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APA Citations: A Programmed Instruction


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  • When to Cite


    We cite information that is uncommon knowledge.

    If we report that the world round, do we cite Pythagoras? No, Earth's sphericity has been common knowledge since Late Antiquity.

    If we report that Pythagoras discovered the world is round, do we cite Diogenes Laertius? We could. While no one knows for sure who discovered Earth's sphericity, Laertius credited Pythagoras.


    Actually, that last bit is only true if Laertius is among the works we have read.

    If we read on Wikipedia that Laertius credited Pythagoras with discovering Earth's sphericity, what are our citation options? We can cite Wikipedia at our peril. Or we can read Laertius.

    What is not a citation option? Citing Laertius without reading his work. It's not worth the risk of saying something stupid.


    Perhaps most commonly, we cite direct influences on our work.

    If we quote John Donne, who wrote, "No man is an island," do we cite the poet? Yes, quotations clearly qualify as direct influences.

    If we write, "Poets appreciate that humans are social creatures," do we cite Donne? Possibly, if we just paraphrased his line "no man is an island." We treat paraphrases and quotations identically for citing decisions.

    If we write, "Humans are social creatures," do we cite Donne? Probably not. His poem probably did not shape our thesis that humans are social creatures.

    If we write, "In a previous paper, we reduced Donne's poem to 'humans are social creatures,'" do we cite anyone? Ourselves! It's not optional. Self-plagiarism is a thing.


    For most purposes, we cite our one or two most representative sources per key point.

    Do more citations equal greater credibility? