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APA Citation Style & Formatting

A guide to citing sources and to creating a list of references.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

What is APA Style?

This guide is designed to help you cite your sources according to the style of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition. For APA Style, 7th Edition guidelines, click here.

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APA Style

APA style is a set of guidelines developed to help writers express their ideas and research findings clearly and consistently. APA Style was developed by the American Psychological Association and is used in the social sciences, including psychology.

This online guide is designed to help students with several basic areas of APA Style including:

  • Citing print and online sources in a references page at the end of a paper
  • Citing sources in the body of the paper (sometimes called in-text citations)
  • Basic formatting of the paper
  • Avoiding plagiarism

APA Style Guide originally created by Librarian Lisa Velarde. Curated and updated by Geri Bodeker (2017-)

Why Do I Need to Cite My Sources?

Citing your sources...

  • helps readers of your paper to identify the sources of the information you used

  • helps you find the information you used, later on

  • helps you avoid plagiarism because it shows which ideas are yours and which ideas belong to another person

  • is expected for college-level and professional-level academic work


"Plagiarism" means submitting work that is someone else's as one's own. For example, copying material from a book or other source without acknowledging that the words or ideas are someone else's, and not one's own, is plagiarism. If a student copies an author's words exactly, he or she should treat the passage as a direct quotation and supply the appropriate citation. If someone else's ideas are used, even if it is paraphrased, appropriate credit should be given. Lastly, a student commits plagiarism when a term paper is purchased and/or submitted which he or she did not write.

(Note: the above definition is adapted from Tools for Teaching, by Barbara Gross Davis, Jossey-Bass, Inc., 1993, pp. 300).

For further information see College of San Mateo's plagiarism policy.