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APA Style Guide: Citation Choices

how to properly format citations according to APA, 6th edition

When Do I Need to Cite?

Unfortunately, knowing when to use a citation is not an exact science. The situations listed below, however, can provide you with guidance most of the time.

 Cite your source when you:

  • Quote a phrase or sentence(s) from an article, book, or website;
  • Paraphrase a sentence or phrase from an article, book, or website;
  • Summarize a paragraph or section of an article, book, or website;
  • Include data from an article, book, or website that is not common knowledge.

 Use the following definitions to help you understand the meaning of the words in bold from the list above.

Quote – The exact words from the source are used in your writing. A quote can include as few as two or three words or as much as two or three sentences. Quotes should always be enclosed in quotation marks. Include a parenthetical citation at the end of the quote. Also list the source with your references at the end of the paper.

Paraphrase – A specific sentence or passage from the source is put into your own words and expresses the same idea or meaning as the original sentence or passage. Include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Also list the source with your references at the end of the paper.

Summary – The main idea(s) of a paragraph, section, or entire article are combined into a sentence written in your own words. Include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Also list the source with your references at the end of the paper.

Data – Specific information, often numerical, is used in your writing. Data is information that someone would need to look up in order to know it. It is not common knowledge. Include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the data. Also list the source with your references at the end of the paper.

In order incorporate some of your own ideas into your writing, try some of the strategies listed below:

  • Compare, or find similarities, between the ideas and information in your sources
  • Contrast, or find differences, between the ideas and information in your sources
  • Evaluate the ideas and information in your sources by discussing who, when, why, and how
  • Analyze the strengths and weakness of the ideas expressed by your sources and the information used to support those ideas

For specific rules on how to format your citations, try the library’s APA Users Guide at http://libguides.altamahatech.edu/apa or the Purdue OWL APA Formatting and Style Guide at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/. This site also includes a link to a sample APA style paper.

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