guide to Electronic References for more example reference formats.  

January 09, 2014

Intranet Intrigue

Daisiesby Stefanie

Dear Style Expert,

I’m writing a paper for class, and I’m using some obscure sources my professor posted on the class website (but aren’t available elsewhere—I checked!). But this website is on my school’s intranet, so only students and faculty at my university can access these sources. How do I include them in my reference list?

—Serious Student


Dear Serious,

That’s an excellent question! You’ve noted that the reference list is provided to help readers find the sources you used in preparing your paper, and thus it doesn’t make sense to include sources that your readers cannot retrieve. My question for you is, Who is your intended audience? If this paper is for class only, then provide a complete reference for your electronic source. But if class is only the first step for this paper—for example, you may plan on submitting it for publication, or it may be posted on your school’s Internet website, where anyone could read it—then you can treat the source as an irretrievable personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Source section of the What Belongs in the Reference List? blog post).


Thank you for your question, and good luck with your paper!


December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year - 2014

December 13, 2013

Accentuate the Appositive

Daisiesby Stefanie

Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. —Gertrude Stein, “Sacred Emily”

One of the delights of life is that there is usually more than one way to describe something, and often those details matter. I may walk into a room and see a rose, a dog, and a book (I admit, my house is very messy). But that rose is of the Claude Monet variety, grown in my neighbor’s tucked-away garden. That dog is a tricolor beagle that never barks. That book with the oddly literal title is the fifth and final novel of a supernatural mystery series. The details of these items are what differentiate them from the other roses, dogs, and books that might be in the same vicinity (like I said, my house is messy).
An appositive is a restatement of what a thing is, in different terms, that adds to the understanding of that thing’s identity. The appositive can be short or long, restrictive or nonrestrictive; an appositive appears next to the noun it is renaming.
Appositives are usually set off by commas. That is, they are usually of the nonrestrictive variety, in that they provide extra information but the sentence is clear and complete even without them. By “set off,” I mean that when a nonrestrictive clause appears in the middle of a sentence, commas go both before and after the appositive (see also section 3.22 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed., p. 83, for additional examples).

The flower, a carefully cultivated and locally grown Claude Monet rose, drew the eye of my visitor.

My faithful dog, a tricolor beagle whose main claim to fame is his complete failure as a watchdog, didn’t even stir when the stranger entered the room.

The visitor touched the cover of the book on the end table, Blood Debt by Tanya Huff.

Restrictive appositives are essential for meaning and do not take commas (see section 4.03 of the Publication Manual, p. 89). Note in the examples below that because the narrator has more than one brother and because there is more than one blockbuster movie, the specific names offered in the appositives are necessary and thus should not be cordoned off with commas.

My brother John is much more reasonable than my brothers Paul and George.

The blockbuster movie Independence Day was blaring at a ridiculous volume from the other room.

Using appositives well can add detail and life to your writing. If you have comments or questions about appositives, please write to styleexpert@apa.org or leave a comment below!


December 05, 2013

How to Cite a Data Set in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Whether you’re a "numbers person" or not, if you’re a psychology student or an early-career psychologist, you may find yourself doing some data mining.  Psychologists are increasingly encouraged to provide their data online for other researchers to use and analyze.  And big-data psychologist is one of the hot new jobs in the industry.

Because big data is a big deal, you’ll want to know how to cite a data set.

Reference Example

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental
    Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies. (2013). Treatment
    episode data set -- discharges (TEDS-D) -- concatenated, 2006 to 2009
    set]. doi:10.3886/ICPSR30122.v2

Because this data set has a DOI, the reference includes that DOI. For data sets without a DOI, the URL should be included in the reference, like this: "Retrieved from http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/SDA/SAMHDA/30122-0001/CODEBOOK/conc.htm"

Also note that the name of the data set is italicized. And, a description of the material is included in brackets after the title, but before the ending period, for maximum clarity.

big dataIn-Text Citation Example

The in-text citation for this reference would be "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies (2013)" or "(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, 2013)."  Of course, if you cite that a number of times, you’ll probably want to abbreviate the author name.

