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APA Citation Guide: FAQ


Do I double or single space my paper?

Double space your entire paper, without extra spaces between headings and text or between references.

What is a running head and how do I make one?

Running heads now only apply to professional (not student) papers. They go in the top left of the header section, and are simply a shortened version of your paper title in all caps. Running heads should not exceed one line or 50 characters.

Do I need to include an abstract and/or keywords?

Student papers do NOT require an abstract/keywords section, but professional papers do.

Should I write out numbers or use numerals?

The general rule for numbers is to write out numbers ten and under and use numerals for numbers larger than 11. Exception: Always write out numbers that begin a sentence.

Example: Less than four students received scores greater than 90%. Seventy-five percent of test-takers, however, reported having less than ideal sleep habits.

When should I add my references and citations?

It is good practice to cite your sources as you go along. When you decide to use a source, go ahead and write the reference so that you will know what your in-text citation will look like. Do not wait until you finish your paper to try to go back and add citations.

How should I format lists?

Use lowercase letters in parentheses for a short list of items within a sentence. Use numbers (Arabic numerals--not Roman numerals) for a list with a specific chronology or hierarchy. Use bullet points for all other lists.


What does "et al." mean and when do I use it?

This is a commonly accepted Latin abbreviation for "and others." Use it to avoid have to list more than two authors in an in-text citation. Never use et al. in your reference list, just in the text.

What do I do if my source cites another source?

When citing a secondary source, you may provide the original citation the author gives to the primary source followed by "as cited in" and the source you used. Only your source (not the original) needs to be referenced in the list.

(Jones, 2020, as cited in Adams, 2005)

How often should I repeat citations in the text?

Provide only as many in-text citations are necessary to make it clear which information came from which source. You do not need a citation after every sentence if one at the end of a paragraph will do. If you change sources mid-paragraph, however, you should cite parenthetically between them.

When do I need to include a page number or other locator?

Always include a page number when you directly quote. Otherwise, only include locators in the event you want to point your reader to a specific part of the source you used. Locators go in the text but not in the reference list.

How often should I repeat the year in parentheses in narrative in-text citations?

Always include the year in parenthetical citations, but if you introduce a source using the narrative format, there is no need to repeat the year parenthetically.

Jones (1998) concluded that APA style is confusing for the majority of undergraduates. Jones (1998) demonstrated a need for clear and concise materials to aid students as they learn style rules.


When should I use a table versus a figure?

Tables are used to present large quantities of raw data or information which would be difficult to describe in the text or with a simple chart. Figures are any visual you use that doesn't qualify as a table--including any non-table chart or graph, digital image, artwork, etc.

How do I number tables and figures?

Each table or figure begins with a number, but they are numbered separately. So if, after introducing Table 1, I want to use a figure, it will be called Figure 1. The next table (even if it comes after the figure) will be Table 2, and so on.

Should I use a special font for tables and figures?

APA recommends the use of a sans serif font within tables and figures, even if you selected a serif font for your paper body. Sans serif fonts are easier to read on a computer screen.

Do I need to mention my tables and figures in the text?

YES. Every table and figure should have a "callout" preceding the table or figure in the text. You can write these into the text (e.g., "Table 1 shows that...") or parenthetically at the end of a sentence, like this (see Table 1).

When should I include tables or figures in the text versus in the appendix section?

Include tables and figures in the text to illustrate concepts you describe in your narrative. If you mention something in passing that may or may not interest the reader to see, you can refer to an Appendix. Lengthy tables and figures may be better suited to an Appendix, regardless.

Do tables ever include vertical lines?

NO. Do not put a box around a table, either. The only lines in a table or horizontal lines around the column headers and one vertical line at the bottom. You can adjust the lines which show in Microsoft Word in the Table properties--choose "Borders and Shading."


Why can't I just use EasyBib or Bibme?

You can, but the end result only reflects what you put into it. So if you don't know how to identify source elements, you may still be at a loss. It is more reliable to use library databases-generated citations. Most now have this function built-in.

What if I can't find an author for a source?

If there is no personal name listed, look for a group or corporate author. If there is no author (and you are sure you still want to use this source), begin the citation with the title in place of the author.

What do I do if I use two sources with the same author and year?

Designate a lowercase letter for the end of the year according to the order the references appear in the list. Use that year in your in-text citations to differentiate the two sources.

(Adams, 2003a, 2003b, 2003c)

What if two authors have the same last name?

When two authors have the same surname, include initials in-text to differentiate them even if the publication year is already different.

(J. M. Taylor & Neimeyer, 2015; T. Taylor, 2014)

What is a DOI and where do I find it?

DOI is a unique alphanumeric string assigned to a scholarly article, book or chapter. You can find them in the database record or often in the margins of the article PDF. They are written as URLS, beginning with:

How do I reference published and unpublished tests, scales, surveys, inventories, etc.?

This depends on the source of the scale. Many are published in scholarly journal articles, in which case, you would cite the journal article where the scale was introduced. Those available online would be cited as web pages or documents on a web site. If you used a scale for your research and have permission to reproduce it, you could include it as a figure or appendix and provide the citation underneath.

Do I include a reference for personal communications (e-mails, interviews, conversations, etc.)

NO. You need only cite personal communications in the text--not in your reference list.


There are better options than sites like EasyBib to generate reference list citations. EasyBib relies on user input, which makes it highly prone to error, while more advanced tools pull directly from your research databases.

Option 1: Generate citations in a database.

Most library databases now have built-in citation generators for all the major styles (some will take time to update to the 7th edition of APA). To locate these tools, look in the margins of the item record for a "cite," "export citation," or similar link or button to generate a reference. These are not always perfect, so be sure to check them against your citation guide. This option works best for papers with only a few references. Some databases even allow you to select multiple references, allowing you to generate a full bibliography for copying/pasting into your paper.

What to look for:

OCLC Discovery (library catalog):                                         Gale databases:        

EBSCO databases (PsycInfo, CMMC):                                      ProQuest databases:    

Google Scholar (small icon below your search result):                      JSTOR:

Statista (icon located at the top right of the chart):                        Sage Journals: get the idea!

Option 2: If you use Google Docs, find an appropriate add-on.

A few options are available to add into your Google Drive, the most widely advertised of which is EasyBib. To get it, click the menu option for "add-ons" and select "get add-ons." Then find EasyBib and install.

Option 3: If you use a lot of sources from the open web, try a browser add-in.

Zotero, for example, is free and compatible with most major browsers. EndNote online also offers a browser button.

Option 4: For heavy researchers: Learn EndNote to track and automate your references.

For papers with many sources, however, it would be wise to learn to use a robust, full-featured citation program. HPU offers access and support for EndNote--both the desktop and online versions.


Although this guide is meant to include all pertinent information, we do not cover every type of source you may encounter. There are many more resources available for free to supplement your knowledge of APA style and answer your most obscure questions. Of course, it is also wise to invest in a copy of the manual.

APA Style Blog (7th Edition)

Not to be confused with the old style blog for the 6th edition, which still comes up in Google searches, this is APA's free supplement to their newest edition of the style manual. You will find many great resources and examples here, as well as a growing body of answers to obscure APA questions.

Purdue Owl APA Style Introduction (7th Edition)

Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) provides a suite of resources to help you with all areas of academic writing. Their APA guide was recently updated to the 7th edition and is a trusted and helpful resource.

EndNote Output Style for APA 7th

If you use EndNote to manage citations, you will need to download the new "output style" for the 7th edition. After downloading, open it with EndNote, and click File--Save as--Output Style. Don't forget to change your default output style to APA 7th. You may need to find it in the master list.

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