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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 about source documentation, created by the American Psychological Association.  Generally, this style is used by the social sciences to cite sources in papers, essays, etc.

This playbook contains templates, examples, and handouts that will help you learn this citation style. Why learn how to cite?  Because

  • citation generators can't be trusted (error level is high)
  • learning how to cite will save you time in the long run
  • learning how to cite will allow you to use citation generators with confidence (you'll spot and fix errors in seconds)
  • citing properly will increase your grade

The APA Style playbook was designed specifically for the needs of PVCC students.  To access the different sections of this playbook, click on the links.  For help with APA style citations, contact the librarians at


Books | Articles | Web Pages | Figures and Tables | Miscellaneous | Legal Citations | In Text Citations



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.

Who = Anderson, A. K.

When = (2005)

What = Affective influences on the attentional dynamics supporting awareness.

Where = Journal of  Experimental Psychology: General, 154, 258-281.

Additional Information

  • The citations list is called References (when you only have one citation on the list, the list should be labeled Reference)
  • 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. The DOI is formatted as a URL, with the prefix followed by the DOI number.   Example:
  • If a DOI is too long, use the shortDOI service:
  • For electronic journal sources without a DOI, provide a URL that links to the journal volume where the article lives. Do not use links to databases. 
  • Initials are used for authors' and editors' first and middle names.

APA Style: Requirements for Student Papers

Student papers in APA style require the following:

  • Simplified title page (see attached example)
  • Page numbers
  • Reference list

Not required for student papers (unless required by instructor):

  • Running head
  • Author note
  • Abstract

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

Formatting the Hanging Indent with Word

Follow the steps below to format 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

Formatting the Hanging Indent with Google Docs

Follow the steps below to format the hanging indent with Google Docs

[1] Select the text you want to format in hanging indent style

[2] Click Format

[3] Click Align & Indent

[4] Click Indentation Options

[5] Under Special, select Hanging (it's usually already selected)

[6] Click Apply

Writing an Annotated Bibliography?