In writing, you should cite your sources using the style indicated by your instructor or organization. You’ll find that different disciplines have different styles. Many of you may be familiar with MLA. In this class and many of your other Communication courses, we use APA. That is because APA style prioritizes dates. Dates are helpful to us because they indicate the recency of the information and can relate to its quality.
In your written assignments, you should (1) cite your sources in-text when information comes from a source (whether summarized, paraphrased, or a direct quote) and (2) list your sources in a references section at the end of your paper.
Here is the basic format in APA style:
Any sources referenced should be listed on their own page at the end of a paper. You should title the page “References.” Your references should be then listed in alphabetical order. References should have a hanging indent of 0.5, which means that they are indented after the first line.
Below are some common reference types:
- Peer-reviewed journal
- Lastname, Initials. (Year). Title of the article. Journal Name, Volume(Issue), Pages. doi or url
- News article:
- Lastname, Initials. (Year, Month Date). Title of the article. Source Name. url
- Lastname, Initials. (Year). Title. Publisher.
- Organization Website (With organization as author)
- Organization Name. (Year, Month Date). Title of webpage. url.
Can’t find a date? Then you use n.d. in place of the date. Make sure you double check around the website or article though. Most often when students tell me there is no date, I go to the website and quickly locate it.
Another common mistake I see is related to capitalization in article titles. Only the first word and any proper nouns should be capitalized in article titles in your references. For more types of references and examples see: “Reference Examples.”
Lastly, be careful of online generators for references. You can use them as a start, but you still need to generally know what to look for to correct them.
There are two primary ways you can cite sources in-text. Anytime you are referring to information that came from a source — whether a direct quote, a paraphrase, or summary — you should cite the source. I encourage you to over-cite rather than under-cite.
Common formats include:
- Parenthetical citation: At the end of the sentence (Smith, 2018).
- Narrative citation: If you want to write it into the sentence, you might say something like Smith (2018) stated…
When you are using a direct quote, you should also include a page number at the end of the sentence if applicable. That might look like this (p. 2). For online sources that do not have page numbers, APA style recommends either paragraph numbers, section headers, or both. The period always goes after the citation.
If you are using a quote that is longer than 40 words, it needs to be inset. I strongly encourage you to avoid lengthy quotes as much as possible.
For more on in-text citations see: “Basic Principles: Parenthetical Versus Narrative In-Text Citations.”