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PSYC: Psychology: Citing Sources in APA

This guide is intended to help students with research assignments about psychology.

Check your professor's instructions first! If they've given specific instructions about the citation style you should use or how citations should be formatted for their assignments, always follow those instructions. 

Why Cite

Through research, you will gather information that supports your ideas, found in sources created by others. A citation identifies these sources and gives your reader the information needed to locate them. It gives credit to the authors whose ideas you are using.

Citing sources is important because:

  • it shows your professor that you actually did research on your topic and gained new knowledge
  • anyone reading your work can check to see if they agree with your interpretation of the information
  • acknowledging other people's ideas is academically honest and helps you avoid plagiarism

If you don't credit the authors of your sources by citing them in your paper, you are committing plagiarism, which is not acceptable at Northampton Community College and can result in a penalty against your work or other serious consequences.

When to Cite

You need to cite:

  • anytime you use someone else's ideas
  • when you summarize or paraphrase text from a source
  • when you directly quote information that you took from a source 
  • if the information is highly debatable

You don’t need to cite your own opinions and insight, and you don’t need to cite facts that are common knowledge (information repeated in multiple sources that is widely known or accepted as a fact).

When in doubt, it's best to cite.

About APA Citation and How to Cite in APA

APA format is the method of documenting and crediting sources developed by the American Psychological Association.

The 'Publication Manual' provides the guidance and rules for APA format and is specifically designed to help writers, editors, students, and educators in the behavioral sciences and social sciences who are writing and working with APA style.

For APA citation style, there are two aspects that work together: 

  • in-text citations (sometimes known as parenthetical citations) within the paper
  • a list of sources known as References at the end of the paper

Example in-text citation: 

(Moore, 2019)

Example Reference list entry: 

Blair, L. (2013). Birth order: What your position in the family really tells you about your character. Piatkus Books.

NCC Library APA Citation Handout

Pick up a printed copy of the blue APA Handout in the Library or Learning Center!

If You Use a Citation Generator

No online citation tool or software is perfect. They could give you the citation in a different style than the one you need. They could find the wrong publication information for the source you are using. If you enter incorrect information or do not include some information, then the citation they create will be incorrect and might be missing information too. 

Some sources provide their own citation. The library's databases may also provide citations for sources you find in them. These should only be used as a starting point, as they may not be entirely accurate, either. They often include too much information or are formatted incorrectly (they might be missing punctuation, hanging indents, italicization, or double-spacing).

It is your responsibility to check the accuracy of your citations and make corrections before submitting research papers or other class assignments.