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Referencing: Getting Started

Guide to APA 6th referencing style used at ECU

What is APA Style 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 citation (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. End-references are included in a list of References at the end of your work.

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, summarize or synthesize 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.
  • Citing specific parts of a source: to cite a specific part of a source, indicate the page, chapter or paragraph (for online material without page numbers). Use abbreviations for page/s (p. or pp.) and paragraph (para.), but not chapter, which should be written in full (Chapter), for example:
           Chapter in an authored book, in text citation:    (Baum, 2016, Chapter 3)
           Note: If referencing a chapter from an edited book, use the format for a chapter from an edited book (see Book references).
  • Support your own work with another author’s work (either to provide an example or to provide evidence for an argument).

End References in the Reference List

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 required for refererencing:

  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.

Direct Quotations

It is important to take note of the following general rules regarding 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. Long (block) quotes should be double spaced.
  • 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.   


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.

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

  • Personal authors: 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
  • Corporate authors: 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.....
  • Formatting Names With Multiple Parts:
    If the surname is hyphenated, include both names and the hyphen in the reference list entry and in-text citation.
    If the surname has two parts separated by a space and no hyphen, include both names in the reference list entry and in-text citation.
    If the surname includes a particle (e.g., de, de la, der, van, von), include the particle before the surname in the reference list entry and in-text citation.
    If the surname includes a suffix (e.g., Jr., Sr., III), include the suffix after the initials in the reference list entry but do not include it in the in-text citation.
  • If the surname includes a particle (e.g., de, de la, der, van, von), keep the author’s original capitalization even in reference list entries:
    de Haan, A. D., Deković, M., & Prinzie, P. (2012). Longitudinal impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102, 189–199. doi:10.1037/a0025254

    However, capitalize the name if it (a) begins a sentence or (b) is the first word after a colon when what follows the colon is an independent clause.

    See APA style blog entry:

Place of Publication

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


APA Style has special formatting rules for the titles of the sources you use in your paper, such as the titles of books, articles, book chapters, reports, and webpages.

The formatting of the titles of sources you use in your paper depends on two factors: (a) the independence of the source (stands alone vs. part of a greater whole) and (b) the location of the title (in the text of the paper vs. in the reference list entry).

Titles: whole works that stands alone (e.g. book, report): Use italics for all stand-alone titles, in text and end references.
e.g. In text (capitalize main words):    Gone With the Wind
Reference list (sentence case): Gone with the wind

Titles: part of a whole work (e.g. chapter)
e.g. In text (inside double quotation marks, capitalize main words). “Longitudinal Impact of Parental and Adolescent Personality on Parenting”
        Reference list (sentence case): Longitudinal impact of parental and adolescent personality on parenting

From the APA Style blog "How to Capitalize and Format Reference titles in APA Style" .

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.

Tutorial Sections

Reference Elements





Reference Elements

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

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.

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.



Learn how to use italics, including in reference list entries and for key terms, scientific names, linguistic examples, emphasis, statistics, and tests or scales.


© 2016 American Psychological Association.

Quotation Marks

Quotation Marks

Learn how to use quotation marks, including in quotations of fewer than 40 words, for ironic comments or invented expressions, for titles of articles or chapters in the text, and for test items and verbatim participant instructions.


© 2016 American Psychological

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.

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