Why to Cite
There are many reasons to cite your sources:
- to give credit to authors or artists whose work you have used
- to allow people who are reviewing your work to check your sources
- to show readers how you came up with your arguments or ideas
- to provide scholars with other sources for their research
- to avoid plagiarism
For more information about the dangers of plagiarism see the APA Blog.
For a quick overview of why and when to cite, view this short video, Cite a Source: How and Why You Should Do It.
Test your understanding of plagiarism by taking this short Plagiarism Quiz.
What you don't know CAN hurt you!
When to Cite
Cite a source when:
- you copy information exactly from it; this includes primary sources, such as when you have interviewed someone or are referring to a work of art or image that you are referencing
- you paraphrase, summarize or use your own words to describe ideas from a work
- you cite statistics, data or other numerical information that was compiled by someone other than yourself.
NOTE: The exception to the rule is that you do not have to cite a source when you are using what is considered "common knowledge," such as a date in history, basic biographical facts about a prominent person, or the dates and circumstances of major historical events (e.g. there are 12 months in a year, the planets revolve around the sun, the American Civil War began on April 12, 1861, etc.). If the facts are in dispute, it is best to cite sources.
How to Cite
The essential components of APA citation style are the reference list and related in-text citations. These two components work together to allow readers to find the exact sources used by the writer, as well as where in the paper these sources were used.
The reference list is the master list of all sources used, and is located after the body of the paper. Each source has its own entry on the list and is written in a highly stylized format. The four basic elements of a reference are:
Author. (Date). Title. Source.
For example, here is a citation for an article from a magazine which contains the four basic elements along with additional elements needed to accurately describe a magazine article:
Chesney, R., & Citron, D. (2019, January/February). Deepfakes and the new disinformation war: The coming age of post-truth geopolitics. Foreign Affairs, 98(1), 147–155.
When sources are used in the body of the paper, in-text citations are the link back to the exact entry for the source appearing on the reference list. For example, when the above source is quoted in the body of the paper it includes an embedded in-text citation:
Chesney (2019) speculates that "as deepfake technology develops and spreads, the current disinformation wars may soon look like the propaganda equivalent of the era of swords and shields."
Kinds of Sources
How to cite a source in the reference list is determined by the kind of source it is. APA citation style organizes sources into reference groups, then categories, and then types. The essential groups /categories / types covered in this guide are:
|1.Textual Works||Periodicals (sources published on a recurring schedule)||Journal Articles|
|Books and Reference Works||Whole Books (both authored and edited)|
|Edited Book Chapters and Reference Work Entries||Edited Book Chapters|
|Reference Work Entries|
|2. Audiovisual Media||Audiovisual Works||Film or Video|
|YouTube and Other Streaming Videos|
|3. Online Media||Social Media||Twitter, Instagram, Etc.|
|Facebook, Tumblr, Linkedin, Etc.|
|Webpages and Websites||Specific Types of Webpages|
The one remaining group APA recognizes, "data sets, software, and tests," is not covered in this guide.
For more in-depth information on APA groups / categories / types, with examples, visit this APA Style Blog page.
NOTE: When selecting a group / category / type for a source, what group / category / type a source falls into is of more importance than how it happened to be accessed. For example, if you wanted to cite an article from a journal, when selecting a category/group/type the deciding factor would be that it was an article from a journal, not that you read it in print, or in a library research database, or on a website.