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General APA FAQs

Summary:

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (7th ed.).

Note: This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style can be found here.

The following FAQs address issues in APA citation and/or formatting. The entries in this section are based on frequently asked questions received by our former OWL Mail Tutors. Further information on APA style and citation can be found via the Purdue OWL’s APA Style and Formatting resource.

Do I need to include a running head or not? How do I do this?

If you are writing a paper for publication in a journal, you should include a running head. The running head should be in the header of every page of the document, flush left, in all capital letters; no “running head” label is needed. The running head should be a 50 character or less abbreviated title that focuses on the main idea of the paper; it does not need to contain the same exact words in the same order as the full title.

If you are a student writing a paper for a class, you do not need a running head unless your instructor tells you to include one. If that’s the case, you should follow your instructor’s guidelines; if they have simply told you to include a running head, follow the advice above.

Using APA, how do I cite an author if their work is referenced more than once in a single paragraph?

Here’s what the 7th edition of the APA manual says: "In general, include the author and date in every in-text citation... the year can be omitted from a citation only when multiple narrative citations to a work appear within a single paragraph" (pg. 265).

In other words, you should always give the year in a parenthetical citation, such as (Jones, 2020). If you are citing a work multiple times in the same paragraph in the narrative, you may omit the year. For instance:

Jones (2020) studied college students’ interest in various popular dog breeds. Jones brought puppies of six different breeds to a focus group and observed which breeds were most popular.

How do I cite a work that has no listed author in an APA-style paper?

According to the OWL’s resource on APA-style citations, “If the work does not have an author, cite the source by its title in the signal phrase or use the first word or two in the parentheses. Titles of books and reports are italicized; titles of articles, chapters, and web pages are in quotation marks.” For example, a parenthetical citation for an edition of a dictionary would be: (Merriam-Webster’s 1993)." The bibliographical citation is as follows:

Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary (10th ed.). (1993). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.

What do I do if the source-type that I’m using doesn’t appear in any APA reference/style guides?

The APA manual models many specific templates for specific kinds of sources. If the source type you are using doesn’t appear in those templates, you should use the basic format for the category your source falls under:

  • textual works, including journal articles, books, reports, dissertations, or entries in reference works;
  • data sets, software and tests, including types like data sets, scales, inventories, apps, and equipment;
  • audiovisual media, including types like television shows, films, and music;
  • and online media, including social media posts, webpages, and websites.

Each of these reference groups includes several general templates for large categories such as books or websites. Pick the general template that is closest to what you are trying to cite and adapt the format using the elements in the template.

What do I do if a website is missing information required for an APA-style citation?

The APA Style website’s table shows what to do when one or more pieces of information are missing.

For example, if your website has no author, you can use the title in its place in the reference list and in-text. If the work has no date, you can use the abbreviation “n.d.” in its place in the reference list and in-text.

If I co-author a paper, how should the author’s names appear in an APA-style title page?

According to the 7th edition of the APA manual, author names should be centered between the side margins. Names with suffixes like Jr. or III, use a space to separate the suffix rather than a comma. List the authors’ institutional affiliations on the next line, with different affiliations each having their own line.

Some examples include the following:

Two authors, one affiliation:

Jamie R. Clark and Owen B. Engel Jr.
Harvard University

Three authors, one affiliation:

Andrea Ferris, Brian Atkinson, and Rebecca Schultz
University of Michigan

Two authors, two affiliations:

Paul Jacobs1 and Erin Gibson2
1Rhodes College
2Vanderbilt University

Three authors, two affiliations:

Stacy Johnson1, Madeline Ramirez1, and Brandon James2
1Chicago Medical School
2Columbia University

I’m including an image in my APA style PowerPoint presentation. How do I properly cite the image that I’m going to use?

The answer depends on how you are using the image and where the image comes from. In general, you can cite images using the template found on our resource here. Many images found online are specifically licensed for use by anyone, whether with restrictions (like a Creative Commons license) or without restrictions (public domain). Other images, however, are owned specifically by vendors who will sell you a license to use their property; you should not use these images unless you have purchased the license or they have a Creative Commons or public domain license. When you are giving a presentation in a class or using an image in academic, not for profit work, your use usually falls under fair use guidelines and you can cite it with a copyright attribution, as in this template from the APA 7th edition manual, p. 390:

[Image]

From Title of Webpage, by A.A. Author, year, Site Name (DOI or URL). Copyright [year] by Name, OR In the public domain., OR Creative Commons license such as CC BY-NC.

If your presentation will be published, you should obtain permission from the copyright holder as per the guidelines of the publishing organization you’re working with.  You can learn more about copyright and use permission guidelines of the APA here.

How do I cite unpublished works in APA?

Here is the relevant format from the APA manual, 7th edition, p. 336:

Unpublished or not-yet-published manuscript with a university cited:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (2020). Title of work [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Department, University. URL.

Blackwell, E., & Conrod, P.J. (2003). A five dimensional measure of drinking motives [Unpublished manuscript]. Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. 

How do I cite pieces of software in APA?

You can find a template for citing software on our guide to citing electronic sources.

How do I cite my professor’s classroom PowerPoint presentations in APA? What about my lecture notes?

Your first choice is to follow the format for online slides on this page of the Purdue OWL, and to use the login page for the course management system where the slides are stored as the url. You would reference this source in-text as you normally would by the author’s last name and date. For lecture notes, you would write something like [Lecture notes on key Sophists] in place of the title.

Your second choice is to refer to the lecture as personal communication. For an example, please see this resource on the Purdue OWL.

Please note: personal communication is only cited in-text and not within your References list.

I created and administered my own survey for a project. How would I cite this survey in an APA-style paper?

Since a survey you conducted yourself is not published elsewhere by someone else, you do not cite it in the same way you cite other materials. Instead, in your paper you describe your survey and make it clear that the data you’re referring to is from the survey, usually by saying so in introductory sentences. In your paper, you should include a short overview of your survey method: whom the survey was administered to, how it was administered, how many responses you got, and what kind of questions you asked. You should include a copy of the survey instrument (the full set of questions asked) as an appendix to your paper. You do not need to include your survey in your reference list.

How do I cite state bills in APA?

APA follows the guidelines for legal citations in the United States as outlined in The Bluebook® . You can access a version of The Bluebook by clicking here.

However, guidelines for references to legal materials can also be found on pages 355-368 in the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the APA.

The following template reference to a statute in a state code and its explanation can be found on page 361:

Name of Act, Title Source § Section Number (Year). URL

How do I cite artifacts in an APA-style paper?

You can use the citation that best matches the type of artifact; however, if the artifact is not accessible to readers, it may not need to be cited.

How do I cite a product's instructional guide (e.g., the Apple iPad user’s manual) in APA?

While the APA publication manual lists many different references, product instructions are not something that has a specific reference example. Since there is not a specific reference guideline for instructions, you could reasonably adapt the template for reports found on our "Other Print Sources" resource.

How do I cite genealogies in APA?

The APA does not seem to specifically address this issue. Here’s what we’ve been able to find from other sources:

Genealogy.com offers a method of citing birth/death certificates, which can be found by clicking here and scrolling down to the “Official Records” section of the page.

Archive.gov also offers suggestions on how to cite birth/death certificates, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Genealogy.com suggests some other considerations for genealogy-specific sources here.

Please note again that the APA has not explicitly endorsed these citation guidelines.