Sources, Citation, APA Style: A Brief Introduction

Sources, Citation, APA Style: A Brief Introduction

Purdue University – Online Writing Lab

American Psychological Association – APA Style

Jordan Pettigrew – APA Style Citation Tutorial


Hello. Welcome to this brief video on a few basic aspects about sources, citation, and APA style.

Whenever you do research, you use sources of information to explore the question you have posed, to investigate the issue you have chosen.

Things about the topic you are writing on can be found in books, in articles – whether in academic journals, in newspapers or the media, or published online – in film and television, lectures, e-mails, just talking to someone… you can get information about anything from just about anywhere. These are your sources.

Now, what makes one source better or more reliable than another is an extremely important question. But let’s leave that aside for this video.

When you present your research to your reader, you need to cite your sources, i.e., you must tell your reader, “This is where I got that information”.

Why is that important?

Well, first of all, it’s nice to give credit to the hard work the person did before you. This is work that you are using to build up your own work, after all.

It can also be considered a legal obligation – a question of intellectual property and copyright law.

Most importantly, citing your sources allows your reader to go back to them. Your reader may want to do further, deeper research on the same topic – and your reader, in fact, may not always agree with the way you have used your sources. It’s only fair to provide that chance.

Not citing is called plagiarism. It is unacceptable.

Sources often show up in three ways.

They can be directly quoted. This means the exact same words are reproduced. This is not copy-pasting or cheating, because you have put those exact same words in quotation marks. The reader understands that they are not your own words.

Sources can be paraphrased. This means the same basic idea is given to the reader as it is presented in the source, but with different words. You might choose this way because perhaps, in your research, it is more important to emphasise some things over other things, or maybe you just want to use a variety of ways to present your sources.

Finally, a summary of a source may be given. This is especially helpful for long sources, where some key ideas are important to be highlighted in order to explore your topic or to make your argument.

Notice how in all of these examples – whether directly quoted, paraphrased, or summarised – it is absolutely clear to the reader that the person who wrote the text did not make up that text. The person is using information from somewhere else, the person is citing a source.

That is the bottom line. If you pretend that someone else’s words, or even someone else’s ideas with different words, are your own original work – if you fool the reader that way – then that’s plagiarism. That is unacceptable.

Now, how exactly are citations made? There are a number of ways, a number of different technical formats or styles. The collection of recommendations made by the American Psychological Association, or APA, is just one of them. It’s important to be consistent, to use only one style when presenting research as a paper or an essay.

In APA Style, it is recommended that the text be in a legible font, such as Times New Roman, size 12, double-spaced. This is considered to be quite standard formatting.

In APA Style, footnotes at the bottom of the page or endnotes at the end of the paper or essay are not recommended. Instead, in-text parenthetical citations are preferred.

How is that used? There are two main ways.

When you present the information from the source – whether as a direct quote, a paraphrase, or a summary – the name of the author and the year of publication are given in parentheses at the end of the information from the source.

Those parentheses, by the way, could be at the end of a paragraph or it could be within a paragraph, if that paragraph continues, for example, with another source for some other information. Note that APA Style recommends including the page number when direct quotes are given.

A second way of doing it is by introducing the name of the author within the text itself and mentioning only the year in parentheses. Note again that an additional parentheses is required for the page number in case of direct quotes.

Both of these ways of informing your reader about sources are acceptable.

But that’s not all. How does your reader know the source from just the name of the author and the year of the publication? Well, at the very end of your paper or essay, you need to have a reference list or bibliography, which gives the details about that source.

Here we have an example of a book, the way it would be listed in APA style in the reference list. This is the formula for citing books using APA style. Note that, indeed, the title of the book does not use capital letters, as perhaps one might expect. That’s just the recommendation of APA style.

Using the reference list, your reader can see exactly from where you got your information, including, for example, the edition number of a book, or the name of a particular translator, or any other relevant detail. That’s the point of it: to let your reader know where to look as specifically as possible.

Note that, no matter in what order you used your source in the body of your paper or essay, the sources are always listed in alphabetical order in the reference list. Here, as C comes before R in the alphabet, so the reference list will follow the order shown.

Now there are various formulae about how to list books or articles or movies or anything, really. This video has only covered the very basics.

Please visit Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab for a much more detailed run-down of how to use APA and other styles. You could visit as well. A video by Jordan Pettigrew at USM also gives some more basic information about using APA Style. The links are all included in the description below. And, of course, there are a number of other resources for your use available online.

Did you see what I did there? I cited my sources! So not only did I not plagiarise, but now you can go, check for yourself, and learn more deeply about citation and APA Style.

Thanks for watching, and remember: always cite your sources. That never goes out of style.