APA Style Guide: Citations

APA Style provides guidance on a large range of issues associated with academic writing. One of the most important elements is the proper attribution of sources used in research and writing. Citations and references credit the source of prior research for its contribution to one's own research effort. They also allow the reader to check that source for relevance and accuracy. This kind of attribution provides the gateway through which colleagues can explore issues critical to determining the study's validity.

The basic APA framework involves two discrete but related elements: in-text-citations and a reference list.

Consider the following paragraph (in-text citations highlighted):

A leading expert on business strategy asserted the following concerning the core problem facing all businesses: "The fundamental basis of above-average performance in the long run is sustainable competitive advantage" (Porter, 1985, p. 11). The author, Michael E. Porter, has become an icon in the business strategy literature. There is scarcely another major publication addressing this subject that does not make reference to Porter's work. For example, Kaplan and Norton (2004) developed a concept termed "strategy maps." They referenced Porter in their first chapter if only to indicate how their work compares to his. Minyu Wu (2013) discussed Porter in the second paragraph of an article connecting stakeholder concerns with competitive advantage. That a business should strive to create a sustainable competitive advantage is never in dispute.

You will note that there are three in-text citations in this paragraph. Each makes reference to a different source. Based on this paragraph, the reference list would contain the following entries listed in alphabetical order by the author's last name.

Kaplan, R. S., & Norton, D. P. (2004). Strategy maps: Converting intangible assets into tangible outcomes. Harvard Business Review Press.

Porter, M. E. (1985). Competitive advantage: Creating and sustaining superior performance. The Free Press.

Wu, M. W. (2013). Towards a stakeholder perspective on competitive advantage. International Journal of Business and Management, 8(4), 20–29. https://doi.org/10.5539/ijbm.v8n4p20

With respect to these three sources, the following rules explain the manner in which these in-text citations were created.

  1. If the text does not mention the author or date of the source, the citation in the parentheses would include the author's name and date of publication.
  2. If the text includes a direct quote from the source, the citation in the parentheses must also include the page on which the quote exists.
  3. If the author's name is in the text, the information in the parentheses need only include the date of publication and the page number, if the citation refers to quoted material.

A number of other common examples often emerge when citing information contained within a course.

The University Libraries provides a more detailed APA Quick Citation Guide  and Citation and Writing Guides, and the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University provides condensed formal guidelines.