APA Documentation Style

 

Most faculties and departments prescribe a style guide outlining the proper format for written assignments. The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), published in 2009 by the US-based academic organization for the study of psychology, has been adopted as the standard for written work produced in the discipline of psychology, and many faculties at UNB accept written work prepared according to its standards.

The APA guidelines start from the premise that "authors of scientific articles contribute most to the literature when they communicate clearly and concisely" (APA, 2010, p. 9). APA's "author-date" system of parenthetical citation differs from MLA's "author-page" system. Compared to MLA, APA explains in greater detail the use of numerical data, figures, and tables, but it is more restrictive in what it prefers as "citable" academic literature, a restriction that is reflected in its new, simplified system of citing web-based literature using the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) now included with many scientific articles published on the Web. The Publication Manual covers far more than parenthetical citations and references.

Parenthetical Documentation

APA documentation style uses a parenthetical citation system that provides the minimum information necessary to allow a reader to find the work in the reference list and then locate the source of the citation. Include only the author's or authors' surname(s), the publication date of the work, and the page number(s) if the material is quoted. When the surname of the author is included in the text or obvious from the context, include only the date or the page number(s). Here is a simple example of how it works:

One study found that "most undergraduates choose their university for a variety of personal, logistical, and financial reasons, quite unlike the type of indices used in the Maclean's system" (Cramer & Page, 2007, p.9).

 

Note how the commas separate the three elements.

When writers cite an author's name in the text, including the author surname(s) within the parenthesis is unnecessary. In such cases, use a two-part parenthetical citation for quoted material, one for the date after the author surname(s) in the text and another for the page number that follows the quotation:

Cramer and Page (2007) found that "most undergraduates choose their university for a variety of personal, logistical, and financial reasons, quite unlike the type of indices used in the Maclean's system" (p. 9).

 

However, APA style favours paraphrase over quotation. Even with paraphrases, writers "are encouraged to provide a page . . . number, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage" (APA, 2009, p. 171):

Prentice (2004) examines childcare policies in Manitoba as one instance where liberal values do not dominate social policy in Canada (p. 194).

 

In the first Cramer and Page (2007) citation, an ampersand (&) is used within the parentheses, whereas the word and is used to link the authors’ names in the text in the second citation. Use the abbreviated form (&) only within parentheses. Authors' names are not necessarily listed in alphabetical order. The order of names in works with multiple authors usually reflects the hierarchy of the research team: team leaders’ names are listed first.

The abbreviation "et al." (representing the Latin et alii, et alia, or et alius, meaning "and others") provides a shorthand way of referring to a list of authors. Both names in two-author works are always presented. In the first citation of a work with three or more authors (up to five), list all the names. After this, however, list only the first followed by "et al."

The publication year can be omitted ONLY IF 1) the year has already been given in the same paragraph in a non-parenthetical reference (see the example below) 2) the name of the author is being presented as part of the narrative (textually, again as in the example below) and 3) there is no danger of confusion about the source.

Federico, Golec, and Dial's (2005) study of American attitudes towards the 2003 Iraq War distinguishes between patriotism and nationalism, where the former is a positive regard for one's country that allows for criticism of the country and the latter is often accompanied by negative feelings towards members of national outgroups. This distinction is accepted by many researchers (e.g., Kemmelmeier & Winter, 2008) studying nationalist sentiments. Federico et al. surveyed 217 students at a large Midwestern university during the autumn before the Iraq War began, at a time when the possibility of war was prominent in the news. They found that. . . .

 

When the first citation is in parentheses, the year may not be omitted in subsequent citations within the same paragraph:

Studies of American attitudes towards the 2003 Iraq War distinguish between patriotism and nationalism, where the former is a positive regard for one's country that allows for criticism of the country and the latter is often accompanied by negative feelings towards members of national outgroups (Federico, Golec, & Dial, 2005). This distinction is accepted by many researchers (e.g., Kemmelmeier & Winter, 2008) studying nationalist sentiments. Federico et al. (2005) surveyed 217 students at a large Midwestern university during the autumn before the Iraq War began, at a time when the possibility of war was prominent in the news. They found that. . . .

 

Here are some more "what ifs" about parenthetical citation:

What if . . . two multi-author sources look the same once they are shortened with "et al."?

Dial, Brown, Sherwood, and Fontana's (1994) study of uncles contrasts with Dial, Sherwood, Brown, and Fontana's (1994) study of aunts. Dial, Brown, et al. were optimistic about the long-term influence of uncles, whereas Dial, Sherwood, et al. predicted that aunts lost influence among nieces and nephews as the children became older.

