How to Write References in APA Format [Definitive Guide]

how to write references in apa format

Most academic papers or research journals on psychology need to include some sort of citations or reference list.

Even though there are various citation styles such as MLA or IEEE, this guide will be focusing mainly on the most popularly used among them when it comes to psychology or social science. The APA citation format.

Writing references in APA format can be tricky, especially if you’re not familiar with how this style of citation works. However, if you know the process and where to start, it isn’t that difficult to write references in APA format correctly.


In this guide, I will explain how to write references in APA format quickly and effectively so that all of your work can be easily found and verified by someone else who wants to read it at a later date!

What is the APA format?

American Psychological Association (APA) style is a citation format that first surfaced in 1929 when a small group of psychologists, business managers, and anthropologists sought to lay down simple psychology writing guidelines that will make reading comprehension easy.

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences, psychology, nursing, communications, business, engineering, and other related fields.

Why do you need to cite a source in APA format?

Referencing is all about credit. By referencing someone else whose work you paraphrase, summarize or quote, you’re giving them credit for what they did, which makes it easier for people to locate your source.

If they see that you’ve cited a respected and reliable source, they can be more confident that what you say is true.

Citing sources in APA format will also let your document be formatted, less clustered with information, and make it presentable with fewer distractions.

APA Referencing: How to cite sources correctly

APA referencing: In-text citation

In-text citation should be used at every point where you have quoted or paraphrased another source within your document’s main body.

This citation must include the author’s surname and date of publication only. Let’s use an author named Johnny Huggins for instance:

Huggins (2022) states that… Or …(Hugins,2022).

Let’s say you find yourself in a situation where you need to cite two or more authors, this can be done with either ‘and’ or the ampersand sign. For instance:

Huggins and Wiggans (2022)… Or …(Huggins & Wiggans, 2022)

APA referencing: Book citation

Citing a book is the most basic style, just follow the below examples.

Author’s surname, initials. (Year of book publication). Title of book. Publisher. 

Example: Duhigg. (2012). The Power of Habit. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

APA referencing: E-book Citation

If you’re writing a review on an e-book, you’ll likely use an e-book citation. In these instances, the format is also the same with book citation. Just a URL will be swapped with the publisher’s name.

Author’s surname, initials. (Year of book publication). Title of book. Retrieved URL.

Robinson, Williams, (2020). How to Speed Read People. Retrieved from

APA referencing: Journal article citation

A journal is a publication that publishes articles containing original research or review. 

The articles are usually (but not always) written by experts in their field, who are often academic researchers or professionals working within an area of specialization related to that journal’s focus.

Typically, peer review and editorial control are undertaken by a journal’s editorial board. This work is then disseminated to all subscribers of that journal, through print and/or electronic mediums such as newsletters, magazines, and journals.

If you’re citing a Journal in your document, the format is as follows:

Author surname. (Year). Article title. Journal title, Volume number, page numbers. DOI or Retrieved URL

For Example, Huggins (2022). Citation: How to become a psychologist. PsychGuru Journal, 17(5), 101-105. Retrieved from

APA referencing: Newspaper article citation

It is recommended that you take a look at other publications as well, as each has its own style of referencing.

The APA referencing format follows:

The Newspaper, section, p or pp. Retrieved article URL

Additionally, there should be a page at which you found your source. Therefore, if it was online media; an Internet address or DOI (Digital Object Identifier) should also be mentioned.

Example: Huggins. (2022). How psychological reading can change the world. Thedailypsych, Research, pp.11. Retrieved from

APA referencing: Image citation

The basic format to reference an image in APA format is:

Author Surname. (Image publication date). Image title. Retrieved URL

For example: Wiggans. (2022). Psychological painting. Retrieved from

APA referencing: Film citation

You might want to reference a psychology case study film. Therefore, you should know how to properly cite their sources; film citations are no exception. Here is an expert guide on how to write film references in APA format:

Film producer surname & Director surname. (Year of Release). Film title. Country of Origin: Studio.

For example: Huggins, J. (2022). Psychology plays a huge role in human lives. United Kingdom: Psychofilms Pictures.

Major sections of your research paper

Typically, a research paper is divided into 4 major sections: a title page, an introduction that summarizes and introduces your ideas, a body consisting of paragraphs of argumentation or description, and a reference that cites relevant sources.


The title page will contain your document topic and affiliations. The main significance of your title is to briefly let readers know what you will be talking about.


The abstract is an introduction that follows the title page and provides background information on your topic, establishes why you are qualified to write about it (especially if you’re writing an academic paper), and identifies what exactly you plan on exploring further.

Main Body

The main body will consist of the actual writings, argument, further argument, and explanation of your topic. It might be broken down into further sections or subtopics headed by h2-h6 tags.


This is the section where you need to cite all referenced sources in your document. Referencing certified and verified sources will give off the impression that you know what you’re doing, your paper doesn’t include hearsay, and furthermore backup facts in your paper.


This post has presented a complete guide for writing references in APA format. While it is aimed at students and researchers, anyone who wants to find out how to properly cite sources can use it as a reference.

Are there any more ways of referencing methods that you would like to know about? If so, please comment down below.

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