APA Guide


The following is a guide designed to introduce you to APA (American Psychological Association) style. Access the Concordia Online Library for a complete explanation of APA and further guidelines.

There is also some introductory information about writing literature reviews, which you may be required to do for your course. Literature reviews are evaluative surveys of scholarly articles and other sources that focus on a particular issue or area of research.

What is APA style?

APA (American Psychological Association) style is a set of rules for formatting papers and essays, most commonly used to cite sources when writing about social science and related disciplines.

You may be familiar with MLA (Modern Language Association) style from high school or undergraduate English and Writing courses. While both MLA and APA are used in papers to cite and quote outside sources, the rules for these two styles are unique and different.

Citations and reference lists

Citations are notations in the text which document the sources of quotations, paraphrases, summaries, and the like. A reference list is an alphabetical list of the sources cited in your paper. Sources can include books, periodicals, electronic sources, and websites, just to name a few.

Citations in the text of your paper

APA style requires that you cite the author and publication year of a reference in the text of your paper. One or both of these elements may be in parentheses, depending on sentence structure. Direct quotations (i.e., word-for-word quotes taken from a source) also require the page number on which the quote originally appeared.

No additional information is needed for in-text citations; full references will follow in the reference list at the end of your paper. Here are a few examples of in-text citations:

  • Kisangau, Lyaruu, Hosea, and Joseph (2007) found…
  • Early onset results in a more persistent and severe course (Kessler, 2003).
  • She stated, “The ‘placebo effect’…disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner” (Miele, 1993, p. 276).
  • In 2003, Kessler’s study of epidemiological samples showed that…

Click below for more examples and information about in-text citations:

APA In-Text Citations (PDF)

More APA In-Text Citations information

Repeated In-Text Citations

The first time a work is cited use: (Cooper, 2001) OR (Cooper, 2001). The next and subsequent time(s), in the same paragraph, cite only the name, not the year: (Cooper) if you use the name as part of the sentence: Cooper. If the name is in the parenthetical citation, always include the year: (Cooper, 2001). When a new paragraph is started, start over with the name and year citation.

Instead of repeating cites, try collapsing or consolidating in the narrative itself. For example, cite (Cooper, 2001) but then say for the next instance "Further, Cooper noted..."

The page number must be included for a direct quotation. For example:

Cooper (2001) stated, “teachers need to understand their students’ learning styles” (p. 21).


“Teachers need to understand their students’ learning styles” (Cooper, 2001, p. 21).

At the end of the in-text quotation, the quotation mark goes at the end of the quote, but the period goes after the citation. For example:

"He said the pumpkin pie was delicious" (Peter, 2005, p. 7).

Any time the in-text quotation goes over 40 words it needs to be indented and blocked. There are no quotation marks around the blocked quote. At the end of the quotation, a page number is inserted: (Cooper, 2001, p. 21).

Reference lists at the end of papers

The heading on the page of sources should always be References, and it should always be included on a separate page at the end of your papers. References should be in a hanging indent format, meaning that the first line of each reference is set flush (far) left and the following lines are indented (see below for examples).

Double-space the entire list of references. Alphabetize the list by the author’s last name (use the first author listed if a work is attributed to multiple authors). If there is no author given, start with the first significant word in the title. When writing out the titles of your references, capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle, as well as proper nouns. Here are a few examples:

Beck, C. A. J., & Sales, B. D. (2001). Family mediation: Facts, myths, and future prospects. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Gibbs, J. T., & Huang, L. N. (Eds.). (1991). Children of color: Psychological interventions with minority youth. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Massaro, D. (1992). Broadening the domain of the fuzzy logical model of perception. In H.L. Pick Jr., P. van den Broek, & D. C. Knill (Eds.), Cognition: Conceptual and methodological issues (pp.51-84). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Click below for more examples and information about reference lists:

Examples of APA Style, 6th Edition

More examples of APA Style, 6th Edition

Printing & page formatting guidelines

APA style also requires the following page formatting guidelines:

  • Margins should be one inch wide at the top, bottom, and both sides of the paper. Pages should always be left-justified.
  • Double-space the entire text, including headings and quotations AND the reference list.
  • Headings should be centered on the page. Subheadings should be italicized and kept at the left margin.
  • A short title and page number should appear in the upper right corner of each page.

Click below for an example of an entire paper (including a title page) formatted in APA style:

Sample Paper in APA Format (PDF)

Other web sources for help with APA style

If you're still feeling confused about APA style, don't worry! Check out some of the following links for more information.

Concordia Library FAQs

APA Style Blog

APA Formatting and Style Guide (from the Purdue Online Writing Lab)

Introduction to literature reviews

As described above, literature reviews are evaluative surveys of scholarly articles and other sources that focus on a particular issue or area of research which should also be formatted in APA style. The purpose of a literature review is to provide an overview of important sources and information published about a specific topic. Most writers of scholarly articles include an introductory literature review to provide a broader context for their original research.

Literature reviews should be made up of the following components:

  • A subject-level overview of the issue you are researching/writing about
  • Objectives of your literature review (i.e., why you are writing - to provide context for research, etc.)
  • Grouping/categorization of the works you are reviewing (i.e., those taking one side of an argument/position or another)
  • Comparison and contrast, or a breakdown of differences and similarities, of works being reviewed
  • An evaluation of the quality of each source reviewed - which works are most valid, important, or crucial to this research?

As you are writing a literature review, you should evaluate the authors of the works you are assessing as well. Consider the following:

  • Credentials - who are the authors? What other studies and research have they participated in? Are their claims supported by evidence? What kind of evidence?
  • Objectivity - are there any obvious biases in the writing? Are contradictory viewpoints included/considered or ignored?
  • Persuasiveness - is the writing persuasive and convincing? Is it good writing?
  • Value - does the work significantly contribute to understanding a subject?

For more information on literature reviews, visit the following links:

The Literature Review - Deakin University

This link explains the purposes of a literature review in further detail and provides some useful links about research writing, critical analysis of scholarly resources, and managing references.

Breakdown of Literature Reviews - University of Wisconsin

This link provides helpful structural information on what should be included in the introduction, body, and conclusion of a literature review.

Literature Reviews - UNC at Chapel Hill

This site includes some tips about organizing and composing literature reviews, as well as important guidelines to keep in mind as you are evaluating and writing about your sources.

Click here to view a sample literature review in APA style.


This is by no means an exhaustive explanation of APA style or a complete collection of resources - these are just some tips and ideas to get you started.

Do some searching on your own if you need further help, and remember that the best way to master and fully understand these rules and guidelines is to practice them. Good luck!