Franklin Style Manual Online

2.1 The Basics of APA Documentation

Complete APA citation of sources involves two key parts:

  • reference list entries (usually appearing on a separate References page) and
  • in-text notes (appearing in the main body of the paper).
Your References page includes key bibliographic information on the sources you used to develop the body of your paper or project. Entries generally include the author(s), the date of publication, the title of the source, and various details of publication depending upon the medium of production and means of access. Section 2.3 provides examples for a variety of kinds of sources published in media ranging from traditional printed books to social media sites. Be sure to consult this reference or another APA guide to determine how to format listings on your References page.

It is not enough, though, to tell readers which sources you viewed. You must also tell readers where you actually draw upon sources in your paper. In‐text notes indicate to readers where the sources on your References page are quoted, paraphrased, or summarized, and they also give readers useful information about the sources themselves. In APA documentation, in‐text notes generally include three key details: (a) the author’s last name, (b) the year of publication, and (c) page references to the material used (which may be omitted when quickly summarizing the gist of the whole source). The standard format of in‐text notes and variations from it are covered fully in Section 2.2. The following section explains how the two parts work together to provide complete citation.

How the two parts work together:

Below is a paper excerpt quoting a book. While the in‐text citation and quotation marks in the passage are important for the purposes of giving the source proper credit and avoiding plagiarism, the details in the citation (in bold in the example, but not in a real paper) also point to a fuller bibliographic entry listed on the References entry farther below.

Many sociologists address the challenges of public problem solving by focusing on social influence. For example, Putnam (2000) notes, “social capital allows citizens to resolve collective problems more easily” (p. 288). For Putnam, “social capital” is . . .

In this passage, Putnam is the author’s last name; 2000 is the year the book was published; p. 288 is the page where the quotation is located. The title of the book is unnecessary for APA citation, but can be provided when it helps readers understand the relevance and importance of the source. In fact, you might want to provide other details about the author or publisher alongside the in‐text note to establish credibility or explain relevance. For proper documentation, however, the in‐text note need only include the author, date, and (for quotations and paraphrases) page number.

As noted above, in‐text notes alone are not sufficient for complete documentation in APA. Readers may want to know more about how to locate the source and who published or produced it, all details that should appear on the References page, whether or not you refer to such details in the body of the paper. Since Putnam’s book is cited in the body, the writer of this paper must also give a full listing for the book on the References page. The References page listing would look like this:


. . .

Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Although the essential pieces of APA documentation are fairly simple, especially if using traditional sources like books and articles, there are many required variations to accommodate the wide variety of sources available to 21st‐century researchers. These variations are covered in Section 2.2 and Section 2.3.

Last Updated: 06/8/2012 13:12