How to use APA 6th edition

American Psychological Association (APA) Referencing Style 

The APA referencing style (sixth edition) is popular among many academic writers. Like all referencing styles, APA has its own unique set of guidelines for in-text citations, reference lists and bibliographies. It also has other more general guidelines. This short article gives a summary of the main points of APA, but it is not meant to be an exhaustive guide to all aspects of this referencing style.


In-text citations

Citations within the main body of the text should give only the author’s name and year. Any further information should be given in the reference list at the end of the essay. Examples of in-text citations in APA style are:


“According to Williams (2019), the experiment proved that……”


If the author’s name is given at the end of a sentence, the following format is used:


“Each time the experiment was conducted, it produced the same results (Williams, 2019).”


If more than one author is cited, the citations are as follows:


“Williams and Brown (2014) claimed that the result of the experiment was invalid.”


“The results of the experiment were shown to be invalid (Williams & Brown, 2014).”


The rule is slightly different when more than two authors are cited:


“Robinson, Jones, and Murphy (2018) conducted a study on this topic.”


“ A recent study proved that people did not respond to this experiment (Robinson, Jones, & Murphy, 2018).”


However, if these three names are used for a second or subsequent time in the text, the following format is used:


“Robinson et al.(2018, have had more success with a different set of experiments.”


“A different set of experiments proved to be more successful (Robinson et al.,2018).


If six or more authors are cited, then the ‘et al.’ formal should be used for the first and all subsequent instances.


Should I quote directly from an author?

Direct quotations should not be overused, but when they are used, they must always be inside quotation marks, and the author’s name and date cited. It is important to quote the words exactly as the author wrote them (except for any obvious typing or spelling errors). If you attempt to edit or paraphrase a direct quotation, you could leave yourself open to plagiarism and other issues. If you wish to express the author’s viewpoint in your own words, then you should paraphrase the quotation and remove the quotations marks, but still provide a citation. If you wish to quote directly only part of a sentence or passage (say the first few words and the last few words, then you should use an ellipsis (three dots …), for example:

“This book attempts to prove the harm caused by rising sea temperature … in conclusion, rising sea temperature is causing the ice cap to melt.”


A long quotation, usually over 40 words, should be indented and also use a different font type/size. In this case, quotation marks are not necessary, but the author and date should be quoted.


Is a reference list and a bibliography the same thing?

Although they are similar, they are not interchangeable. A reference list at the end of the essay refers to in-text citations which have been given in the main body of the document. A bibliography gives details of books or other sources used in research conducted by the writer of an essay, but which have not necessarily been included in in-text citations. You are advised to ask your tutor if a bibliography is required, although a reference list is almost certainly required.  

What should be included in a reference list

A reference list (bibliography) should be in alphabetical order, first giving the name of the author, and also the title of the work consulted (in italics) the date and the publisher. Here is a (fictitious) example on an entry from a reference list. 

Jones, W. (2020, May). Recommendations for how the world’s nations can tackle global warming. Conclusions reached by the International Conference on Global Warming held in Anycountry. Retrieved from research.nnnnn.aaaa.zz/global warming conference_2020/05).

Other APA guidelines

APA style is more than just citations and referencing. It also includes aspects of style.

It is important to be aware of the following general APA requirements:


·       Times New Roman 12pt

·       Double spacing

·       Margins of 2.54 cm, top and bottom, left and right

·       Page numbers (Arabic numbers) should be included in the top right corner in the header.

·       Active voice is preferred to passive voice, although passive voice is allowed in some circumstances. 

There is some debate about whether the first person should be used in APA. It is best to consult your tutor on this matter and on the other points mentioned above. It is essential to be consistent throughout the document. 

Further Information - References

The University of Sheffield

 [Accessed 14.05.21]

For a complete guide to APA sixth edition, please consult the Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition. This is available from booksellers.

Worried you have not followed the APA 6th edition in your essay or dissertation? Feel free to contact us. As a specialist academic proofreading services UK-based provider, we will be able to check and correct your document according to the APA 6th edition.