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APA Style: Citing Your Sources

What is the purpose of a citation?

What is the purpose of citations?

Citations help readers locate your sources. They help to continue the scholarly conversation. To learn more about how citations can help you avoid plagiarism, view this interactive tutorial: 

USC Library Lessons: Avoiding Plagiarism through Citations

When considering citations and references for your papers, you can 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.

If any of the elements listed above are unavailable, follow this guide on the APA Style Blog for more information on what to do about missing pieces in a citation:

View the video below on creating a citation with the four elements above. 

APA Workshops and Tutorials

Citation Managers

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

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

From American Psychological Association ( 

A DOI is unique alphanumeric string assigned by a registration agency (the International DOI Foundation) to identify content and provide a persistent link to its location on the Internet. The publisher assigns a DOI when the article is published and made available electronically.

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. 

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


Further Information and Examples on Citing Your Sources