50 posts categorized "In-text citations"

January 04, 2017

How to Cite Quality Standards and Guidelines in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2
by Chelsea Lee

To cite a quality standard or guideline in APA Style, provide the author, date, title, and source of the work. After the title of the work, provide any number or identifier for the standard in parentheses without italics. Here is a template for citing a standard:


Reference list: Organization That Made the Standard. (year). Title of the standard (Standard No. 1234). Retrieved from http://xxxxx

In text: (Organization That Made the Standard, year).

The only exception is if the standard appears in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), because federal standards are considered legal references and follow legal style; directions for citing standards in the CFR are at the end of this post.

Here are some examples of typical standard citations and their corresponding in-text citations. Note that most of the organizations that publish standards commonly go by acronyms (e.g., OSHA for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The acronym is optional to use. If you do use the acronym, use it in the text only, not in the reference list entry. Spell out the name of the group the first time you cite the work and provide the acronym either in parentheses or brackets (depending on whether the written-out form is already in parentheses); for any subsequent citations or mentions, use the acronym. If you use multiple works by the same group, you only need to introduce the acronym once. How to introduce the acronym is also shown in the example citations below.

ISO Standards

International Organization for Standardization. (2016). Occupational health and safety management systems—Requirements with guidance for use (ISO/DIS Standard No. 45001). Retrieved from http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail?csnumber=63787

  • In text, first citation: (International Organization for Standardization [ISO], 2016) or International Organization for Standardization (ISO, 2016).
  • In text, subsequent citations: (ISO, 2016) or ISO (2016).

OSHA Standards

Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (1970). Occupational safety and health standards: Occupational health and environmental control (Standard No. 1910.95). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9735
  • In text, first citation: (Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA], 1970) or Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA, 1970).
  • In text, subsequent citations: (OSHA, 1970) or OSHA (1970).
  • Note that the date for an OSHA standard should be the effective date; for most standards, this is 1970. If you are citing multiple OSHA standards, create separate reference list entries for each one and differentiate them by using lowercase letters after the year (e.g., OSHA, 1970a, 1970b), as described in this post on “reference twins.”

NICE Guidelines

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. (2013). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (NICE Quality Standard 39). Retrieved from https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs39
  • In text, first citation: (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence [NICE], 2013) or National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, 2013).
  • In text, subsequent citations: (NICE, 2013) or NICE (2013).

Standard Published as a Federal Regulation

Designation of Uses for the Establishment of Water Quality Standards, 40 C.F.R. § 131.10 (2015).
  • In text: (Designation of Uses for the Establishment of Water Quality Standards, 2015) or Designation of Uses for the Establishment of Water Quality Standards (2015).
  • For more information on citing federal regulations, see Section A7.06 of the Publication Manual (p. 223).

The template shown at the beginning of this post should cover all types of quality standards you might want to cite in APA Style, but if you have further questions, leave a comment below!


November 30, 2016

Writing Website In-Text Citations and References

Dear Style Expert,

I found a very useful website and cited a lot of information from it in my paper. But how do I write an in-text citation for content I found on a website? Do I just put the URL in the sentence where I cite the information?




Dear Wallace,

This is a tricky question, but we can help! The short answer is that in most cases no, you do not put the URL in the text of the paper. In fact, the only time you would put a URL in the text would be to simply mention a website in passing. Because you’re citing specific information, you will need to write a regular APA Style author–date citation. Luckily, writing the in-text citation for a website or webpage is easy: Simply include the author and year of publication. The URL goes in the corresponding reference list entry (and yes, you can leave the links live).

Website Example 

In-text citation:

The American Nurses Association (2006) issued a position statement insisting that pharmaceutical companies immediately cease using thimerosal as a vaccine preservative.


Reference list:

American Nurses Association. (2006). Mercury in vaccines [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Archives/Mercury-in-Vaccines.html

Note that the title of the website or webpage should be italicized in the reference list if the work on the page stands alone but not italicized if it is part of a greater whole (if this is ambiguous on the source, just choose what you think makes the most sense for the situation). In deciding how to categorize material on a website for a reference, it may be helpful to consider whether what is on the website is similar to an existing category of document type—for example, this reference is a position statement, which is similar to a press release, white paper, or report; hence the italic title. To clarify the document type, you can also specify the format in brackets after the title. 

