Standard Documentation Formats
Standard Documentation Formats - APA
Written by Margaret Procter, Writing Support   
Article Index
Standard Documentation Formats
MLA System: Parenthetical Author-Page References (humanities)
Numbered Note
All Pages

APA System: Parenthetical Author-Date References (social sciences)

The social sciences, management studies, and many sciences emphasize the author and date as the most important information about a source. The American Psychological Association has developed the most commonly used system. The sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the APA (2009) offers very detailed advice on style, format, and documentation practices. 

This system uses only initials for authors' given names, no quotation marks or angle brackets, minimal capitalization for titles of books and articles, and italics for volume numbers as well as journal titles.The latest edition of the Publication Manual also asks for Digital Object Identifier numbers (DOI), when available, to identify journal articles and other recent publications. DOIs are now supplied as part of publication information by nearly all journals and some book publishers. See the APA Frequently-Asked Questions page for further advice on this and other APA requirements. U of T students may access APA's online Style Guide to Electronic Resources. Strict APA style, as shown below, gives in-text page numbers only for quotations, not for paraphrases or summaries. However, many instructors prefer a modified system that gives page numbers for all references. Ask your instructor when to include page numbers.

Students using the APA system are usually asked to format their papers as if they were manuscripts being prepared for publication; that's why the examples here and in the APA Publication Manual don't look exactly like what you see in journals or books. The example below follows strict APA manuscript format. (Note also that it uses past tense for summarizing sources, unlike the use of present tense in Humanities systems.)


In his classic study, Pinker (1994) summarized the skepticism of current researchers and observers about whether the signs produced in the Washoe project were really American Sign Language. His conclusion was that chimpanzees' abilities at “anything one would want to call language” were almost nil (p. 339). A group of statisticians (Tannenbaum, Leung, Sudha, & White, 2005) who re-analysed published data argued further that the compound words once claimed as inventions of a particular chimpanzee were the results of repeated random juxtapositions. Even Premack (2007) has now rejected his own past claims for chimpanzee cognition, outlining the key differences between chimpanzees and humans revealed by brain imaging and calling for closer scrutiny of experimental results.


Pinker, S. (1994). The language instinct: How the mind creates language. New York: Morrow.

Premack, D. (2007). Human and animal cognition: Continuity and discontinuity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 194, 13861-13867. doi:10.1073/pnas.0706147104

Tannenbaum, R. V., Leung, K., Sudha, J. R., & White, M. A. (2005). A re-examination of the record: Pitty Sing's creation of compound words. Journal of Biostatistics, 20, 368-396.