 

What if . . . the study has more than five authors?

Mori et al. (1997) suggested that pre-morbid brain volume might indicate an Alzheimer's patient's ability to resist intellectual decline.

 

Note: In the above example, the reader has no idea how many (or even which) authors contributed to the article. The only way to find out is to check the reference at the end of the article or essay. In fact, the entire Mori reference is included in the References to Works on the Web section below, but even in this case you cannot discover all of the authors' names. This is because, for articles that have more than seven authors, only the first six and the final author are listed.

What if . . . you need to cite two or more sources in one parenthetical citation?

Researchers have developed a scale that measures a person's susceptibility to embarrassment (Kelly & Jones, 1997; Maltby & Day, 2000; Modiglianai, 1968).

 

Note: Put a semicolon between the citations and list them alphabetically by the surname of the first authors (not chronologically by date).

What if . . . you are referring to two different works by the same author in the same year?

There have been promising developments in applying cognition to the management of bowel disorders (Toner et al., 1998a, 1998b).

 

In the reference list at the end of the article or essay, a and b are distinguished alphabetically by title. In other words, if Toner had an article called "Antidepressants Can Cause Birth Defects" published in the same year as one called "Zoloft Can Cause Birth Defects," the first one would be designated as a and the second one as b.

What if . . . the author is not a person but a corporate entity?

The Publication Manual advises writers to "avoid [creative writing] devices and aim for clear and logical communication" (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010, p. 65). They define creative writing devices to be such things as "setting up ambiguity; inserting the unexpected; omitting the expected; and suddenly shifting the topic, tense or person," which they say "can confuse or disturb readers of scientific prose" (APA, 2010, p. 65).

 

Note: In the above, the acronym "APA" may be used once the full name is introduced on first use.

What if . . . there is no author listed?

A Cleveland woman was the most successful example of this new transplant technology ("Recipient," 2009).

 

Note: Use a shortened version (first one or two words) of the title that corresponds to the title listed in the references. In this case, the title replaces the author's surname. Titles should be either in italics or within quotation marks (see "Reference List" below). The name "anonymous" is not listed as the author unless the author is clearly designated as such by the use of the word anonymous.

What if . . . two different authors have the same surname?

Family discipline has been found to be effective (Smith, S. R. & Ingoldsby, 2009) but not when the discipline becomes violent (Ireland & Smith, C. A., 2009).

 

What if . . . you are citing a personal interview or a letter or an email?

R. Spacek (personal communication, April 18, 2009) explained some of the more intricate aspects of APA style.

 

Note: Personal interviews and email messages can yield information for many students. Because they are not published and are therefore not independently verifiable, they are parenthetically cited but omitted from the reference list at the end of the article or essay.

What if . . . you wish to cite an author that you encountered only in a citation by another author?

In the analysis of diets high phytic acide, Gontzea and Sutzescu noted a correlation with mineral deficiencies (as cited in Yang & Chen, 2011).

 

Note: This is known as a secondary source; in other words, you did not read the original but instead read about the original in another work. APA recommends that writers "use secondary sources sparingly, for instance, when the original work is out of print, unavailable through usual sources, or not available in English" (APA, 2010, p. 178). In the reference list, include only the reference for the Yang and Chen paper, not the one by Gontzea and Sutzescu.

The Reference List

Documenting sources on the reference list page is more difficult than parenthetical citation: attention to detail is required. Items are listed alphabetically by the first word of the item (usually the author's surname, but see section 6.25 of the Publication Manual for the finer points of alphatbetical order). Listed below are the basic elements:

1. author (surname, 1st initial. 2nd initial.)

Waddell, J. & Bauer, M.

2. (date of publication).

(2005).

3. title of work.

Career planning and development for students: Building a career in a professional practice discipline.

4. title of journal, (in italics)

Canadian Journal of Career Development,

5. journal volume number(issue number),

4(2),

6. page range of entire article.

4-13.

So that it looks like this (note the punctuation and the hanging indentation):

Waddell, J. & Bauer, M. (2005). Career planning and development for students: Building a career in a professional practice discipline. Canadian Journal of Career Development, 4(2), 4-13.

Note: In the Waddell and Bauer example above, the issue number (2) is given only for the minority of journals that number their pages starting at 1 for each issue. Most journals do not follow this practice, numbering their pages continuously throughout the year so that, say, issue 3 of volume 27 could begin on page 209. In such cases, omit the issue number from the citation.