Related Documents

Data sets sometimes have many other documents associated with them (e.g., reports, papers, and analyses about the data; tests and measures used to procure the data; user manuals; code books). When you are citing one of these related items, whether instead of or in addition to the data, be sure to describe the format in brackets after the title. For example, in this example from the APA Style Guide to Electronic References, Sixth Edition, "Data file and code book" is used to describe the format:

Pew Hispanic Center. (2004). Changing channels and crisscrossing cultures:
    A survey of Latinos on the news media
[Data file and code book]. Retrieved
    from http://pewhispanic.org/datasets/

The in-text citation would be "Pew Hispanic Center (2004)" or "(Pew Hispanic Center, 2004)."

For more about big data, you may be interested in these pages on the APA website:

Note: I modified this post on 12/23/2013 to include the DOI of the data set in the first reference example.

November 27, 2013

The First Thanksgiving: A Tale of Common Knowledge

Vintage-thanksgiving-clip-art-turkey-in-top-hat-with-restaurant-menus by The APA Style Radio Theatre


(Crowd noises, conversation, chairs squeaking, gradually give way to the sound of a gavel)

CHAIR: Ladies and gentlemen. . . . Settle down, if you please. Thank you. I hereby call to order the Autumn Assembly of the North American Society of Professional Nitpickers. On behalf of the entire group, I’d like to offer our appreciation to the Catering Committee for the delightful holiday repast we’ve just enjoyed. The turkey was roasted to a turn, the pies were superb, and the wine pairings were expertly chosen (aside from the sauterne and sauerkraut, but I shall not quibble with this fine Baltimore tradition).

In our refreshed state, let us now turn to the business at hand: establishing the core content of common knowledge about Thanksgiving. Now, as we all know, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Massachusetts in 1621. . . .


CHAIR: Order! Order! (gavel) The chair recognizes the delegate from Virginia.

VIRGINIA: Without wishing to be disagreeable in any way, I must respectfully contradict that statement. It’s common knowledge in Virginia that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated at Berkeley Hundred on December 4, 1619—a full year before the arrival of the Pilgrims in the New World.

MASSACHUSETTS: Oh, not this again! Sure, a boat load of people landed in Virginia and declared a “yearly and perpetual day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.” But everybody knows the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Plymouth Colony in 1621. It’s on TV every year—the Peanuts special, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You ever see anybody dressed up on a float as Captain John Woodleaf? No! It’s Miles Standish!

VIRGINIA: Apparently the honorable delegate from Massachusetts is unable to do the math—or the history, if he considers a cartoon to be a valid source of historical data on the Plymouth parvenus.

(Angry shouts of “Who you calling a parvenu?” etc., are interrupted by the sound of a pistol shot fired in the air.)

TEXAS: Glad I got your attention, ’cause I can settle this right now. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in El Paso, Texas, by feller named Juan de Oñate. April 30, 1598. Write that down, boys, it’s official. Common knowledge, you might say.

FLORIDA: If we’re going to count non-English settlers, what about my Huguenots? They celebrated a day of thanksgiving in June 1564 for their safe escape from France. It was right near Jacksonville.

MASSACHUSETTS: Yeah, OK, they could be contenders. But where are they now?

FLORIDA: They were all slaughtered by Admiral Menéndez in 1565.


ILLINOIS: Forget this colonial stuff. We celebrate Thanksgiving today because of the federal holiday, which was started in 1863 by Abe Lincoln.

VIRGINIA: George Washington did it first.

NEW YORK: And FDR did it last!


CANADA: Can I just point out that no one is addressing the real problem, which is that you’re all celebrating Thanksgiving in the wrong month. Now in Canada, we . . .

(Cries of “Sit down!”, “So?”, and “But you’re Canada!” drown out the rest of his speech.)

CHAIR: Ladies and gentlemen, there has been sufficient discussion. Let us proceed to the Showing of the References.

