General APA FAQs
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2016-05-13 12:05:46
The following FAQs address issues in APA citation and/or formatting. The entries in this section are based on frequently asked questions received by our former OWL Mail Tutors. Also, Further information on APA style and citation can be found at the Purdue OWL’s APA Style and Formatting resource.
I’m writing an APA style paper, but I can’t get the header on the first page to be different than the subsequent pages. How do I set a different header on the first page?
If you are using Word 2007, you can make the header of the first page different from the header on the second and following pages. To do this, please follow these steps:
1. After opening Word 2007, click on "Insert" at the top of the page.
2. Click on "Header" and choose the Header template you wish to use. Type
in the text you would like for the first page.
3.When you type in your text in the header, you will see the "Design" tab
is highlighted. There you can click on "Different first page." This will
allow you to type in different text within your header beginning with page
If you do not have a version of Word which allows you to do this, you can simply type “Running Head: SHORTENED
TITLE OF YOUR PAPER” at the upper most line on the first page without
typing it inside the header. Then type the shortened title inside the
header as you wish it to appear throughout your document.
Using APA, how do I cite an author if their work is referenced more than once in a single paragraph?
Here’s what the 6th edition of the APA manual says: "Within a paragraph, when the name of the author is part of the narrative...you need not include the year in subsequent nonparenthetical references to a study as long as the study cannot be confused with other studies cited in the article. Do include the year in all parenthetical citations" (pg. 174).
In other words, every time you bring up the author in a new paragraph, you
should use the year, but you don’t have to within a paragraph, as long as it’s clear from your wording that you are discussing the same author. If you were giving a direct quotation that needed a parenthetical reference for the page number, then you’d include the year as well.
How do I cite a work that has no listed author in an APA-style paper?
According to the OWL website’s resource on APA-style citations, "When your essay includes parenthetical citations of sources with no author named, use a shortened version of the source’s title instead of an author’s name. Use quotation marks and italics as appropriate. For example, parenthetical citations of the source above would appear as follows: (Merriam-Webster’s 1993)." The bibliographical citation is as follows:
Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary (10th ed.).(1993). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.
What do I do if the source-type that I’m using doesn’t appear in any APA reference/style guides?
The APA manual models several different templates for references, but the forms given may not apply to all documents. In this case, the APA manual states that you should format the entry as best you can in accordance with their models:
"Occasionally, however, you may need to use a reference for a source for which this chapter does not provide specific guidance. In such a case choose the example that is most like your source and follow that format...When in doubt, provide more information rather than less." (American Psychological Association, 2009 p. 193).
What do I do if a website is missing information required for an APA-style citation?
The APA Style Blog is a helpful source when it comes to citing websites with missing information.
For example, if your website has no author, you can use the following example as a template for the citation for your reference page:
All 33 Chile miners freed in flawless rescue. (2010, October 13). Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39625809/ns/world_news-
As you can see, the title of the document is moved up to where the author’s name would be.
If your website has no date, you can put "n.d." instead. For example:
The College of William and Mary. (n.d.). College mission statement. Retrieved from http://www.wm.edu/about/administration/provost
If I co-author a paper, how should the author’s names appear in an APA-style title page?
According to the 6th edition of the APA manual, "The names of the authors should appear in the order of their contributions, centered between the side margins. For names with suffixes (e.g., Jr. and III), separate the suffix from the rest of the name with a space instead of a comma. The institutional affiliation should be centered under the author’s name, on the next line" (p. 24).
Some examples include the following:
Two authors, one affiliation:
John Q. Foster II and Roy R. Davis Jr.
Educational Testing Service, Princeton, New Jersey
Three authors, one affiliation:
Juanita Fuentes, Paul Dykes, and Susan Watanabe
University of Colorado at Boulder
Two authors, two affiliations:
University of California, Berkeley
Three authors, two affiliations:
Mariah Meade and Sylvia Earleywine
I’m including clip art in my APA style PowerPoint presentation. How do I properly cite the clip art that I’m going to use?
If you are using the clip art simply to adorn your PowerPoint presentation, you don’t need to cite it. The 6th Edition of the APA manual does not offer a specific discussion of this issue, but it seems unnecessary to provide citation on a document presented via the Microsoft program for stock images that a specific to that software package.
However, if the clip art is presented in a separate medium (like a handout), and you want to be very thorough about citation or if your presentation is specifically about clip art and the point is to discuss clip art from different sources, then you should cite the source. Here is the format you should follow:
Title of Program (Version number)[Description of format]. Location: Name
Here’s the example in the 6th Edition of the APA manual:
Comprehensive Meta-Analysis (Version 2) [Computer Software]. Englwood, NJ:
For the clip art from on-line sources, because these are texts that are relocated from an outside source, you should probably cite them regardless of the situation. Here’s the format:
Name of image creator, A. A. (Year images was made). Title of image in
italics [medium of image - i.e file type]. Retrieved from http://.....
How do I cite unpublished works in APA?
Here is the relevant format from the APA manual, 6th edition, p. 211:
Unpublished manuscripts with a university cited:
Blackwell, E., & Conrod, P.J. (2003). A five dimensional measure of
drinking motives. Unpublished manuscript, Department of
Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Manuscript in progress or submitted for publication:
Ting, J. Y., Florsheim, P., & Huang, W. (2008). Mental health help-seeking
in ethnic minority populations: A theoretical perspective.
Manuscript submitted for publication [or "Manuscript in preparation"].
Along with the format for the latter work, you can add the university where the author works (if indeed they are doing research as part of their position with a university or college).
I’m writing a paper about computer-aided writing instruction. How do I cite pieces of software in APA?
