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APA 6th Edition Referencing: APA basics

This is a Wintec guide to help you with referencing in the American Psychological Association (APA) style.

The basic formula of an APA reference list entry

First/given name(s) & surname/family name(s)

These terms pertain to the parts of an author's name.

APA reference lists are arranged alphabetically according to the main author's surname(s) followed by the initials of their first name(s).

Example—reference list entry (partial)
Stevenson, R. L. (1908)

Note: Some resources (e.g., library catalogue results) display the author's surname(s) before first name(s). See example next section

Avoiding surname/middle name confusion

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a middle name and two unhyphenated surnames (for example, whether author David Foster Wallace ought to be referenced as Foster Wallace, D. or Wallace, D. F). Here are some tips to help with this:


  • Check how other scholars have cited the author’s name and follow the most common format.
  • If the author provides a reference list, check to see if they have cited their own work and replicate the format they have used.
  • Check your resource to see if the author’s surname is written in a distinguishing font—sometimes surnames are written in all capitals (e.g., David Foster WALLACE), which can help you work out how to reference correctly.
  • Check the library catalogue/database bibliographic record for the work you are citing. See example:


Example—bibliographic record & reference list entry

Stevenson, R.L. (1908). In the south seas. Retrieved from ProQuest eBook Central Database.

Italicisation & capitalisation rules

Terminology—a brief explanation of terms in this section

Sentence case
The way this sentence is written, beginning with a capital and all other words in lower case (unless proper nouns, e.g., New Zealand).

Title case
When Each Word In a Title or Sentence Begins With a Capital Letter Like This (Except Words Less Than Four Letters Long).

Note: In reference list entries, the word that follows a colon [:] should begin with a capital letter.

The title of a book should be italicised and written in sentence case.

Example—reference list entry

Wallace, D. F. (1999). Brief interviews with hideous men. New York, NY: Little, Brown.

Chapter in edited book
The rules for book titles (above) apply. However the title of the book chapter is not italicised and is written in sentence case.

Example—reference list entry
Sturgess, A. (2011). Celebrating the square peg: Twice-exceptional learners. In R. Moltzen (Ed.), Gifted and talented: New Zealand Perspectives (3rd ed., pp. 379-403). Auckland New Zealand: Pearson.

However, if the title of the chapter contains the title of another work, the latter should be italicised and written in sentence case.

Example—reference list entry
Holland, M. K. (2013). Mediated immediacy in Brief interviews with hideous men. In M. Boswell & S. J. Burn (Eds.), A companion to David Foster Wallace studies (pp. 119-136). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Note: Proper nouns in titles (names of places, countries, authors, other works, etc.) should be capitalised appropriately. 

Journal articles
The title of the journal is italicised and is written in title case. However, the title of the article itself is not italicised and is written in sentence case.

Example—reference list entry
Drąg, W. (2018). Cutting to the chase: Microfictions, empathy and the new sincerity. Brno Studies in English, 44(1), 103-118.

Note: The journal's volume number should be italicised, but not the issue number [44(1) in the above example]. 

A general tip
Titles of individual chapters or articles are not usually italicised, while the title of the work that contains them (i.e., the book or journal) is usually italicised. Remember: the 'small' work is not italicised, but the larger work is!

See also in this guide: How do I reference a resource that lists no author?
Take heed of the slight variation to the above rules for in-text citation of resources with no clear author(s).

'and' vs. '&'

When directly referencing 2+ authors in text, use and ​(as this falls within your regular sentence).

Example—in-text citation
According to Jones and Smith (2018) ... (p. 33).

When indirectly referencing 2+ authors within parentheses use &.

Example—in-text citation
... (Jones & Smith, 2018, p. 33).


American Psychological Association (APA). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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