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APA - Referencing Guide

Citation Methods

Citation Methods

There are four common methods of referring to a source document in the text of an essay, thesis or assignment. These methods are direct quotation from another source, paraphasing or summarising material, and citing the whole of a source document. In academic writing, most of your essay or assignment should be phrased in your own words and the overuse of direct quotation should be avoided.


Quotations must be identical to the original, using a small section of the source. Quotes match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author. When quoting, the relevant page number(s) must be given.

If less than 40 words, quotations should be incorporated into the text of your essay or assignment and enclosed within quotation marks. Use a single quotation mark to indicate previously quoted material within your quotation:

She stated, "The 'placebo effect' ... disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner" (Miele, 1993, p. 276), but she did not clarify which behaviors were studied.

Miele (1993) found that "'the placebo effect', which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner" (p. 276).

If 40 or more words, then the quotation should be indented as a block of text and the quotation marks omitted. In this instance, the citation, in full or part form, appears after the final punctuation mark:

Miele (1993) found the following:

The "placebo effect", which had been verified in previous studies, disappeared when behaviors were studied in this manner. Furthermore, the behaviours were never exhibited again, even when reel [sic] drugs were administered. Earlier studies (eg. Abdullah, 1984; Fox, 1979) were clearly premature in attributing the results to a placebo effect. (p. 276)

Note: Because the original source (Miele, 1999) used quotation marks around the term "placebo effect", this phrase will be given single quotation marks within a short quotation which is marked by double quotation marks. For block quotes, however, the passage is reproduced as in the original, including misspelling, such as "reel". The use of sic indicates to the reader that this is exactly what the author wrote and that you are not misquoting.

If information is left out, three dots ... must be used to show where the missing information goes.

As Ballard and Clanchy (1988) have argued, "Learning within the university is a process of gradual socialization into a distinctive culture of knowledge, and … literacy must be seen in terms of the functions to which language is put in that culture" (p. 14).

Paraphrasing and Summarising

Both paraphrasing and summarising involve putting information from source material into your own words.

When paraphrasing, do not add your own opinion or use the original wording. The purpose of paraphrasing is to express the ideas of others in your own words (i.e. your phrasing). Paraphrased material may be shorter than the original passage, taking a larger section of the source and condensing it slightly. When paraphrasing, you must cite the original source. Page numbers should be given, to assist in locating the relevant passages within the source material, unless you are referring to the ideas of a whole work in general (see example below).

Summarising also involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, which include the main point(s) only. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and give a broad overview of the source material. Once again, it is necessary to cite the original source. You are encouraged to include page or chapter numbers when summarising, particularly if it will help your reader to locate the relevant passage within a longer work.

The following is an example of how to appropriately paraphrase and summarise to avoid plagiarism:

As stated in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020), the ethical principles of scientific publication are designed to ensure the integrity of scientific knowledge and to protect the intellectual property rights of others. As the Publication Manual explains, authors are expected to correct the record if they discover errors in their publications; they are also expected to give credit to others for their prior work when it is quoted or paraphrased (pp. 254-257).

Citing the whole of a document

Sometimes it may be necessary to give a general reference to the whole of a source document. This method of referencing is used least often.

Sternberg (2006) explores the basics of cognitive psychology through its coverage of cognitive neuroscience, attention and consciousness, perception, memory, knowledge representation, language, problem solving and creativity, decision making and reasoning, cognitive development, and intelligence.