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To avoid plagiarism when preparing a research paper, it is important to document where you found the information you are including. Depending on the subject area of the course that you are enrolled in, you may be asked to follow a specific manuscript and citation style when preparing your paper. This resource guide will focus on the APA publication style developed by the American Psychological Association, which is used by the Social Sciences and other curricular areas. Accessing the links on the right will provide you with examples of reference list entries, in-text citation samples, paper setup guidelines, and websites to consult for further information. There is also a series of video tutorials available from the APA Style Tutorial LibGuide page, which explains how to write a research paper using APA Style.
APA Paper Setup
In order to enhance the readability and flow of your paper, the American Psychological Association, or APA, has established a specific format for how you should set up your paper. The Set-up guide for an APA paper prepared by Hagerstown Community College Learning Support Center staff offers a very good step-by-step guide to assist you in doing this. It is advisable to set up your paper using this guide before you begin the formal writing of your paper.
The APA References list
Once you have completed your research and have gathered the information you would like to use to write your paper, your next step should be to create the list of sources you will be referring to in your paper. For APA Style, this list of sources is known as the References list. Hopefully, as you were researching, you have collected the information from your sources that you will use to create this list. As a basis for APA style, each reference entry usually lists an author, date of publication, title of the work, and publication or location information. These elements may differ depending on the format of the publication and how it is published, for example print or digital. Reference entries should be arranged alphabetically by the author's last name, by the first significant word of an organization as an author, or by the first major word of the title if no author is listed. The purpose of your reference list is to provide accurate information for your readers to be able to retrieve each of the sources that you have listed if they would like to refer to the original publication. Refer to the APA sample References list for examples of how to format entries for specific types of sources.
Creating APA parenthetical citations
As you are writing your paper and using information from the sources you listed on your references list, you will need to indicate to the reader what specific source on the References list contains that information. This is called internal documentation or using parenthetical citations. The basic elements for an in-text citation in APA are the Author, the year of publication, and the page number enclosed in parentheses. These elements can vary, for example a work with no author would list title words in the citation. If the date is unknown the abbreviation “n.d.” is used. The APA encourages that page numbers be listed, but if no page numbers are available, include paragraph numbers or headings to help in locating the information being cited.
Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Signal phrases
There are two ways to share information from your sources in your paper: direct quotations & paraphrasing.
Direct quotations can be partial quotes, short quotes of one or two sentences or long quotes encompassing four or more lines. The in-text citation will appear at the end of the quoted material. Enclosed in parentheses, the citation should contain the last name of the author or authors followed by a comma, the year, and the page number where the information you are using is located if a page number is available. If no author is listed, title words are used in the citation. The format for the citation for short and long quotes, a quote of four lines or more, will differ as is illustrated in the examples in the APA sample in-text citations document. Long quotes are off-set from the left margin by ½ inch. The ending period will appear after the citation in a short quote and paraphrase, but appears after the quoted section in a long quote of four lines or more. There is no punctuation after the citation for a long quotation.
Paraphrasing is restating the information in your own words. This does not mean simply changing a few words in the original passage, but rather synthesizing the information and presenting it in a new form. In this case, no quotation marks will be used and your citation will appear at the end of the section in the same format as discussed above. For examples of paraphrasing, refer to the APA sample in-text citations document.
Using signal phrases is another good way to enhance the readability of your paper. A signal phrase usually begins a sentence and names the author or title of the source and lists the publication date to provide context for the information to follow. “As Brown (2014) has noted…” is an example of a signal phrase. When using signal phrases, only the page number is included within the parentheses of the in-text citation since the author or title of the work and date have already been identified.
The following resources contain examples and/or information to assist in preparing a research paper in APA Citation Style.