APA stands for American Psychological Association and is recommended when citing source of information in social sciences. The APA format guidelines are in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, currently in its 6th edition, second print.

It is a requirement to acknowledge the source of information when writing a research paper otherwise the work will be considered plagiarized. Apart from avoiding plagiarism, referencing sources is beneficial to a reader who may be interested in retrieving the information from the primary source.


The APA format general presentation of research work recommends typed worked to be double-spaced, using Times New Romans font and font size 12. APA format also recommends 1-inch margin on all sides of typed work, on a standard size paper.

APA formatted essays have four major sections namely: title page, abstract, body and the references or the bibliography. The instructions on the use of the APA Format in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological association are comprehensive.

Some of the guidelines on the use of the APA format include how to cite sources in the text, either through paraphrasing or by direct quotation. The APA format guidelines show how to cite from a secondary source; periodicals; web pages; journals; work by group or corporate authors; anonymous author; and work in print.


The APA format also describes how to list references or the bibliography. References are typed using hanging indent. They are listed alphabetically by the author and chronologically if an author has more than one source used as reference.  In referencing a citation from a book using the APA format, it is recommended to start with the last name of the author followed by initials of the first and middle names, then the publication date, in brackets. This is followed by the title in italics. According to the APA format, the beginning letter of the first word of the title and the subtitle is capitalized. The proper nouns are also capitalized.  After the title is the place of publication and the publisher.  For example:

Mwiti, G. (2006). Child abuse, prevention, detection and counseling. New York: Evangel Publishing House. If the name of the author is not available, ‘anonymous” is used in place of the author.  If the name of the author is given as anonymous, the title of the book is used.

The APA format shows how to reference work written by two or more authors and edited material from different authors.


In referencing materials, retrieved online using the APA format, the retrieval statement or the DOI (digital object identifier) is given after the title. The DOI method is more suitable for identifying online journals, articles and books. Publication information is not included for online retrieved materials. If the material does not have DOI, one is required to give URL of the material’s home page. The URL may not be necessary for the undergraduate.

To reference web pages using the APA format, instead of the publication information, the retrieval statement is added including the retrieval date, if the information is likely to change with another publication. For periodical or materials published on regular basis such as journals and magazines the volume issue and page number are used instead of the publication information.

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