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Database articles without DOI
This is the "What is APA?" page of the "Quick Reference Guide: APA Citation Style" guide.
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Last Updated: Nov 4, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

What is APA? Print Page

The APA Style Manual

Make sure if you are purchasing one of these manuals that it is the second printing or later.  The first printing had numerous errors but they were corrected on the second printing.  The library has a copy in the Reference section, BF76.7.P83 2010.



While MS Word, some article databases, and free online tools such as BibMe, RefWorks, etc offer APA formatting for citations, these systems are NOT ALWAYS ACCURATE OR COMPLETE!

If you use these online tools to generate citations, please double check their accuracy against the "APA Style Guide" or other sources linked from this guide.



Many thanks and credit go to librarians Vanessa Earp and Ken Burhanna of Kent State University for allowing me to generously use freely of their APA Libguides in putting this one together.


What is APA?

APA Style is a standardized format for writing that has been established by the American Psychological Association.  It is generally used by students and scholars working within a behavioral science discipline.  Some of the disciplines that would use APA are those in psychology, nursing, sociology, criminology, and social work to name a few. 

Keep in mind that APA Style refers to:

  • the format and structure of your paper.
  • how you cite other authors within the body of your paper.
  • how you compile a reference page at the end of your paper

Why Cite?

Citing your sources means that you tell your reader that certain ideas or parts in your paper came from another source.  It also lets your readers know where to find the original information you used in your paper.  Citing sources is the only way to use other people's works without plagiarising, which is unethical and can lead to dire consequences.  To read more about plagiarism and how to avoid it follow this link.

Self-plagiarism is the practice of passing one's own work off as new but was previously published.

You do not need to cite "common knowledge" facts.  These are facts that are readily available from numerous sources.  If you are unsure if it is "common knowledge" it is probably best to cite it. 

All sources cited in the References section must be cited in the body (parenthetical referencing) of the paper and all sources cited in the body of the paper must be cited in the References section. 



The following pdf was produced by The OWL at Purdue.  It is a sample APA paper that clearly demonstrates paper sections, formatting and guidelines.

OWL Sample APA Paper

APA Cheat Sheet: This is a basic APA handout that gives examples of books, articles and web resources.


Changes in the 6th Edition of APA

For a full list of changes, see

Major Changes (from University of Canterbury's blog):

  • If available, use the DOI for online journals
  • If no DOI use the home page URL for the journal rather than the database name. The manual advises that this may necessitate a "quick web search to locate this URL."
  • Retrieval dates are no longer necessary for websites unless the material may change over time (e.g. Wikis).
  • When working on the References list at the end of your paper, if there are eight or more authors listed for any resource, include the first six authors' names, then insert three dots and add the last author's name.  The following is an example:

Yoon, P. W., Chen, B., Faucett, A., Clyne, M., Gwinn, M., Lubin, I. M., . . .

Muin, J. (2001) Public health impact of genetic tests at the end of the

20th century. Genetics in Medicine, 3, 405-410.

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Abbreviatiions in APA

The following is a list of common abbreviations that can be used in the reference list:

  • Ed = Edition
  • Rev. ed. = Revised edition
  • 2nd. ed. = Second edition (same with other editions. e.g., 3rd ed., 4th ed…8th ed.)
  • Ed. (Eds.) = Editor (Editors)
  • Trans. = Translator(s)
  • n.d. = No Date
  • p. (pp.) = Single page (multiple pages)
  • Vol. = Volume (e.g. Vol.1, Vol. 4)
  • Vols. = Volumes (e.g. Vol.1-4)
  • No. = Number
  • Pt. = Part
  • v. = Versus (in court cases)
  • Et. al. = And others (for authors)

ALSO! Use Arabic numerals for volume numbers instead of Roman numerals (e.g. 3 instead of III).


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