Determining Website Authors

It can be confusing to determine who the author of a website or webpage is. Often, the author is a group or agency rather than a particular individual. For example, the author of the position statement cited above is the American Nurses Association. If the website or webpage truly does not have an author, substitute the title of the page for the author in the in-text citation and reference list entry (see this post on missing reference pieces for examples of how to do this).

Determining Website Dates

A second source of confusion is that many websites or webpages do not include publication dates. If no date of publication is provided, use the letters n.d. (which stand for “no date”). The copyright date on the website itself should not be used as the publication date for particular content on that site.

If multiple dates are provided, use the most recent date on which the content was changed. For example, if the site says the content was first published in 2010 and last updated on August 6, 2016, then use the date 2016 in the in-text citation and reference list. However, if the site says it was first published in 2010 and last reviewed in July 2016, then use the date 2010 because a review does not imply that any information was changed.

Multiple Website Citations

If you use information from multiple pages on a website, create a separate reference list entry for each page, with in-text citations that correspond to the appropriate reference list entry. It is common for writers to have multiple entries with the same author and year, so to differentiate these entries, use a letter after the year (e.g., 2016a) or after n.d. (e.g., n.d.-a; more examples here), assigning the letter by putting the references in alphabetical order by title in the reference list. Put references with no date before references with dates, and put in-press references last.

Multiple reference list entries:

American Nurses Association. (n.d.). Know your disaster. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/WorkplaceSafety/Healthy-Work-Environment/DPR/KnowYourDisaster  

American Nurses Association. (1991a). Equipment/safety procedures to prevent transmission of bloodborne diseases [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Position-Statements-Alphabetically/EquipmentSafety-Procedures-to-Prevent-Transmission-of-Bloodborne-Diseases.html

American Nurses Association. (1991b). Post-exposure programs in the event of occupational exposure to HIV/HBV [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Position-Statements-Alphabetically/Post-Exposure-Programs-in-the-Event-of-Occupational-Exposure-to-HIVHBV.html

American Nurses Association. (2015). Academic progression to meet the needs of the registered nurse, the health care consumer, and the U.S. health care system [Position statement]. Retrieved from http://nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/ANAPositionStatements/Position-Statements-Alphabetically/Academic-Progression-to-Meet-Needs-of-RN.html

In text, you can cite these references separately as usual (e.g., American Nurses Association, 1991b), or you can combine citations with the same author if desired. Simply state the author once and then provide the years of the applicable references in chronological order, separated by commas. 

Combined in-text citations:

American Nurses Association (n.d., 1991a, 1991b, 2015)

(American Nurses Association, n.d., 1991a, 1991b, 2015)

Do you have more questions about how to create in-text citations for content from websites or webpages? Leave a comment below.


—Chelsea Lee

September 21, 2016

How to Cite a YouTube Comment

David Becker

By David Becker

When researching a topic for your paper or manuscript, you may come across a few relevant YouTube videos—perhaps a TED Talk or two—that you would like to cite. Being the intrepid explorer of the Internet that you are, you may even brave those videos’ comment threads, desperately searching for some faint glint of rational discourse hidden within the dark, troll-infested depths. Or maybe you’re intentionally seeking out vile and offensive comments if you are writing about the psychology of Internet trolls. Whatever your reasons, you have found a YouTube comment that you would like to cite, but you don’t know how.

Some of the same principles for citing a blog comment also apply to citing a YouTube comment. For instance, list the commenter’s user name if their real name isn’t listed and add “Re:” followed by a space before the title of the video. Also, as with some blog comments, clicking on a YouTube comment’s time stamp will lead to a page with a unique URL that features that comment at the top of the comment thread. Include this unique URL in the “Retrieved from” portion of your reference.

