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APA (6th Edition) Referencing Guide

Referencing Guide based on the 6th Edition of APA style

Everything must match!

Coins showing Heads and TailsRemember, you have to cite every piece of information that came from another source, whether or not it is in your own words. Everything cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and everything in your reference list must be something you have referred to in text. Make sure you don't have anything in one place that isn't in the other.

In-Text Citations

Using references in text

For APA, you use the authors' surnames only and the year of publication in text. If you are using a direct quote, you will also need to use a page number.

If you are using the authors' names as part of the sentence, normal sentence rules apply - always use "and", and never us an "&". However, if you haven't mentioned your authors in the sentence, and they are in the brackets, follow the style rules and always use an "&".

Note: Some lecturers want page numbers for all citations, while some only want page numbers with direct quotes. Check with your lecturer to see what you need to do for your assignment.

For 1 or 2 authors, you will always use the names of both authors:

Jones and Smith (2013) found that "the mice disappeared within minutes" (pp. 29-30).

The authors stated "the mice disappeared within minutes" (Jones & Smith, 2013, p. 29).

For 3 - 5 authors, you will need to use the names of all authors the first time, but from then on you can shorten the reference to the first author and "et al.":

First time:

Green, Brown, and Davis (2016) noted that the changes in the post-test results were not statistically significant.

The changes in the post-test results were not statistically significant (Green, Brown, & Davis, 2016).


Green et al.'s (2017) findings indicated that the intervention was not based on evidence from clinical trials.

It appears the intervention was not based on evidence from clinical trials (Green et al., 2017).

For 6 or more authors, you usually cite the first author, and then abbreviate with "et al.":

Ellenbogen et al. (2013) suggests that microscopic fissures might be responsible for the damage.

The damage could have been caused by microscopic fissures (Ellenbogen et al., 2013).

N.B.: How and when you use "et al." may change if you have several groups of authors with the same first author, but check with your librarian if you're not sure.

Please note that et al. is short for "et alia", which means "and others". You can never used et al. for two authors, and the full stop goes after the al.

Example text with in-text referencing

This example paragraph contains mouse-over text. Run your mouse over the paragraph to see notes on formatting.

Excerpt from "The Big Fake Essay"

The purpose of an essay is to explore a given topic or answer a question, so the content must adequately fulfill this purpose In APA formatting, you should indent the first line of each paragraph one tab space. . The writer needs to consider the audience for the paper, the task that has been set and the topic that needs to be covered (Soles & Soles, 2005) Your lecturer may want page numbers for every citation. If so, this would be formatted like this: (Soles & Soles, 2005, pp. 1-10). Also note the use of the & symbol - you only use this in the brackets. In the sentence you would use the word "and".. He or she needs to understand the topic well, through reading widely and critically, in order to write clearly and comfortably in an academic style (Caron, 2008). For a research essay, it is important to find a wide variety of information from various sources and to use it effectively in the body of the essay – as well an ensuring it has been cited correctly (Barnet et al., 2013; Drew & Bingham, 2010). Note that when the same information has come from more than one source, you put the citations in alphabetical order within the brackets and separate them with a semicolon. The Barnet reference has already been cited, therefore we can now use the first author and then et al.Appropriate and correct referencing is important for avoiding plagiarism, which is a concern for undergraduate students and their markers (Löfström, 2011). Löfström (2011) goes on to state that “students’ conceptions of plagiarism were characterized by anxiety and fear, concerns about academic and legal consequences, and perceived sanctions” (p. 259). This sentence includes a direct quote from the Löfström text. Note the author details are part of the sentence. Therefore the page number appears at the end of the quote. A good writer must be critical and thoughtful in regards to the research presented in his or her essay and present the best information that could be found. While some essays may require the author to provide their own experiences and opinions, for most academic essays it is normally expected that the writer will consider the topic objectively (H. Hooper, personal communication, February 14, 2013). Because they don't provide recoverable data, personal communications are not included in the reference list. Cite in text only. Examples of personal communications include emails, interviews, private letters, telephone conversations.
Speeches that you have heard "live" and are not uploaded as web content also fall into this category. Basically, when there is no retrievable source document, one may use an in-text "personal communication"
citationOne can conclude that choosing appropriate academic language, as well as offering a well-researched and carefully considered argument, is important. The composition of the essay relies as much on the content as it does on the structure.


You can read the entire Big Fake Essay on the Writing Guide. It includes more details about academic writing and the formatting of essays.

Slightly tricky in-text citations

When you have multiple authors with the same surname who published in the same year:

If your authors have different initials, then include the initials:

As A. Smith (2016) noted...

...which was confirmed by J.G. Smith's (2016) study.

(A. Smith, 2016; J. G. Smith, 2016).

If your authors have the same initials, then include the name:

As Adam Smith noted...

...which was confirmed by Amy Smith's (2016) study.

(Adam Smith, 2016; Amy Smith, 2016).

Note: In your reference list, you would include the author's first name in [square brackets] after their initials:

Smith, A. [Adam]. (2016)...

Smith, A. [Amy]. (2016)...

When you have multiple works by the same author in the same year:

In your reference list, you will have arranged the works alphabetically by title (see the page on Reference Lists for more information). This decides which reference is "a", "b", "c", and so on. You cite them in text accordingly:

Asthma is the most common disease affecting the Queensland population (Queensland Health, 2017b). However, many people do not know how to manage their asthma symptoms (Queensland Health, 2017a).

When you do not have an author, and your reference list entry begins with the title:

Use the title in place of the author's name, and place it in "quotation marks" if it is the title of an article or book chapter, or in italics if the title would go in italics in your reference list:

During the 2017 presidential inauguration, there were some moments of awkwardness ("Mrs. Obama Says ‘Lovely Frame’", 2018).

Note: You do not need to use the entire title, but a reasonable portion so that it does not end too abruptly - "Mrs. Obama Says" would be too abrupt, but the full title "Mrs. Obama Says 'Lovely Frame' in Box During Awkward Handoff" is unecessarily long. You should also use title case for titles when referring to them in the text of your work.

If there are no page numbers, you can include any of the following in the in-text citation:

  • If paragraph numbers are visible use them in place of page numbers; alternatively, you could count paragraphs down from the beginning of the document. Use the abbreviation 'para.'
    • "On Australia Day 1938 William Cooper ... joined forces with Jack Patten and William Ferguson ... to hold a Day of Mourning to draw attention to the losses suffered by Aboriginal people at the hands of the whiteman" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., para. 4).
  • If the document contains headings but no page numbers or paragraph numbers, use the heading plus a paragraph number within that section.
    • "in 1957 news of a report by the Western Australian government provided the catalyst for a reform movement" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., The catalyst for change section, para. 1)
  • If the heading is too long you can shorten it and place it in "quotation marks". In this case the full heading was "Alick Jackomos recalls petition-gathering for the referendum with Doug Nicholls"
    • "By the end of this year of intense activity over 100,000 signatures had been collected" (National Museum of Australia, n.d., "petition gathering", para. 1).

When you are citing a classical work, like the Bible or the Quran:

References to works of scripture or other classical works are treated differently to regular citations. See the APA Blog's entry for more details:

Happy Holiday Citing: Citation of Classical Works.

We acknowledge the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and acknowledge Traditional Owners of the lands where our staff and students, live, learn and work.Acknowledgement of Country

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