A Simple Guide to APA Referencing

simple guide to APA Referencing

In universities across the world, students are judged and marked not only on the work that they submit, but also on the format they use and the references their work is based upon. One of the most common tasks students face in their academic life is to write papers that draw upon the research of others. Students are required to mention or give credit to the sources they have borrowed facts or information from that is not common knowledge to the public. For example, we all know that Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. But if we were to include the total population of Islamabad in our paper, we would need to provide the source of that information as various surveys differ in opinion.

This is called Referencing. The basic definition of referencing would be ‘to provide a book or article with citations of sources of information’. The details about where the information was found and upon which an assignment is based on is listed in two chapters at the end of the assignment; called the Reference list and the Bibliography. Direct quotes or paraphrased findings of other authors are mentioned in the reference list. Sources that were read for background information but were not necessarily or directly included in the assignment are listed in the bibliography.

APA Referencing

APA stands for American Psychological Association. The APA Referencing style is a set of guidelines pre-defined to make reference lists and the bibliography reliable and easier to decipher. There are different referencing styles used in different academic fields and countries. The simplest way to avoid mistakes is to use the style your school or university recommends and not to mix and match.

The APA Referencing style is used primarily in the USA, specifically by the Social Sciences and the institutions affiliated with it. The APA style helps a student to cite a source and format their paper/essay/thesis in a clear and consistent manner. The elements of APA style include in-text matters such as punctuation standards, margin depth, heading format and line spacing. Follow the steps below so as not to miss any important information:


Record the full bibliographic details and relevant page numbers of the source from which the info has been taken.

Insert the citations at the appropriate place in the text of your paper.

Include a reference list that includes all the in-text citations at the end of your document.


The outline of your paper should be based upon the following steps:

The essay should be typed, double spaced on a standardized paper with 1” margins on all sides. The font used should be clear and easily readable. The APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman.

Create a Title page with the text double spaced. Title of the paper, name of the author and the institution should be the only thing mentioned on the page. No titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD) should be used with your name.

Include a page header on top of every page.

The essay should contain FOUR major sections; the Title Page, the Abstract, the Main Body and the References.

The abstract of your essay should concisely summarize the keywords of your research paper. It should at least include the topic of your research, research questions, participants, methods, data analysis and conclusions. You can also include possible implications of your research and future work. The Abstract of the paper should be a single paragraph, double-spaced and not more than 250 words.

In-text Citations:

The surname of the author and the year of publication is required. A page number is also included in case of a direct quote. If there is no author then you can just use the title of the source along with the date of publication in the Reference List. Each reference should appear on a new line in the reference list and each item in the reference list is required to have a hanging indent. Furthermore, references should never be numbered.


Citing a book in APA style:

When citing a book in APA, always remember to capitalize the first letter of the first word of the title and any subtitles, as well as the first letters of any proper nouns. Furthermore, the full title of the book, including any subtitles, should be stated and italicized.


APA format structure:

Author. (Year of Published). Title of Book. City, State: Publisher.

APA format example:

Ahmed, U. 2006. La – Hasil. Lahore, Pakistan: Ilm O Urfan Publishers.

What You Are Citing

In –Text Citation

Entire work

(Ahmed, 2006)

A specific page

(Ahmed, 2006, p.45 )


Citing an E-book:

Nowadays, almost every book is available online and has its own source or version. An E-book is an “electronic book” and the digital version of a book that can be read on a computer, e-reader (Kindle) or any other electronic device.

Author, (Year of Publication). Title of work [E-reader version].Retrieved from http://xxxx.com or doi: xxxx/

Remember, a DOI (digital object identifier) is an assigned number that helps link content to it’s location on the internet and is thus extremely important. Hence, use it in your citation if it is provided. All DOI numbers begin with 10 and are separated by a slash.


Magazine article:

Author, (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. Magazine Title, Page(s).

Newspaper article:

Author, (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. Newspaper Title, Page(s).


Author, (Year, Month Date Published). Article title. Website Title. Retrieved Month Date, Year. From URL.

Thus you can apply the rules of each format as you cite your sources in different ways.

Why is Referencing important?

Referencing demonstrates that you have read relevant literary background and can provide authority for statements you made in your assignments. In this way, you credit other researchers and writers while acknowledging their contribution. You also avoid plagiarism which is highly frowned upon in the academic world with repercussions ranging anywhere from dismissal of your paper to suspension.

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