YouTube Comments

There are, however, some important differences between citing blog comments and YouTube comments that are worth noting. Let’s first look at the publication date.

As with citing a blog comment, cite the date that the YouTube comment was posted, not the date that the video was uploaded. YouTube comments present a somewhat unique challenge in that they do not display precise publication dates. Rather, they indicate how long ago a comment was posted (e.g., “3 hours ago,” “2 weeks ago,” “10 months ago,” “4 years ago,” etc.). With such imprecision, there’s no sense in citing a day or a month, as you would do when citing a blog comment, so just cite the publication year.

The year that the comment was posted is easy to figure out using simple math. However, in the unlikely situation where there might be some ambiguity about what year a comment was posted, you can include “ca.” for circa after the publication date, much like when citing approximate dates for social media sources. This should be done as sparingly as possible.

Another difference between citing a YouTube comment and a blog comment is the formatting of the title. Whereas the title of a blog post is not italicized, the title of a video is italicized. However, the “Re:” is technically not part of the video title and therefore is not italicized.

Taking all this into consideration, here is a sample reference to a YouTube comment:

49metal. (2016). Re: Are you dating a psychopath? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cP5HIjA9hh4&lc=z13bu5ghznaawh0ez23ajz0gnquidx1z004

And here is a sample text citation for that comment:

Some do not see the value in these sorts of informal, self-diagnosis measures: “This invitation for lay people to diagnose a rare psychological disorder… is profoundly irresponsible” (49metal, 2016).

Keep in mind the reliability of your source within the context your paper’s topic when deciding what to cite. A random comment from an unidentified YouTube user, such as the one above, is likely not appropriate in a research paper that coalesces expert opinions on a scholarly topic. However, this type of informal source could be more appropriate in a different kind of paper, such as one about how people interact with each other on social media.

June 22, 2016

Navigating Copyright: How to Cite Sources in a Table

David Becker

By David Becker

Dear Style Experts,

I am creating a table that presents information from multiple sources, and I can't figure out how to cite these sources within the table. What should I do?

—Vera K.

Dear Vera,

How you cite your sources depends on the context. If you are reproducing or adapting an existing table, you will need to seek permission and cite the source in a credit line beneath the table. Note that this credit line can identify particular sets of data in your table (e.g., “The data in column 1 are from…”). Thus, if you are adapting material from multiple sources—that is, extracting rows or columns from previously published tables and integrating them into a single table—you might need to include multiple permission statements, one for each source.


If you are simply pulling data from multiple sources, rather than repurposing columns or rows from preexisting tables (the data are not subject to copyright, but their presentation is), then it may be appropriate to just include standard author–date text citations within the table. This type of table is often used to summarize the results of multiple studies, which makes it easier for readers to digest the information, and is commonly used in meta-analyses. Below is a sample table in which each row represents a different study:

Table 1

Summary of Studies Included in Meta-Analysis on the Effectiveness of Rocking Out Like No One’s Watching (ROLNOW)



Cohen’s d


Atashin (2013)




Dumile & Jackson (2015)




Garcia, Homme, Oliveri, & Bjork (2014)




Iyer, Lehman, & Sorey (2014)




Onuki, Agata, & Hamamoto (2014)




Although studies are usually cited in the first column of a summary table, I’ve come across tables that list the citations in one of the middle columns or across the first row. Some tables might include multiple citations in a single column or row if these studies share similar features. How you choose to organize the contents of your table will depend on context and how you want readers to process the information.

It’s worth noting that the order of the rows in Table 1 reflects the alphabetical order of the citations as they would appear in the reference list. Even though APA Style does not address this directly, organizing the rows or columns of a table in this manner is a standard convention for summary tables. It also follows the general APA Style guideline about alphabetizing multiple sources within the same parenthetical citation to match how they are ordered in the reference list (see pp. 177—178 in the Publication Manual). If it makes more sense to organize the rows and columns in your table using a different standard—again, depending on the context—feel free to do so. Just make sure that readers can easily follow the flow of information!