(Paper rustles as each delegate produces a list of references to substantiate his or her point.)

CHAIR: From the Showing of the References, it is clear that each of you has a well-supported claim to be representing common knowledge about the first Thanksgiving. Your information is factual, not mere opinion; it is well-established in the community in which it is used; and it is supported by evidence. These are the three criteria for common knowledge, and you have met them. I move that we adjourn to the bar for football. All in favor say “Aye.”


CHAIR: The motion carries. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Facts that are common knowledge in one setting may need to be backed up by citations in another. Common knowledge is not an opinion (“Tamales are better than turkey”) but a fact (“Thanksgiving is always on Thursday”).



The Showing of the References

Baker, J. W. (2009). Thanksgiving: The biography of an American holiday. Lebanon: University of New Hampshire Press.

Cromack, S. (2011, November 22). A seat at the table of the nation [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://histsociety.blogspot.com/2011/11/seat-at-table-of-nation.html

Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources. (n.d.). Fort Caroline and the first Thanksgiving. Retrieved from http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/viva/articles/2012/may/2208-fort-caroline-and-the-first-thanksgiving.html

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. (n.d.). The year we had two Thanksgivings. Retrieved from http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/THANKSG.HTML#doc

Kingman, M. (1990). The first Thanksgiving? Retrieved from http://www.texasalmanac.com/topics/history/timeline/first-thanksgiving

Plimoth Plantation. (n.d.). Thanksgiving history. Retrieved from  http://www.plimoth.org/learn/MRL/read/thanksgiving-history

Shenkman, R. (2001, November). Top 10 myths about Thanksgiving. Retrieved from http://hnn.us/article/406

November 21, 2013

Pluralize Numbers and Abbreviations Without Apostrophes


by David Becker

A common mistake people make is to include apostrophes when pluralizing a number or an abbreviation. Apostrophes are generally used in contractions and to indicate the possessive case, but they are not used to form plurals of numbers and abbreviations in APA Style.

For instance, writing “the 1960’s” when referring to that entire decade is incorrect; instead, one should write “the 1960s.” The same rule applies to the plural form of any other type of number, such as describing someone’s age (e.g. “clients in their 80s”), and is discussed further in section 4.38 on page 114 of the Publication Manual.

A similar rule in section 4.29 on page 110 applies to abbreviations. Just as with numbers, don’t include an apostrophe when pluralizing abbreviations. For example, when pluralizing an acronym, such as “CV” for “curriculum vitae,” all you need to do is add an s to the end, as in “CVs.” This rule also applies to standalone letters, as in “The students all received As.” For abbreviations that end with a period, such as “Ed.” to indicate an editor in a reference list entry, add an s before the period, as in “Eds.” When pluralizing an italicized abbreviation, remember not to italicize the s, as in “ps.” Just don’t add an apostrophe.

For more information, take a look at our other posts on punctuation in APA Style. Punctuation is also covered in more detail on pages 87–96 of the Publication Manual. And, of course, please feel free to comment on this post or contact us with any of your style questions.

November 14, 2013

How to Cite Part of a Work

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

This post will explain how to cite just part of a work—such as a footnote, table, figure, chapter in an authored book, paragraph, section, or page—in an APA Style paper. It’s actually quite simple: Just provide a citation for the whole work in the reference list, and in the text, include the regular author–date citation plus information about the specific part to which you want to bring the reader’s attention.

Puzzle pieces

The idea is to provide a path to the source. The in-text citation refers the reader to the reference list entry, which in turn provides enough information for the reader to find the source itself. The extra information in the in-text citation further specifies which part of the reference the reader should attend to.  If you need to cite a part within a part (such as a row within a table), just add that information into the text citation (e.g., Smith, 2013, Table 1, column 4).

Note that if you want to cite a chapter in an edited book, a separate format applies. Chapters in edited books, unlike those in authored books, receive their own reference list entries because different authors write different chapters in the book, and it is important to properly attribute the citation in the paper. Chapters in authored books, on the other hand, can be cited in the text, but the reference list entry should be to the whole book because that is what the reader would look up in a library catalog or database.

