Unit 7: Documentation

44 Documentation: Citing your Sources using APA Style

Whenever you include someone else’s ideas in your own writing, whether you are quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing those ideas, you must let the reader know where you took those ideas from by citing your sources. Even if you use your own words, if you obtained the information or ideas from a source, you must document the source.

There are three main reasons to cite your sources:

  1. To avoid plagiarism.
  2. To let the reader know that you have carefully researched your ideas.
  3. To inform the reader where to find the original source if they want to learn more about your topic.

There are a number of commonly used documentation styles. In this course, we will use the APA (American Psychological Association) formatting style. Business, engineering, and the social sciences use APA style, while the humanities fields often use MLA (Modern Language Association) style. The life sciences fields use CBE (Council of Biology Editors). If you are unsure of which style to use, ask your instructor.

Where can APA documentation be found in an essay?

APA Documentation can be found in two different places in a piece of academic writing:

  1. in-text citations, within the text
  2. references at the end of the essay

Why are citations important?  A citation tells the reader …

  • …that the idea does not belong to the essay writer, but to the source’s author.
  • …which source on the reference list the idea comes from.

A reference list is a complete listing of all outside sources used in a piece of academic writing. The reference list can be found on the last page of an essay or article.

What do APA citations and references look like?

Study the two citation examples below. Then study the references following the paragraph below.

A citation looks like this:       (author’s last name, year of publication, page number)

(Perrin, 2015, p. 1)

If the author is not provided, substitute the name of the article for the author’s last name.

(“Millennials Smile for Snapchat,” 2015, p. 1)

How do citations and references work together?

Notice the citations in the paragraph and how they relate to, but differ in format from, the references:

        Use of social networks has increased in the last several years. Teens especially account for a dramatic increase. According to the 2015 Pew Research Center study, 90% of young people use social media (Perrin, 2015, p.1). This number suggests the wide impact SNS can have on young people. Most people know about Facebook and Instagram, but other SNS are being created every day. For example, Yik Yak, has millions more active users since its 2013 launch (Shontell, 2015, p. 1). Another popular network, Snapchat, has experienced rapid growth, with 45% of its users being 18-24 years old (“Millennials Smile for Snapchat,” 2015, p. 1). The evidence seems to show that young people are more likely to try using new SNS.

References (in your essay, these should be double-spaced, and the second lines of each reference will be indented**.  This style of indentation is called “hanging indentation”. )

Millennials smile for Snapchat. (2015, April 8). e-marketer. http://media



Perrin, A. (2015). Social media usage: 2005-2015. The Journal of Social Media in

Society, 2(4), 47-50. https://www.thejsms.org

Shontell, A. (2015, March 12). How 2 Georgia fraternity brothers created Yik

Yak. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-inside


How to Cite Generative AI

The standards for citing AI tools are still evolving. It is important that you confirm your instructor’s expectations for both using AI and documenting that use.

To learn more about how to cite your use of AI Tools see the UW Libraries’ Research Guides on Citing Generative AI.

Introduction to APA Style

Note that in this course you will NOT include a cover page as described in the video below.

From Excelsior Online Writing Lab, APA Style


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