In some cases, you may not want to devote an entire row or column to citing resources. Or, perhaps your citations apply to just a few cells or particular pieces of data. If so, it may be appropriate to cite your sources, using the author–date format, in one of two ways. First, you could include parenthetical citations within the table itself next to the relevant information, just as you would do with a standard text citation. Another approach would be to cite your sources below the table in a general note—as demonstrated in the Table 1 note from Sample Paper 1 on page 52 of the Publication Manual—or in multiple specific notes that connect your citations to particular cells via superscript, lowercase letters (see pp. 138–139 in the Publication Manual for more details). This latter method can be handy if one source applies to more than one cell and is used in the example table below, but parenthetical citations within the cells would be equally acceptable.

Table 2

Sample Responses to the ROLNOW Survey



Sample responses


How cool did you feel?

“Cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce.”a

“Not at all cool. I actually felt kind of dorky.”b


How motivated and energized did you feel?

“I felt ready to take on the world!”c

“Not very. I almost fell asleep!”b


How happy were you?

“I was completely elated and filled with positive thoughts!”d

“I was pretty happy, but I don’t think rocking out had anything to do with it.”a


How physically attractive did you feel?

“I felt pretty, oh so pretty!”e

“I was a gyrating mess of flailing limbs, so I probably didn’t look all that attractive.”c

aDumile and Jackson (2015, p. 31). bIyer, Lehman, and Sorey (2014, p. 79). cOnuki, Agata, and Hamamoto (2014, p. 101). dGarcia, Homme, Oliveri, and Bjork (2014, p. 47). eAtashin (2013, p. 56).

You may have noticed a few differences between the citations in Tables 1 and 2. One is that the Table 2 notes—unlike the rows in Table 1—are not alphabetized. Specific notes are organized according to where the superscripts appear in the table, following the left-to-right and top-to-bottom order described on page 138 in the Publication Manual. Another difference is that Table 1 includes ampersands, whereas Table 2 spells out and. Although and is usually written instead of & when the authors are listed before the parenthetical citation, page 175 in the Publication Manual states that ampersands should be used within the body of the table (and should still be used outside of parentheses in table notes, as shown in the Table 1 note from Sample Paper 1). This helps save space because two fewer characters can sometimes make all the difference in such tight quarters. Finally, direct quotations are presented in Table 2, so the citations in the table note include page numbers. However, you do not need to include page numbers when citing numerical data, as in Table 1.

The example tables in this post offer a very limited scope when considering the many different types of tables that can be found in the wilds of academic publishing—and they are admittedly a tad sillier than is typical. However, the general citation guidelines they present can be easily adapted to just about any kind of table you might need to create. To find example tables that are more relevant to your needs, I recommend combing through journals that follow APA Style.

April 07, 2016

How to Cite a Blog Comment in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

We’ve covered how to cite an entire blog and how to cite a specific blog post. So, what about when you want to cite a comment on a blog?

The elements of the reference are as follows:

Blog-med"who": This is the name of the individual who made the comment, either real or a screen name, whichever is shown.

"when": This is the date of the comment (not the date of the blog post).

"what": Use "Re: " followed by the title of the blog post.

"where": Each comment usually has a unique URL. Unfortunately, blogs differ in how they present that URL, so you may have to hunt for it. Look for words like permalink or persistent link or just click the time stamp, which will often change the URL in your browser to the specific URL of that comment.

For example, click a time stamp in my first comment below and you’ll find that the URL in your browser becomes http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2016/04/how-to-cite-a-blog-comment-in-apa-style.html#comment-6a01157041f4e3970b01b8d1ba04c1970c. It’s important to use the URL of the comment itself because sometimes the same person will leave multiple comments, and this takes the guesswork out of which one you meant.

If the comment does not have a unique URL, just use the URL of the blog post itself.

