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APA Citation Guide: APA Best Practices

Curry Library's guide for the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style.

APA Best Practices

1). Always write for the convenience of your audience

In most cases, WJC students will be using APA citations in a class assignment. While this guide may provide general guidance on citation best practices and examples for APA, always consult with your course syllabus and instructor on what their preferences are for citations in course assignments.

2). Be consistent

No matter which style you use, apply the style consistently to your paper. This will add to the convenience of your reader (i.e. your instructor) in reading and grading your assignment.

3). Have a process in place

It is highly recommended that you save/organize your sources' citations throughout your research process rather than saving that work for the end. This will ensure you don't lose any sources that might be useful, and you aren't rushing to finish your citations properly at the last minute. 

A digital object identifier (DOI) is a more permanent link attached to a published source by a publisher (ex. a journal article or an online web site). Typically, DOIs are more stable and reliable to link to than a web page's uniform resource locator (URL) found commonly in the address bar of your browser. URLs may change, but DOIs rarely do.

Unlike other citation styles, APA specifically rejects the use of permanent links (or permalinks) when citing sources from library databases. The reasoning is that even permanent links are not as stable as referencing the title of the database your source originated from (such as Academic Search Ultimate or ProQuest Central). Any reader should be able to trace that source using the database title alone. This is opposed to a DOI which is the stable URL for a source's publication page.

For this reason, if a DOI is available provide it in your citation whenever possible (or a URL from a source's publication page, such as a newspaper article).

When citing a DOI, a number will often be presented link this:

ex. 10.12738/estp.2016.1.2837

If not present, add the following string to precede the resource's DOI:

Thus, a cited DOI should look link this:

For more information on the use of DOIs vs. URLs in APA, see pgs 298-299 and 317 in the 7th edition.

Whenever using a citation generation tool found online or in a library resource, remember to double check the elements and style of the citation. These include:

  • The edition of the citation style
  • The punctuation (commas, periods, quotation marks, etc.)
  • The stylization (italics, URLs/DOIs)
  • Spacing between elements

Also double check on the edition of the citation style being used by each generation tool. This guide utilizes the current edition of APA (7th), but many library databases still generate citations using the 6th edition. Differences between the two styles may be minimal, but if your instructor is requiring the most recent edition of APA be aware you may need to convert any auto-generated citations.

For works containing 2-20 authors, list all authors by surname and first initials for up to and including all 20 authors, with an ampersand in front of the last author's name.

For works containing more than 21 or more authors, "include the first 19 authors' names, insert an ellipsis (but no ampersand) and then add the final author's name."

For more information on author name formats, see pgs. 286 and 317 of the 7th edition.

Formatting Quick Tip

When formatting a works cited or bibliography, using the keyboard shortcut CTRL (Windows) or Command (macOS/iPadOS) + T on highlighted text in a word processor (such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs) will convert the highlighted text to a hanging indent.