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APA Referencing

Introduction

 Welcome to APA referencing. In this section you'll learn the what, why and how of referencing. You'll also learn about plagiarism, quoting versus paraphrasing, and the importance of referencing guides.

When do I need to reference?

Referencing is a formal way of showing when you have used information from other sources in your assessment, whether from a book, article, website, or somewhere else.

You must include a reference whenever you have used another source*, i.e. ANY words, ideas, images or information taken from ANY source requires a reference. 

* An exception is when the information is common knowledge, e.g. The Covid-19 virus was discovered in 2019. But be careful! If in doubt, you are always best to cite a source. See What Is Common Knowledge? - Scribbr.

Referencing is necessary whether you have directly quoted the words or paraphrased them into your own words (see How do I quote or paraphrase). 

Note, including information from other sources is only part of writing an assessment. It is important that much of the writing is your own words. Other sources are generally used to:

  • support a statement you have made
  • provide an example of something you are describing
  • provide evidence, statistics, research, data.

    The Open Polytechnic uses the APA 7 style of referencing (APA stands for the American Psychological Association who developed the style). A "style" of referencing is a system to follow. It means  your references must be formatted in a particular way. That's why using an APA 7 guide is essential. 

    Why do I need to reference?

    • To give credit to the original author.
    • To give evidence to support points you make in your assessments.
    • To avoid plagiarism.

    If you are new to the concept of plagiarism, it is important you understand what it is and how to avoid it.

    Plagiarism
    • Plagiarising occurs when you copy or paraphrase the words of others and use them as your own, without acknowledging the original source.
    • Referencing the sources of information you've used shows that you are not plagiarising.
    • If you are found to be plagiarising, you could be accused of academic misconduct. For more information visit the Open Polytechnic page on Academic Integrity.

    Remember - You must reference ANY words, ideas, images or information taken from ANY source that you have used in your assessment.

    Also see
    Referencing and plagiarism
    Academic integrity

    How do I reference?

    (Also check out our video at the bottom of this page).

    You must reference ANY words, ideas, images or information taken from ANY source that you have used in your assessment.

    APA referencing involves two essential parts: 

    • in-text citations 
    • References list
    In-text citations

    In-text citations sit in your text along with the information you have used.
    You need to include an in-text citation each time you refer to information from somewhere else.
    Do this if you are directly quoting, taking the exact words from a source, or paraphrasing, re-wording the information into your own words.
    In-text citations link to full references on a references list at the end of your assessment. For example:

    Sample assessment pages which include 3 intext citations linking to reference list entries

    Format of in-text citations

    In-text citations usually include author and year the work was published.
    Direct quotes must also include a page number - or paragraph number if there are no pages, like on a webpage - and the quote must be in double quotation marks*.

    * If the quote is longer than forty words, it is formatted a little differently. See How to Reference for more about how to include long quotes.
    Examples of in-text citations

    Below, the in-text citations are shown in red (but would normally be black).  

    Paraphrase (from a book)

    To extinguish a large fire by helicopter is a highly demanding undertaking, but very rewarding if you succeed (Reid, 2014).
    or
    Reid (2014) says to extinguish a large fire by helicopter is a highly demanding undertaking, but very rewarding if you succeed.

    In the second example above, you'll notice the author has already been mentioned as part of the sentence. In that case, only the date needs to be included in brackets.  

    Direct quote (from a webpage)

    “You need to be able to think clearly under pressure, to apply common sense amidst the action, be emotionally resilient, and exhibit courage when the going gets tough” (Fire and Emergency New Zealand, 2023, para. 5).
    or
    According to Fire and Emergency New Zealand (2023) “You need to be able to think clearly under pressure, to apply common sense amidst the action, be emotionally resilient, and exhibit courage when the going gets tough” (para. 5).

    In the second example above, you'll notice the author has already been mentioned as part of the sentence. In that case, only the date and paragraph number need to be included in the citation brackets.  

    In-text citations must have a corresponding full reference on the References list.

    References list

    The references list sits at the end of your assessment.
    It’s a list of all the sources you’ve mentioned in your writing.

