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APA Style: Citing Your Sources: Basics of APA Formatting

What's in this guide?

This page has information on:

  • A tutorial to help you understand WHY to cite, HOW to cite, and how to AVOID PLAGIARISM
  • A Writing Support tutorial on setting up Word for APA-formatted papers
  • The format of an APA citation
  • Resources for further help 

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What is the point of a citation?

You need to understand why and how to use citations to help you avoid plagiarism! Use this interactive tutorial to begin to understand the importance and mechanics of avoiding plagiarism through proper citing:

USC Library Lessons: Avoiding Plagiarism through Citations

In addition to avoiding plagiarism, citations help the reader locate your sources. You need to ask yourself, could someone find this information in the future? A client's personal file would not need a citation because your reader cannot go find that information again.  Census statistics would require a citation because your reader could go locate that information again.

APA requires FOUR ELEMENTS of every citation:

  • Author of content
  • Date content was published
  • Title of content
  • Publication information. This can be the website you got it from or the journal or book's publication information.

Follow this guide if any of those elements aren't available: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2012/05/missing-pieces.html

Plagiarism

Helpful web sites with examples on how to cite your sources

Use this site to find DOI numbers

Use Crossref, a free site, to look up DOIs. The free DOI lookup searches for DOIs using information such as article title, authors, and publisher information.

USC Resources

Citation Managers

Web-based citation managers that allow you to import references from text files, web sites or online databases. 

The Basics of APA Formatting

This will run you through the basic requirements of APA formatting, including margins, headers, indentations, and page breaks.

I can't find the example reference I need. What should I do?

Choose the APA example that is most like your source and follow that format. Sometimes you will need to combine elements of more than one reference format. 

This entry from the APA Style blog has more information about what to do.

APA Workshops

Slides from the latest APA Workshop.

APA Tutorials

APA Style

Sample Paper with Examples

Here's a sample paper provided by APA. For every style rule, there is a comment highlighted in the paper that tells you where to find the discussion of the rule in the APA Style Manual.

Writing Guide