Using some of the same examples from the previous post, here’s how to cite comments on a blog:

Example References

David, L. (2010, October 29). Re: E-ZPass is a life-saver (literally) [Blog comment]. Retrieved from http://freakonomics.com/2010/10/29/e-zpass-is-a-life-saver-literally/#comment-109178

Mt2mt2. (2015, November 12). Re: A fast graph isomorphism algorithm [Blog comment]. Retrieved from https://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/a-fast-graph-isomorphism-algorithm/#comment-72615

In-Text Citations

As with other APA Style references, the in-text citations will match the author name(s) and the year.

Example In-Text Citation

... a "significant difference in the definitions" (Mt2mt2, 2015).


Leave a comment and you may find yourself included in this post! In a few weeks, I will update the examples above to include a reference to one comment below.

April 05, 2016

How to Cite a Blog Post in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Dear APA Style Experts,

I’m a computer science major, and my favorite blog is called Gödel’s Lost Letter and P=NP, written by two esteemed computer science experts. Can I cite a post from that blog? I’m also writing a paper for my Introduction to Psychology class, and I want to cite the APA Books Blog. Can I?


Yes. You can create an APA Style reference to any retrievable source, though you should of course consider whether the source is reliable, primary, and timely.

Citing an Entire Blog

First, if you want to mention the blog as a whole, just include a mention of it in parentheses in your text, just as you would for mentioning an entire website.

Example Sentences

I really enjoy reading the new APA Books Blog (http://blog.apabooks.org).

I have learned a lot by reading the Psych Learning Curve blog (http://psychlearningcurve.org).

Note: In the first case, the word Blog is capitalized because Blog is part of the name (APA Books Blog). In the second example, blog is not part of the name (Psych Learning Curve). 

Blog-croppedCiting a Blog Post

However, if you are quoting or paraphrasing part of a blog post, you should create a reference to that specific post.

The elements of the reference are as follows:

"who": This is usually one or two people but can also be a company name or other type of group author. In the first example below, the post was credited to just “Freakonomics” (a screen name for the author or authors of the blog by the same name). If a byline is not evident, look at the beginning or end of the post for wording like “posted by.”

"when": Blog posts generally provide the year, month, and date. Include these within the parentheses in your reference. If the blog doesn’t give that level of detail, just include the year or year and month, if that’s all you can find. (Note that your in-text citation will include only the year; see the examples below).

"what": This it the title of the blog post followed by a notation of "[Blog post]." 

"where": Use “Retrieved from” and the URL of the blog post.

Example References

Freakonomics. (2010, October 29). E-ZPass is a life-saver (literally) [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/e-zpass-is-a-life-saver-literally/

Heasman, B., & Corti, K. (2015, August 18). How to build an echoborg: PhD researcher Kevin Corti featured on the BBC [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/psychologylse/2015/08/18/how-to-build-an-echoborg-phd-researcher-kevin-corti-featured-on-the-bbc/

Mathis, T. (2015, August 12). What is human systems integration? [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.apabooks.org/2015/08/12/what-is-human-systems-integration/

rjlipton. (2015). A fast graph isomorphism algorithm [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://rjlipton.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/a-fast-graph-isomorphism-algorithm/

The name of the blog itself is not part of the reference, although it's often evident from the URL.

In-Text Citations

As with other APA Style references, the in-text citations will match the author name(s) and the year.

Example In-Text Citations

... according to research on the health effects of the E-ZPass (Freakonomics, 2010).

Heasman and Corti (2015) wrote about an echoborg.

Mathis (2015) stated that...

Dr. Lipton noted two problems (rjlipton, 2015).

I hope you found these examples helpful! In my next post, I’ll discuss how to cite reader comments on a blog.

January 13, 2015

How to Cite Software in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Can you cite computer software in APA Style? Yes! Here’s everything you need to know.

Q: Do I have to cite the computer software I mention in my paper?
A: The Publication Manual specifies that a reference is not necessary for “standard software.” What is “standard”? Examples are Microsoft Word, Java, and Adobe Photoshop. Even less ubiquitous software, like SPSS or SAS, does not need to be referenced.

Note: We don’t keep a comprehensive list of what programs are “standard.” You make the call.

In your text, if you mention a program, do include the version number of the software. For example, “We asked participants to type their responses in a Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, Version 14.0.7128.5000) file.”

