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Referencing: Getting Started with APA Referencing

Guide to APA 6th referencing style used at ECU

What is APA Referencing?

APA is the referencing and writing style set by the American Psychological Association, and has been adopted across the majority of courses at ECU. It is an (author, date) style of referencing that consists of two parts:

  1. In-text Citation – a short reference (author, date) contained within the text of your assignment AND
  2. End-text Reference – the full citation details of each in-text citation used in the text of your assignment.

In-text Citations

In-text citations include the details of the author/s (usually just the surname), and the year of publication in the (author, date) format. You must always include an in-text citation when you:

  • Quote another author (word for word)
    • Note: you must also include a page number for direct quotes (author, date, page number). For electronic sources where there is no page number, use the paragraph number or section heading.
  • Paraphrase, summarise or synthesise another author’s work in your own words
    • In-text citations, when paraphrasing, can take a number of forms, depending on how you choose to structure your sentence. For example,
      • Kessler (2014) found that among epidemiological samples . . .
      • Early onset results in a more persistent and severe course (Kessler, 2014) showed . . .
      • In 2014, Kessler’s study of epidemiological samples showed that . . .
  • Secondary sources: If you wish to use a quote from an author referred to in another source that you've read (secondary source), you only list the secondary source in the reference list. Name the original source in the text of your paper, and cite the secondary source in parentheses, for example: Allport’s diary (as cited in Nicholson, 2003).
    Note: Use this type of reference sparingly, only if the original (primary) source is unavailable.
  • Support your own work with another author’s work (either to provide an example or to provide evidence for an argument).

End-text References

Every in-text citation should have a corresponding citation in the end-text reference list. Every work in the end-text reference list should have a corresponding in-text citation. Personal communications are an exception to this rule.

The end-text reference list provides full citation details of a work based on the following four elements:

  1. Who: who produced the work (i.e. details of the author)
  2. When: when was the work produced (i.e. date of publication)
  3. What: what is the work we are referring to (i.e. title of the work)
  4. Where: where did this work come from (i.e. publisher or online source)

This means that all end-text reference list citations have the following format as their underlying structure:

Author, A. A. (year). Title. Source.

General Notes

Sample in-text and end-text reference citations are outlined throughout this Library Guide and in the APA Style Central Database.

It is important to take note of the following general rules. 

Direct Quotations

All direct quotations from a work should be reproduced word for word, keeping the original spelling and internal punctuation (even where it is incorrect).

  • Short quotations of fewer than 40 words are incorporated within the text of your work, and are enclosed with “double quotation marks”.
  • Long quotations of 40 words or more are displayed in block format without quotation marks. Block format means that the quote should start on a new line and be indented from the left margin.
  • Direct quotations must be followed by a reference to the page number or specific location of the quote in the original work in the following format (author, date, page number).
  • If you are adding information to a quote, adding emphasis, correcting errors, or clarifying ambiguous place names, identify this by using square brackets [ ].
  • If you are omitting parts of a quote, use an ellipsis (. . .) to indicate that you have removed material. Use the ellipsis (. . .) at the beginning or end of a quotation if you are not quoting a complete sentence.   


Authors can be individual people or a group (such as corporations, associations, government agencies).

  • For individual people, the information you provide in a citation about an author depends upon the number of authors.
    • Single author: When citing a single author in an in-text citation, insert the surname of the author.
    • Two authors: Where there are two authors, both surnames should be used:
      • Davidson and Porter (2012) demonstrated that . . .
      • It has been demonstrated that . . . (Davidson & Porter, 2012).
    • Three, four, or five authors: Where there are three, four, or five authors, all surnames should be used the first time the in-text reference appears in the document. For all subsequent citations, include only the surname of the first author followed by “et al.”
      • First mention:
        • Smith, Grierson, Malthus, and Nicholson (2015) found . . .
        • According to evidence . . . (Smith, Grierson, Malthus, & Nicholson, 2015).
      • Subsequent mention:
        • Smith et al. (2015) suggest . . .
        • The study concluded . . . (Smith et al., 2015).
    • Six to seven authors: Where there are six or seven authors, use the first surname only followed by et al.
      • According to Abercrombe et al. (2008) . . .
      • It was shown that . . . (Abercrombe et al., 2008).
    • Eight or more authors: Where there are eight or more authors, use the first surname only followed by et al. in the in-text reference. For the End-text reference, include the first six authors, followed by and ellipsis ( . . . ) then the last author’s name.
      • In-text:
        • According to Owen et al. (2014) . . .
        • It was shown that . . . (Owen et al., 2014).
      • End Text:
        • Owen, A., Dufes, C., Moscatelli, D., Mayes, E., Lovell, J., Katti, K., . . . Stone, V. (2014). The application of nanotechnology in medicine: Treatment and diagnostics. Nanomedicine, 9(9), 1291-1294. doi:10.2217/NNM.14.93
  • For a group, the name of the group is written in full the first time they occur in an in-text citation.
    • If you wish to abbreviate names, write the name in full the first time that it occurs, and place the abbreviated form in brackets. In subsequent citations, you can then just use the abbreviation.
      • First mention:
        • (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2014).
      • Subsequent mentions:
        • (ABS, 2014).
  • More than one work by the same author in the same year: If there is more than one work by the same author, the end-text references are to be listed in date order. If the author has more than one work in the one year, use lower case letters of the alphabet.
    • (Jones, 2016a, 2016b)
  • Two authors with the same surname: If two authors being cited in text share the same surname, use their initials in all citations:
    e.g. This was confirmed by J.J. Smith (2012), who.....
           R.A. Smith (2009) considered.....

Place of Publication

For books published within the United States, follow the name of the city with the two official US postal service abbreviations. For all other publications, follow the name of the city with the name of the country. End with the name of the publisher. For example:

  • New York, NY: Harper & Row.
  • Washington, DC: Author
  • Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • London, England: Wildwood House.
  • Melbourne, Australia: Puffin.
  • Cambridge, England: Author

Getting Started with APA Style





Getting Started With APA Style

Learn the basics of APA Style, including how to format a manuscript, understand the form and function of common manuscript parts, organize and express your thoughts clearly and precisely, employ the mechanics of style, use graphic elements effectively, credit sources and acknowledge the contributions of others, and construct a comprehensive and reliable reference list.

In-text Citations





Citing References in Text

Learn how to cite references in the text, including how to implement the basic formats, cite multiple works, achieve clarity, and format references with missing author and/or date information.

Reference Elements





Reference Elements

Learn about the four reference elements of an APA Style reference: the author, date, title, and source.

Direct Quotations & Paraphrasing





Direct Quotations and Paraphrasing

Learn how to cite and format direct quotations and block quotations, make and indicate changes to direct quotations, and cite paraphrased material.

Missing Reference Elements





Missing Reference Elements

Learn how to write references when information is missing, including a missing author, date, title, or source.







Learn how to use abbreviations, including how to introduce them and how to use Latin and scientific abbreviations.


Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources

Learn how to use and cite secondary sources, that is, sources that discuss or cite material originally presented in another, or primary, source.


© 2016 American Psychological Association.