Example In-Text Citations to Parts of Sources

Here are a few examples showing how to cite part of a work in the text:

  • (Woo & Leon, 2013, Figure 3)
  • Caswell, Morgan, and Duka (2013, Table 1, row 3)
  • (Park, Van Bavel, Vasey, & Thayer, 2013, footnote 3)
  • Dweck (2006, Chapter 3)
  • (Ebrahim, Steen, & Paradise, 2012, Appendix)
  • (Breska, Ben-Shakhar, & Gronau, 2012, Method section)
  • Cook et al. (2012, General Discussion section, para. 2)
  • (Ferguson, 2012, pp. 64–67)

In each case, the reference list entry would reflect the larger work containing the piece, formatted according to the document type.

For example, the reference entry for the citation to Figure 3 in Woo and Leon’s (2013) article, shown in the illustration, would follow the format for a journal article.

Woo, C. C., & Leon, M. (2013). Environmental enrichment as an effective treatment for autism: A randomized controlled trial. Behavioral Neuroscience, 127, 487–497. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0033010

And the reference entry to Chapter 3 in the book by Dweck (2006) would follow the format for an authored book, and so on.

Dweck, C. S. (2007). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Formatting Requirements

In looking at the examples above, you may have noticed that the names of some parts were capitalized or abbreviated. Capitalization and formatting rules are described in section 4.17 of the Publication Manualand a condensed version of that advice is provided in the table below.



Abbreviated in parentheses



page (p.)



pages (pp.)



paragraph (para.)

Official section names or headings (e.g., Method section)

Descriptive section names (e.g., introduction, when introduction is not an actual heading in the document)



Keep in mind these rules will apply to any part of a source you can think of. If the particular part you have in mind is not listed above or addressed in section 4.17, feel free to ask about it in the comments.

November 07, 2013

Is It Sometimes Okay to Begin a Sentence With a Lowercase Letter?




by Tyler Krupa

A basic grammar rule is that the first word in a complete sentence should be capitalized. But do you know how to proceed when a name that begins with a lowercase letter begins a sentence? Or whether it is okay to begin a sentence with a lowercase statistical term (e.g., t test or p value)?

Although the two examples listed above seem to be exceptions to the rule that the first word in a sentence should be capitalized, this is not the case. Note that per APA Style, the first word in a complete sentence should always be capitalized.

So what should you do when you come across the above examples in your writing? Getting it right is simple as long as you remember the following two guidelines (see sections 4.14 and 4.30 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual):

1. If a name that begins with a lowercase letter begins a sentence, then it should be capitalized.

2. Do not begin a sentence with a lowercase statistical term (e.g., t test or p value), a lowercase abbreviation (e.g., lb), or a symbol that stands alone (e.g., α).

To help illustrate the first guideline, let’s look at the following example:


Van Morrison and Smith (2012) interviewed 100 participants . . .


van Morrison and Smith (2012) interviewed 100 participants . . .

In the example above, even though the usual presentation of the surname van Morrison begins with a lowercase v, it is correct to capitalize the first letter of the surname when the name begins a sentence. However, note that if the surname van Morrison is used later in the sentence or in references/citations, then the lowercase v is retained (e.g., At the conclusion of the participant interviews, van Morrison and Smith . . .). For more information on how to correctly capitalize author names, see the following post to our blog.

Now let’s look at an example that illustrates the second guideline:


We used t tests to determine . . .


t tests were used to determine . . .


t Tests were used to determine . . .


T tests were used to determine . . .

Note that in the example above, it is not okay to capitalize the statistical term at the beginning of the sentence because doing so changes the meaning of the statistic. Therefore, in instances such as these, it is necessary to recast the sentence. However, note that it is okay to begin a sentence with a capitalized statistical term (e.g., F tests indicated that . . .). For more information on how to format statistics in your paper, see the following post to our blog.

We hope these examples clear up this point of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

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