According to the 6th edition of the APA manual, here is the general format
for citing software:
Rightsholder, A.A. (Year). Title of program (Version number) [Description
of form]. Location: Name of producer.
Alternatively, instead of using "Location:..." you can use "Retrieved from
If you can't find who the rightsholder is (i.e. the company or person who
made the software), you can start the citation with the name of the
Here’s another example from the manual:
Comprehensive Meta-Analysis (Version 2) [Computer software]. Englewood,
The date may be excluded if it is not available.
If you are citing a piece of software for a smartphone of a video game console, I would use the most descriptive term for the kind of software you’re using, i.e., [iPhone application].
How do I cite my professor’s classroom PowerPoint presentations in APA?
Your first choice is to follow the format for online PowerPoint presentation slides exemplified on this page of the Purdue OWL, and to simply not include the url:
You would reference this source in-text as you normally would by the author’s last name and date.
Your second choice is to refer to the lecture as personal communication. For an example, please see this resource on the Purdue OWL.
Please note: personal communication is only cited in-text and not within your
How do I cite lecture notes in my APA-style research paper?
The citation on the Reference page for the lecture notes would look like the following in APA:
Author. (year). In italics write the name or title of the lecture. Personal Collection of (the lecturer’s name), school or organization they teach for, city, state.
Berliner, A. (1959). Lecture on Reminiscences of Wundt and Leipsig.
Personal Collection of A. Berliner, University of Akron, Akron OH.
How do I cite a work of art, like Salvador Dali’s The Ecumenical Council, in APA?
There is no “official” APA citation style for paintings or other works of art, but the APA Style Blog recently addressed this question with the in a recent post. You can access that post by clicking here.
As they say, "There are no guidelines for paintings, sculptures, or more complicated installations (e.g., a chair, a photo of a chair, and a definition of “chair”). So let’s use the Franken reference concept to model a few ways to handle art in your reference list."
The basic format they suggest is below (using Wyeth’s painting Christina’s world as an example:
Wyeth, A. (1948). Christina’s world [Painting]. Retrieved from
I created and administered my own survey for a project. How would I cite this survey in an APA-style paper?
Since a survey you conducted yourself is not published elsewhere by someone else, you do not cite it in the same way you cite other materials. Instead, in your paper you describe your survey and make it clear that the data you’re referring to is from the survey, usually by saying so in introductory sentences. In your paper, you should include a short overview of your survey method: whom the survey was administered to, how it was administered, how many responses you got, and what kind of questions you asked. You should include a copy of the survey instrument (the full set of questions asked) as an appendix to your paper. You do not need to include your survey in your works cited list.
How does one cite state bills in APA?
APA follows the guidelines for legal citations in the United States as outlined in The Bluebook®. You can access a version of The Bluebook by clicking here.
However, guidelines for references to legal materials can also be found on
pages 216-224 in the 6th of the Publication Manual of the APA.
The following sample reference to a statute in a state code and its
explanation can be found on page 220:
Mental Care and Treatment Act, 4 Kan. Stat. Ann.§§ 59-2901-2941 (1983 &
Explanation: This Kansas act can be found in codified version between sections 2901 and 2941 in Chapter 59 of volume 4 of the 1983 edition of Kansas Statutes Annotated. Two amendments to the act and additional references are provided in the 1992 supplement for the Kansas Statutes Annotated.
How do I cite artifacts in an APA-style paper?
Artifacts may fall under "Archival Documents and Collections." An extensive explanation of this can be found in the 6th edition of the APA publication manual. The general format for this reference is as follows:
Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of material. [Description of
material]. Name of Collection (Call number, Box number, File name or
number, etc.). Name of Repository, Location.
This general format may be modified for collections requiring more or less specific information to locate materials, for different types of collections, or for additional descriptive information. If the artifact you are referencing is not accessible by others, nor is it reproducible, it may not need to be cited.
How do I cite a products instructional guide (e.g., the Apple iPad user’s manual) in APA?
While the APA publication manual lists many different references, product instructions are not something that has a specific reference example. Since there is not a specific reference guideline for instructions, I would adapt another similar reference for your uses. For example:
Title of the Instructions (Year). Name of the product. Company Name, City, State. Current Location of the Product.
Note: If the product is maintained at a business, list the name of the business and city, state for the "current location of product." If you own the product you are referencing, list "Copy in possession of author."
How do I cite genealogies in APA?
The APA does not seem to specifically address this issue, probably because it is very particular. Here’s what we’ve been able to find from other sources:
Genealogy.com offers a method of citing birth/death certificates, which can be found by clicking here and scrolling down to the “Official Records” section of the page.
Archive.gov also offers suggestions on how to cite birth/death certificates, which can be accessed by clicking here.
To my taste, citations are fulfilling several purposes, some of which may not be fulfillable simultaneously. So, one should be honest about where one found a result, even if the source is not widely available. Thus, cite (in the best, most usable form possible) the lecture notes. Still, yes, accessible sources meet another criterion, namely, helping readers reproduce/understand your results.
Edit: in light of various comments and other answers... another purpose served by spending some (not unlimited) time finding original sources (even while being honest about the source one actually used or _learned_from_) is to give at least a lower bound for the age (and locale of origin) of the idea. Nevertheless, at the same time, it certainly can happen that a much later exposition does a much better job of explaining... after all, benefiting from hindsight.
Yet another reason to exert some effort to credit original sources is to dampen a bit a tendency that otherwise can dominate, namely, some form of "Great Man/Woman" syndrome, in which a very few people are portrayed as being responsible for nearly all good, big ideas.