Titles : Whether a word in a title begins with a capital letter depends on where the title appears in your essay. In the body of the essay, capitalize normally (the rules are explained on p. 101). In the reference list, however, use an initial capital "only [with] the first word, the first word after a colon or em dash, and proper nouns" (APA, 2010, p. 101) unless it is a periodical title, which is capitalized normally. Italicize titles of books, journals, and periodicals. Individual articles or chapters of books are placed within quotation marks in the body of the essay, but not in the reference list.

What if . . . the reference is to a book?

Murdock, B. B., Jr. (1974). Human memory: Theory and data. Potomac, MD : Lawrence Erlbaum.

Note: The state, province, or country in which the city is located must also be included. For publisher, give the shortened form of the name, omitting words such as Publishers, Co., or Inc. Note also the abbreviation for "junior" after the author's name.

What if . . . the reference is to a chapter in a book?

Bordo, S. (2003). Does size matter? In M. Hussey (Ed.), Masculinities: Interdisciplinary readings (pp. 42-45). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Note: "(Ed.)" refers to "editor." Besides being responsible for producing the book, the editor often writes the introduction and perhaps one of the individual chapters. The editor's name is given with the initials first and is preceded by the word "In". Note how page number information is formatted differently here than it is for journal articles. The "pp." is used here to indicate a range of more than one page.

What if . . . the book you are citing is a particular edition of the book?

Sternberg, R. J. (1995). In search of the human mind (2nd ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.

What if . . . the periodical is a non-academic one such as a magazine or a newspaper?

Nelson, J. (2009, May/ June). Don't fight the power. This Magazine, 42(6), pp. 18-20, 22, 24-25.

Recipient of face transplant shares her story and results. (2009, May 6). The New York Times, p. A19.

Note: If the newspaper's city is not mentioned in its title, include the city and the initials of its state or province and the name of its country if the city is outside North America. in square brackets after the title: The Daily Gleaner [Fredericton, NB]. This newspaper reference has no author, so the title replaces the author's name; an article such as this would show up as "Recipient" in the essay's parenthetical citations. In the magazine reference, the commas around "22" indicate that the article does not appear on continuous pages (i.e. only on pages 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, and 25, not on pages 21 or 23).

What if . . . the nonperiodical reference is for a film or a television or radio broadcast?

Butt, B., & White, K. (Writers); and Storey, D. (Director) (2009). You've been great, goodnight [Television series episode]. In K. White (Producer), Corner Gas. Toronto: CTV.

Fichman, N. (Producer) & Gross, P. (Director). (2008). Passchendaele [Motion picture]. Canada: Alliance.

What if . . . the reference is to a review of, say, a book?

Schatz, B. R. (2000). Learning by text or context? [Review of the book The social life of information, by Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P. ]. Science, 290(5495), 1304.

References to Works on the Web

Scholars have had to balance the drawbacks of citing electronic material (namely, missing author names, titles, and dates of creation, along with the overall "ephemeral world of the web" (APA, 2010, p.187)) with the benefits of having academic information freely available wherever there is an Internet connection. Many academic publishers have responded to the web's drawbacks by assigning a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) to scholarly material. The DOI can usually be found either on the first page of an academic article or by clicking a button labelled "Article," "Cross-Ref," or "PubMed." The DOI can then be entered into a DOI resolver such as CrossRef.org to find the article. The DOI makes other web-related reference information (date of access, URL, etc.) unnecessary.

Timmons, V. (2008). Challenges in researching family literacy programs. Canadian Psychology, 49, 96-102. doi:10.1037/0708-5991.49.2.96

Note how the manner of writing the reference is the same as usual, with the sole addition of the electronic citation information at the end. But not all articles have DOIs; below are three examples: the first is some information from a non-peer-reviewed web site, the second from an academic journal article, and the last from an online reference work.

Deal, M. (2001). Lecture Notes Week Twelve: Anthropology 3291. Retrieved May 26, 2009, from http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~mdeal/Anth3291/notes12.htm

Mori, E., Hirono, N., Yamashita, H., Imamura, T., Ikejuri, Y., Ikeda, M. . . . Yoneda, Y. (1997). Premorbid brain size as a determinant of reserve capacity against intellectual decline in Alzheimer's disease. Americam Journal of Psychiatry, 154, 18-24. Retrieved from http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/reprint/154/1/18

Padian, K. (2009). Confuciusornis. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/932349/Confuciusornis

Note: In all cases, the period is omitted from the Web part of the citation in order to avoid confusion. In the Padian and the Mori et al. articles, no date of retrieval is required because the article is assumed to be in its final form, unlike the Deal article, which could change. If you cannot find a date for the material, you can put (n.d.) in place of the year.