    List each source once, even if you have referred to that source more than once within your text.

    The sources are listed alphabetically, by author. The list is also double spaced and uses hanging indent. See this guide for how to apply spacing, hanging indent and A-Z ordering:

    Here is an example references list (can you spot the full references for our two in-text citations above?):

    References list demonstrating format of different source types

    Reference list entries have four key parts:

    AUTHOR, DATE, TITLE, SOURCE (source might be a publisher, journal details, website name, link)

    Examples:

    Example of reference list entry of a book

    Finding reference elements on a webpage

    Reference list entry showing author, date, title and source

    Referencing guides

    The above information is a starting point for how to reference.

    It is essential you use a referencing guide to learn how to format the reference for each particular type of source you use, e.g. journal article, news item, report, etc.
    See Referencing guides.

    Further resources

    Check out the other tabs in this section:
    Why do I need to reference?
    How do I quote & paraphrase?
    Referencing guides.

    We also recommend the following resources:

    Study Toolkit - your free toolkit accessed via iQualify. See the following sections:

    • Assessments/Get your ideas across/paraphrasing
    • Referencing – all sections
    • Plagiarism & Academic Integrity – all sections

    How to reference - information on the Open Polytechnic website

    Quick drag n drop exercises - (Worthington et al., 2022)
    These are a fun way to test yourself on the correct format for different source types.

    Video: Introduction to how to reference in APA 7th ed. style [3.47 mins]

    How do I quote or paraphrase?

    (Also check out our video below).

    Note, including information from other sources is only part of writing an assessment. It is important that much of the writing is your own words. Other sources are generally used to:

    • support a statement you have made
    • provide an example of something you are describing
    • provide evidence, statistics, research, data.

    There are two main ways to include information from other sources in your assessments:

    • Paraphrasing – when you re-phrase information into your own words, while keeping the essential ideas of the original source.
    • Quoting (also called a quotation or direct quote) – when you use the exact words from the original source without making any changes.
    Paraphrasing

    Paraphrasing is often preferred over quoting in an assessment as it shows your understanding of the ideas of the author.

    Tips for paraphrasing:

    • make sure you understand the meaning of the text you are paraphrasing
    • write the main idea/s in your own words - it is important to re-write the information completely, rather than simply changing a word or two. This is to show you have understood the information you are using, and to avoid plagiarism.
    • check what you write against the original to ensure you have the meaning right
    • sometimes highly technical or specialised words might be included as a partial quote (enclosed in quotation marks) within your paraphrase.

    When you paraphrase you must still specify where you got your information. Note the author and year in the examples below:

    New Zealand dairy exports will probably continue to rise for at least ten years (Smith, 2019).
    or,
    Vailea (2020) describes how her dancers must have a well refined “spatial awareness” and be able to dance in a wide variety of terrains (p. 35).

    In the second example, a partial quote is included, along with a page number (See the tab How do I reference? for more on formatting in-text citations).

    Quoting

    Generally, it's best to paraphrase rather than quote. 

    Quotes are useful for:

    • exact definitions
    • when you want to show an author’s exact position, or
    • when it’s too difficult to paraphrase a short technical statement.

    Back up quotes with examples or discussion. Note, your assessment should not be a whole lot of quotes from other sources, and nothing else. This is another form of plagiarism.

    Note, when quoting, include a page number*, and put quotation marks around the quoted words. For example:

    “Income from dairy exports will increase in the coming decade” (Smith, 2019, p. 18).

    * If there are no page numbers, such as on a webpage, use the paragraph number and/or section heading. See our APA Referencing guide to learn more, under How do I cite a publication when quoting?

    Further resources

    We recommend you check out the Study Toolkit in iQualify for practice activities in paraphrasing under: Assessments / Get your ideas across / Paraphrasing

    Video: How to quote or paraphrase in APA 7th ed. style [5.38 mins]

    Referencing guides

    Below we have listed three APA referencing guides.

    We recommend checking out each one and seeing which layout works best for you. Different layouts suit different learning styles. 
    Each guide provides standard APA formatting information, but presents it in a different way.