However, you should provide a reference for specialized software. For example, let's say you used an open source software package to display items to the participants in your study. You should cite it. The reference format follows our usual who-when-what-where format.

  • Use an individual’s name in the reference if he or she has proprietary rights to the program. In all other cases, create a reference as you would for unauthored works.
  • After the title, in brackets, provide a descriptor for the item. This helps the reader immensely.
  • If the software is available online, provide the URL rather than the publisher name and location.

Example References

Esolang, A. N. (2014). Obscure Reference Generator [Computer software]. Washington, DC: E & K Press.
Customized Synergy [Computer software]. (2014). Retrieved from http://customizedsynergy.com

Example Text Citations

“We used the Obscure Reference Generator (Version 2.1; Esolang, 2014) and Version 1.0 of Customized Synergy (2014) to complete our work."

Q: Is the name of the program italicized?
A: No: not in the text and not in the reference.

Q: Is the name of the program capitalized?
A: Yes, the name of the software is a proper noun and should be capitalized, both in the text and in the reference list.

Q: What about programming languages?
A: You don’t need to include references for programming languages. But, feel free to discuss them in the text of your paper, if relevant.

Q: What about mobile apps?
A: Yes, you can cite those, too. If you need to cite an app, this blog post has everything you need to know.

Q: What about video games?
A: Yes, video games are software. Follow the templates above for the reference and in-text citation.

Q: What if I used an online application to have my participants complete a survey?
A: Like Survey Monkey? If you mention the use of a site, simply provide the URL in your text (e.g., “Participants were given a link to an online survey, which the authors created using Survey Monkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com).” However, if you’re citing a particular page from the cite (e.g., a help document or the “About” page), you should reference that page just as you would any other. See this eggcellent post for more details about citing websites.

Q: What if I wrote the software myself?

A: If the reader can retrieve it, you can include a reference, following the template above. If you’ve created and published/posted software, that certainly falls into the “specialized” area noted above.

But, if you’ve written software that is not retrievable, a reference is not possible.  If, for example, you’ve included the full code as an appendix, you will want to mention that appendix in the text, but a reference is not needed. You might also find these post about how to write about yourself and whether and how to cite one’s own experiences helpful.

I've tried to cover everything, but please let me know what I missed. I look forward to questions and comments!

July 10, 2014

Does APA Style Use Ibid.?

David Becker

By David Becker

Dear APA Style Experts,

Ibid Question

When should I use ibid. in my research paper? I want to cite the same source multiple times in a row, but I’m not sure how. Please help!

—Brann D.

Dear Brann,

Ibid. is one of several topics not covered in the Publication Manual because it isn’t used in APA Style. Other styles that document sources with footnotes or endnotes use ibid. to point to a source that was cited in a preceding note. APA Style, however, consistently uses the author–date format to identify an idea’s origin.

When repeatedly referring to the same source, it’s not always necessary to include a parenthetical citation at the end of every paraphrased sentence, as long as the narrative plainly indicates where the information is coming from. Even a direct quotation may not require a full parenthetical citation in this case—you can vary your citation style. If you’re not sure whether your paper clearly shows that you’re drawing multiple thoughts from one source, just ask your instructor, a classmate, or someone at your school’s writing center to give it a quick read. One of the most valuable resources in any form of writing is a second pair of eyes!

I hope this post answered your question, Brann! You can also turn to pages 174–175 of the Publication Manual for examples that show how to integrate citations into the narrative and when to include the publication date. Also be sure to check out one of our earlier posts that briefly reviews how to create in-text citations. And, as always, feel free to comment on this post, leave us a note on Twitter or Facebook, or contact us directly about any questions you may have.

May 09, 2014

Comparing MLA and APA: Citing Resources


By David Becker

Last week, we touched on the general differences between MLA and APA styles. Today, I talk about what is probably the biggest difference between the two styles: how to cite resources. These divergent rules can make transitioning from one style to the other a frustrating process, particularly for students. A few style errors can mean the difference between an A and a B on a paper. As an English major who only used MLA Style in school, learned APA Style for my job, and then relearned MLA Style for a few online courses, I can personally attest to the difficulty of mentally juggling two sets of style rules.

