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Citation Styles Playbook

The purpose of this playbook is to help you cite the sources used in your academic research.

What is the APA style?

The APA citation style is a set of rules created by the American Psychological Association.  Generally, this style is used by the social sciences to cite sources in papers, essays, etc.


Most of the examples in this guide were taken from:

APA's "core elements"

Though not labeled as such, APA citations are composed of 4 core elementswho, when, what, where.

who -- author field

when -- date field (in parentheses)

what -- title of the source

where -- where the source lives


Anderson, A. K. (2005). Affective influences on the attentional dynamics supporting awareness. Journal of  Experimental Psychology: General, 154, 258-281. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.134.2.258

Who = Anderson, A. K.

When = (2005)

What = Affective influences on the attentional dynamics supporting awareness.

Where = Journal of  Experimental Psychology: General, 154, 258-281. doi: 10.1037/0096-3445.134.2.258

A Note about Using MS Word to Format Citations

Microsoft Word includes a citation utility that promises to format citations in several styles, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago.  This utility should not be used, as it is never correctly programmed and produces erroneously formatted citations. 

Please note that the Jessup Library librarians do not support the Word citing utility and are therefore unable to help students who choose to use it.  The librarians suggest learning how to cite from scratch.

Can I use a citation generator?

Citation generators format your citations based on the information you enter into their fields.  Using these apps is counterproductive because

  • Citation generators insert a lot of errors into the citations
  • If you do not know how to cite by hand, you will not recognize the errors
  • Citation generators actually waste your time: The time spent entering the information into the citation generator and then verifying the information with a citation guide is far longer than the time it takes to learn how to cite correctly
  • While some instructors do allow the use of these apps, many do not, and when you encounter one of these instructors, you will be at a disadvantage (grade-wise)  for not having learned how to cite

Additional Information

  • To see an example of a paper in APA style, go here.
  • The citations list is called References.
  • Reference list entries are alphabetized by author's last name.  If there is no author, the entry is alphabetized by title.
  • Entries are double spaced.
  • The first line of an entry is set against the left margin. Subsequent lines are indented using the hanging indent format.
  • For articles and other documents that are online, the URL is replaced with a DOI (Digital Object Identifier), if one is available.  The DOI provides an persistent (unchanging) link to the document's location on the Web.
  • For electronic journal sources without a DOI, the URL used in the "Retrieved from" field is the URL for the journal's home page
  • The APA style does not allow source footnotes or end notes.
  • The APA style does not use bibliographies at all.
  • Initials are used for authors' and editors' first and middle names.
  • The format of reference titles varies depending on "independence" of source and on location (text vs. references list)

Formatting the Hanging Indent

Formatting the hanging indent with Word:

[1] Select the text you would like to format (you can select your entire list of citations, for example, to format all at once)

[2] From the Home tab in Word, select the arrow next to Paragraph

[3] Next, under Special, select Hanging

[4] Click OK.  Your selected text will now be formatted with a hanging indent.

Formatting the hanging indent with Google docs:

To see how to format the hanging indent using Google Docs, see this tutorial.