APA referencing guidelines
APA Style is widely used by students, researchers, and professionals in the social and behavioral sciences. The Scribbr APA Reference Generator automatically generates accurate references and in-text citations for free.
This referencing guide outlines the most important referencing guidelines from the 7th edition APA Publication Manual (2020). Scribbr also offers free guides for the older APA 6th edition, Vancouver Style, and Harvard Style.
APA in-text citations
In-text citations are brief references in the running text that direct readers to the full reference entry at the end of the paper. You include them every time you quote or paraphrase someone else’s ideas or words.
An APA in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and the year of publication (also known as the author-date system). If you’re citing a specific part of a source, you should also include a locator such as a page number or timestamp. For example: (Smith, 2020, p. 170).
Parenthetical vs. narrative citation
The in-text citation can take two forms: parenthetical and narrative. Both types are generated automatically when citing a source with Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator.
- Parenthetical citation: According to new research … (Smith, 2020).
- Narrative citation: Smith (2020) notes that …
Multiple authors and corporate authors
The in-text citation changes slightly when a source has multiple authors or an organization as an author. Pay attention to punctuation and the use of the ampersand (&) symbol.
|Author type||Parenthetical citation||Narrative citation|
|One author||(Smith, 2020)||Smith (2020)|
|Two authors||(Smith & Jones, 2020)||Smith and Jones (2020)|
|Three or more authors||(Smith et al., 2020)||Smith et al. (2020)|
|Organization||(Scribbr, 2020)||Scribbr (2020)|
When the author, publication date or locator is unknown, take the steps outlined below.
|Missing element||What to do||Parenthetical citation|
|Author||Use the source title.*||(Source Title, 2020)|
|Date||Write “n.d.” for “no date”.||(Smith, n.d.)|
|Page number||Either use an alternative locator or|
omit the page number.
|(Smith, 2020, Chapter 3) or|
APA references generally include information about the author, publication date, title, and source. Depending on the type of source, you may have to include extra information that helps your reader locate the source.
Citing a source starts with choosing the correct reference format. Navigate through the tabs to learn more about the format for the most common source types. Pay close attention to punctuation, capitalization, and italicization.
Note: many sources can be retrieved online, including books, journal articles, and reports, but that doesn’t mean you should use the ‘website’ reference format to cite this information. Only use the website format if no other reference category is more fitting.
Note: not all elements are required. In our example, we don’t include a volume number or DOI because it’s not relevant to this book.
Note: when a source is written by an organization instead of a person (as in this example), include the organization’s name in the author position.
It is not uncommon for certain information to be unknown or missing, especially with sources found online. In these cases, the reference is slightly adjusted.
|Missing element||What to do||Reference format|
|Author||Start the reference entry with the source title.||Title. (Date). Source.|
|Date||Write “n.d.” for “no date”.||Author. (n.d.). Title. Source.|
|Title||Describe the work in square brackets.||Author. (Date). [Description]. Source.|
Formatting the APA reference page
On the first line of the page, write the word “References” (in bold and centered). On the second line, start listing your references in alphabetical order.
Apply these formatting guidelines to the APA reference page:
- Double spacing (within and between references)
- Hanging indent of ½ inch
- Legible font (e.g. Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11)
- Page number in the top right header
Which sources to include
In your reference list, you only include sources that you have cited in the text (with an in-text citation). You should not include references to personal communications that your reader can’t access (e.g. emails, phone conversations or private online material).
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is the Scribbr Reference Generator free?
Yes, the Scribbr APA Reference Generator is 100% free.
- Why should I use the Scribbr Reference Generator?
The Scribbr Reference Generator is easy to use, accurate, and accessible for all students. Some features you’ll definitely like include:
- Lightning-fast autocite using a URL, DOI, ISBN or title
- Smart citation forms that help you avoid incorrect citations
- Quick tips that make citing easier
- No costs, no ads, no limitations
- Can I download my sources to Word?
Yes, after creating your references you can download your reference list to Word. Simply click on download > Microsoft Word (.docx) in the menu above your reference list.
To save you some time, the downloaded file is already set up in APA format.
- Do I have to create an account?
An account is not required to use the Scribbr Reference Generator. However, creating a Scribbr account does have some benefits:
- Safely store your reference list
- Create multiple reference lists
- Work from multiple devices
Note that if you’re not signed in, your reference list is stored as a cookie on your browser, which means you can easily lose your work. Be sure to download a backup on a regular basis, or sign in to store it in your account automatically.
- What does a reference generator do?
A reference generator is an easy tool that helps you cite sources in a specific reference style.
You fill in the forms with information about a source, such as the author(s), title, and publication date. The tool then creates an accurate reference and in-text citation that you can use to give credit to the original author.
- What citation styles does the Scribbr Reference Generator support?