Writing tip: APA Style citations checklist

Theresa Bell

If you're using the APA Style rules and want to review your in-text citations before you submit your document for grading or publication, check for these 10 common problem areas:

1.  Cite all quoted or paraphrased text

Failing to cite quoted or paraphrased information is plagiarism (Royal Roads University, 2014, para. 6), so it's important that you cite your sources properly. For more information, please see the resources in Plagiarism and Creating in-text citations. Please note that one citation at the end of a paragraph doesn't indicate that the entire paragraph came from that source; rather, the citation notes the source for the last sentence of the paragraph.

 2.  Cite the author, year, and location reference

The citation should include the author’s or authors’ last name(s), the year of publication, and a location reference (e.g., page or paragraph number):  

  • Lastname (year) argued “quotation”/paraphrase (para. X).
  • For example, paraphrased text (Lastname, year, p. X).

If you’re citing from an ebook that doesn’t have page numbers, please see “In-text Citations” in How Do You Cite an E-Book (e.g., Kindle Book)? from the APA Style Blog, as well as the examples in How do I reference a book/ebook in APA style? and How do I reference a chapter of an edited book/ebook in APA style?.

3.  Authors may provide page or paragraph numbers in citations to paraphrases  

Citations to paraphrased text must provide the author’s last name and year: (Lastname, year). While providing a page or paragraph number is optional, “you are encouraged to provide a page or paragraph number, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage in a long or complex text” (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 171). See “Paraphrases” in When and How to Include Page Numbers in APA Style Citations from the APA Style Blog for more information. Providing page numbers in citations to paraphrased text will help your reader to locate the source text; they will also be useful to you should you need to return to the source to expand on a point in your text. If you choose to provide page numbers in citations to paraphrases, do so consistently throughout your work.

4.  Check if your resource has an organizational or group author

If you have cited a resource as having no author, check to see if there’s an organizational or group author. For example, an author who retrieved information from www.royalroads.ca would cite Royal Roads University as the organizational author: (Royal Roads University, 2015, para. X). Avoid unnecessary abbreviations; see Can I use abbreviations, such as an acronym, in my text? for more information.

5.  Use and in the sentence and & in the parenthetical citation when citing resources by multiple authors:

  • Lastname, Lastname, and Lastname (year) argued that, “quotation” (para. X).
  • Consequently, paraphrased text (Lastname, Lastname, & Lastname, year, p. X).
6.  Insert a comma after the second-to-last author’s name when citing resources by multiple authors:
  • Lastname, Lastname, and Lastname (year) argued that, “quotation” (para. X).
  • In contrast, paraphrased text (Lastname, Lastname, & Lastname, year, p. X).

7.  Use n.d. when a publication date isn't available

When a resource doesn't provide a publication or copyright date, use n.d. ("no date") instead of the year:

  • Lastname and Lastname (n.d.) argued that, “quotation” (para. X).
  • Furthermore, paraphrased text (Lastname & Lastname, n.d., p. X).

8.  Cite sources that aren’t publicly accessible as personal communication

If your source doesn’t provide retrievable or recoverable data that can be accessed by the general public, please consider it to be personal communication. Examples of this type of communication include course lectures, materials posted to Moodle that aren't available elsewhere (e.g., an instructor's PowerPoint presentation or unpublished paper), organizational documents that only available via a company’s intranet, and emails. When citing personal communication, provide the first initial and last name of an individual or the organizational name, “personal communication”, and the date that the communication took place:

  • A. Lastname (personal communication, Month day, year) said “quotation”.
  • In 2014, paraphrased text (Organizational name, personal communication, Month day, year).

It isn’t necessary to provide a page or paragraph number in the citation, nor should the resource be included in the references because it isn’t recoverable. See How do I cite or reference personal communication in APA style? for more information.

9.  Avoid secondary source citations whenever possible

A secondary source is a resource that provides information originally presented or published elsewhere. The problem with relying on secondary sources is you’re using someone else’s interpretation of the original material to inform your understanding of that material, rather than working with the original material directly. Unless you’ve been directed to use a secondary source, or the original resource is out of print, is only available in a language you don’t understand, or is otherwise impossible to locate, please use primary sources in your research. If you need help with locating a source, contact the RRU Librarians. If your only option is to work with a secondary source, please first check with your instructor or journal editor to ensure that using the secondary source is acceptable. Then, cite the source to show which resource you actually read. For example, if Johnson’s work cited Brown, and you want to quote or paraphrase Brown, the correct citation would be:

  • Brown (as cited in Johnson, 2014) discovered that, “quotation” (p. X where Brown’s quotation is found in Johnson’s text).
  • Additionally, paraphrased text (Brown as cited in Johnson, 2014, p. X).

In the references, cite the text you read (e.g., Johnson). For more information, please see How should I cite a secondary source in APA style?.

10.  Follow the correct rules for citing Canadian legislative materials and Statistics Canada resources

While most types of resources can be cited using the APA Style rules, citations to Canadian legislative materials (e.g., cases, statutes, legislation) and Statistics Canada materials follow different rules. Please see Canadian statutes, cases, and legislation and Statistics Canada materials for more information and examples. Note that legal citations should be cited in footnotes.

Other resources:

If you have any questions about this writing tip, please contact the Writing Centre.


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

Royal Roads University. (2014, November 11). Academic integrity and misconduct policy. Retrieved from http://policies.royalroads.ca/policies/academic-integrity-and-misconduct-policy