Skip to Main Content

APA guidelines: Home

A comprehensive explanation of the latest edition of APA (7th) with many examples

How to use this guide?

This Library guide is useful as a learning resource for:

  • the beginner - introduction to the APA guidelines;
  • the advanced - quick overview of rule changes compared to the previous APA edition.

The examples of citations in this guide represent the 'ideal' situation, for all exceptions we refer you to Publication manual of the American Psychological Association: The official guide to the APA style (2020).
The guidelines in the new edition have been simplified on a number of points and more attention has been paid to online sources.


What is APA?

The APA style is a comprehensive guide to writing scientific texts. APA stands for the American Psychological Association, but the guidelines are also applied in other fields.

An important part of the APA style are the guidelines for literature reference and citations. These are used worldwide by students, teachers and researchers of many colleges and universities, including in the Netherlands. In 2020 the 7th edition of the Publication Manual has been published (APA 7th).
There are also other styles of writing a scientific text. In addition to APA, these are, for example, MLA, Chicago, Harvard and Vancouver.

In this guide, we only focus on the APA reference and citation guidelines.

The APA style uses the so-called author-date method for referencing sources.

Why refer to sources?

When you write a report, you don't just make something up. You explore your subject, get inspired, and substantiate your choices. You build on ideas, theories, and research of others. It should always be clear what you have come up with yourself and where you use the work of others to support your own arguments. That's why you should reference every text resource you've used in your work. This includes also images, videos, audio, statistics, diagrams, etc.
If you don't, it's plagiarism. Plagiarism is an infringement of copyright and can have serious consequences, such as material and reputation damage.

By citing your sources you:

  • show that:
    • you are aware of previous and ongoing research;
    • you have studied the subject in-depth, and have consulted reliable and authoritative sources;
  • support your argument by referring to 'authorities': respected authors, scientific works;
  • enable others to find the sources you have based your work on, for deepening or confirming your interpretation;
  • make clear what your own thoughts are and what someone else's (academic integrity);
  • respect the intellectual property of the creator.

By using and correctly citing relevant sources, you increase your credibility and thus the quality of your report.

APA 7th vs. APA 6th - main differences

In-text citations:

1. Mutiple authors:

From three authors onwards, only the first author is mentioned in the text, followed by et al. This applies from the first reference.

Reference list:

2. Multiple authors:

Up to 20 authors: all names are included in the citation.

For more than 20 authors, the citation is shortened: the first 19 authors are mentioned, followed by an ellipsis with spaces . . . and then the last name.

3. Book / ebook

  • Only the publisher is mentioned.
  • The publisher is also mentioned in a reference of an ebook. The publisher is mentioned before the retrieval date and URL or
  • If there are multiple publishers, list all names, separated by semicolons.
  • If the organization is the same as the publisher, the publisher's name will be omitted.

4. Journal article

  • The DOI (Digital Object Identifier), a unique code to identify online journal articles and ebooks, is always stated in the format
  • The issue number of the journal is always mentioned (if available).

5. Webpage

  • Provide the name of the website in the source element of the reference (after the title of the webpage), unless author/organization is the same as the name of the website.

6. Tables and Figures 

  • Above each table and figure provide the number in bold font. The title appears in italics one double-spaced line below the number.

7. Dissertation or thesis

  • For assignments, theses, dissertations and internship reports, the description of the document is placed between square brackets after the title.
  • The location of the educational institution will not be provided.

Note: retrieval dates

Although according to the 7th edition of APA style the retrieval date for online sources is only mentioned if it is likely that the content of the webpage will be changed (e.g. dictionary entry, Facebook page or map generated by Google Maps), in this guide we strongly recommend to include a retrieval date for all online sources without DOI link.

Therefore all examples of references in this guide contain retrieval dates.