Style Frustration

Despite their differences, the APA and MLA citation systems have the same overall function in a research paper—sources are acknowledged via in-text citations, each of which corresponds to an entry in an alphabetical list of works at the end of the paper, referred to as “Works Cited” in MLA Style and “References” in APA Style. However, the MLA Handbook also mentions some variations, such as a “Works Consulted” list, which contains sources not cited within the body of the paper, and an annotated bibliography, which includes a brief description or evaluation of each source. APA Style does not use these alternate methods (see our posts about reference lists vs. bibliographies and some topics the Publication Manual doesn’t cover).

The differences between the two styles become even more apparent when one is creating text citations. MLA Style includes the author’s last name and the page number, whether citing a direct quotation or not. However, APA Style text citations also include the publication date, because the timeliness of research is important in science writing, and the page number is required only for direct quotations. Below are some hypothetical examples of parenthetical citations in both styles:


(Adams 42)
(Lennon and McCartney 999)
(Hexum, Martinez, and Sexton 123)


(Adams, 1979) or (Adams, 1979, p. 42)
(Lennon & McCartney, 1968) or (Lennon & McCartney, 1968, p. 999)
(Hexum, Martinez, & Sexton, 1994) or (Hexum, Martinez, & Sexton, 1994, p. 123)

These citations lead readers to the reference list, which is where the differences between the two styles are most apparent, a topic I cover in my next post. In the meantime, I hope this overview has been helpful to those of you transitioning from MLA Style to APA Style. If you’re new to APA Style, the Publication Manual and this blog are your go-to resources. I also recommend that you try our free tutorial on the basics of APA Style and visit our FAQ page, as well as our pages that provide quick answers for citing sources and formatting your research paper. If you can’t find what you’re looking for after checking those resources, feel free to contact APA Style directly via e-mail or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

March 20, 2014

Rising Citation Trick

Daisiesby Stefanie

Let’s say you are writing a paper, and you have a great point to make that stems from a number of sources, all needing in-text citation. Let’s say one of those sources is head and shoulders above the rest, though, in inspiring your thought and supporting what you have said. You look at the source, and the lead author’s surname begins with Z. Your heart sinks. According to APA Style, citations are listed alphabetically. Is this terrific source doomed to remain at the tail end of a long list of citations, or is there some way you can bump this source to the front of the line?

Good news! Like a magician, you can direct your audience’s attention where you would like it go to. You just need a few extra words (not abracadabra, but close) and voila! The deed is done!

This, like all great magic tricks, is best illustrated by example. Blog magician

Sleight of hand is not for the faint of heart and can, in fact, be counterintuitive: When you think you are seeing something being manipulated in front of you, you may well not be at all (Zarrow, 2001; see also Copperfield, 2008; Jay, 2013; Penn & Teller, 2012; Stone, 2012; Thurston, 1930).

Here, I wanted to make sure Herb Zarrow, inventor of the Zarrow Shuffle, got his due, so I put his source as the first citation. The rest of the citations are included, but they appear after the words see also. Some other words and phrases that could be used, depending on the situation, are for more information; for a review, see; or a specific phrase that fits your particular situation (e.g., for other counterintuitive sleight-of-hand tricks, see). 
Another separating term is cf., but proceed carefully. When cf., the Latin abbreviation for compare, is used, the citations that follow may be assumed to contradict or otherwise differ from the point being made. Think of it as being short for “see, by way of comparison.”

Even physical magic is about appearances: Although we in the audience worry about the assistant in the box, we do not really think that she is going to end up sawed in half (Thurston, 1925; cf. Blaine, 1999, 2000, 2002; Houdini, 1901, 1912a, 1912b).

If you have another turn of phrase that you like to use in these situations, please share it in the comments!

Photo: SurkovDimitri/iStock/Thinkstock. 

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