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The Reference List:  Getting It Right

  1. Use your resources.  Beginning on p. 193 of the 6th edition of the APA manuall, you will find examples of anything you could possibly want to put in your reference list.  A very good place to start to understand APA reference style is the tutorial on the APA website: The Basics of APA Style.

  2. Get familiar with the basic structure of the three most commonly referenced items:  a book, a journal article, and an Internet-based resource. Most of what you will do will be a variation of one of those three structures.

  1. Keep good records.  Often the reason you have problems making up their reference list is because you did not note down all the necessary reference information when you  took notes as you read the reference source.  Get in the habit of writing a note card (or making an electronic file) as the first thing you do when you begin to read a new source.  On that note card or in that file, include

  •  title

  • subtitle, if any

  •  full name of author(s)

  • full name of editor(s) if any

  • year published

  • edition number  if any

  • location and name of publisher (if book)

  • name of journal  if any

  • volume and page numbers for article (if from journal),

  • URL (web address) if appropriate

  • name of database from which article was retrieved (if any)

  • date you retrieved the material from the Internet (if appropriate)

  • DOI (if available)
  1. Be sure to write down the page number for any direct quotations (author's own words, not your summary) that you put into your notes. Otherwise, you may find yourself at the last minute frantically re-reading a 300-page book to find the location of that quote you want to use to illustrate some important point. Be sure, too, to copy quoted material exactly when you are taking notes.

  2. One way to make sure you don't forget anything is to create a file on your computer with the above categories, save it as "Reference Template" (or something similar) and then open it each time you read a new article or book, filling it out and saving it in a folder called "References" as the author's last name.

  3. There are commercial products, such as Endnote,  that help format reference lists. They are relatively expensive, even in a student version, however, and you still have to collect the above information correctly before the software can do its thing.

  4. Put nothing into your reference list that you have not referred to specifically (author/year) in your paper.  A reference list is simply a list of "works cited." It does not include everything that you read when researching the paper, just the materials you actually cite in the body of the paper.

  5. Format your reference list correctly.

    Start your reference list on a new page. (In Word, put your cursor at the end of the last sentence of your text and then click on INSERT >page break.)

Center the word References at the top of the page: no underlining, first letter only capitalized, no boldface.

Double space throughout; do not leave extra spaces between reference items.

Alphabetize your list by the last name of the first author; do not divide it into categories (like "books, journals, etc.")

Type each entry in "HANGING INDENT" style:  The first line starts at the left margin and all following lines are indented five space

  1. Check the punctuation of each list item carefully.  It makes a difference whether--and where--you use a period, comma, or colon. Follow the models in the APA manual.

  2. Check the capitalization carefully.  Remember: the reference list is the one place where  you do not capitalize all major words in a title.  Instead, only the first word of the title, the first word after a colon (= first word of the subtitle) and any proper nouns (names of specific people, places or things) are capitalized.

  3. Do not include personal communications or anything that cannot be retrieved (such as information from a lecture your professor gave in class or a personal email.)  Such information may be cited in the text of your paper,  if needed, but it would not appear in the reference list.  See APA manual, p. 214.

  4. Don't be discouraged if you can't remember all the rules. That's why the manual is there. Your only task is to keep the maual handy, and know where the different examples are.

View Demonstration of How to Make Hanging Indent

Additional Websites with Good APA Reference List Help