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APA Referencing: Introduction

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What is Referencing?

Referencing is a method of acknowledging sources of information that you have used in your assignments. It is an important part of academic writing.

You must acknowledge any source you use both within the text of your assignment (also known as an in-text reference) and by listing it at the end of your assignment (also known as an end-text reference or reference list).

Why Reference?

To acknowledge the source of information and therefore avoid plagiarism.

To show the breadth of your research.

To allow the reader to find and verify the information used.

Welcome to the APA Referencing Guide

This guide is for students at North Metropolitan TAFE and is based on the APA 6th edition style.

It provides information and examples to help reference different sources of information when writing assignments. 

Getting Started

  1. Record
    When collecting information for an assignment topic record all the information required to reference your source/s. Make sure you include page numbers for direct quotations, journal articles and book chapters.
  2. Organise
    When recording the referencing information develop a system that works for you. For example, add the information immediately to your draft, or use a referencing program such as the Microsoft Word referencing tool or similar.
  3. Cite
    Within the text of your assignment, include a brief citation when you summarise, paraphrase or quote from another source. Generally each in-text citation must have a corresponding entry in your reference list.
  4. List 
    At the end of your assignment place a list of the references you have cited in-text. These must be the full citations required for the different sources. Arrange the list alphabetically by the first author’s surname.

Each time you use information from another source you must include an in-text citation to that source.

General Rules

  • For an in-text citation include the author's surname and year of publication.
  • Include page or paragraph numbers for direct quotations, and for citing specific items such as tables or graphs.
  • The citation should be inserted where the information is used.

Point to Note

  • If using multiple sources it needs to be clear which material has come from which source.


      (Gardner, 2003, p. 27)

Copying the words and ideas of others without acknowledging correct ownership is called plagiarism.The solution is to learn to correctly reference words or ideas that you have copied within your report, essay or literature review.

When writing assignments you must acknowledge quotations, information and ideas taken from other authors through a bibliography or list of references.

You must acknowledge your sources:

  • to acknowledge someone else's work
  • to show what you have read
  • to show that you have understood the research published in your area of study
  • to lend authority to what you are writing
  • to support and strengthen your argument

Plagiarism occurs when you use other people’s ideas, words or data as if they were your own. Deliberate plagiarism is a serious act of academic misconduct. How to avoid plagiarism -  always note where you found your information and keep this information attached to your preparation notes for each assignment. 

For more information on plagiarism and correct assignment writing techniques, e.g. paraphrasingsummarising and quoting see the Assignment Help guide.

Formatting quotations
A quotation is an exact reproduction from another source. They are word for word copies of another persons work.

Quotations of less than 40 words are set out wiithin the body of the text and enclosed with double quotation marks " ".
... children are very adaptable. However, "it is no surprise that we are much better at recognising negative signals than positives ones"  (Smith, 2011, p. 36).

Quotations of more than 40 words should be set out in a block, commencing on a new line and indented from the left hand margin 5 spaces. Quotation marks are not used. Double space the entire quotation.
Governments have occasionally produced reports on:

     The merits of privatization, incorporating 'expert' assessments of

     likely sale and retention values. This is progress, of a kind. It does,

     after all, provide the community with opportunities to scrutinise major

     proposals for asset sales - opportunities long available in the

     private sector. (Walker, 2010, p. 140)

Point to note:
Avoid overuse of direct quotations. It is best to paraphrase or summarise information from other sources, as this shows your understanding of the information and your ability to use it in your own work.

Direct quotations can be used for:

  • a definition
  • a theory, law, regulation or technical phrase etc
  • an effective, powerful, or controversial statement

There are various ways to cite quotes. Read the APA Style Blog for suggestions.


General Rules

  • List in alphabetical order by the surname of the first author.
  • Where there is no author, use the title.
  • Where there is no date use 'n.d.'
  • All main titles are italicised.
  • The second and subsequent lines of each reference should be indented 5 spaces.

Points to Note

  • Author field can also be editor or organisation/sponsor.
  • There are a few exceptions where some sources placed in-text are not included in the reference list. See examples here.

The use of capital letters in titles varies:

Articles and chapters

  • write in plain text, and
  • capitalise the first word of the title; the first word of subtitles and any proper nouns

               Working with refugee young people: An Australian nurses's perspective

Periodicals (journals, newspapers and magazines)

  • write in italics, and
  • capitalise ALL main title words

                                       Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Books, websites and web documents (and other main titles)

  • write in italics, and
  • capitalise the first word of the title; the first word of subtitles and any proper nouns

                                 Churchill's desert war: The road to El Alamein


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When Do You Have to Reference?

ALWAYS if you:

Quote - use someone else's exact words
Paraphrase - convert someone else's ideas to your own words
Summarise - create a brief account of someone else's ideas
Copy - use statistics, figures, tables or images

When Do You NOT Need to Reference?

You do not need to cite when:

You are describing your own experiences or observations.

You are using general or common knowledge.

Information Ethics

All students at North Metropolitan TAFE are to be aware that using someone else's work or ideas without acknowledging the creator is not acceptable. See Plagiarism in the Student Code of Conduct.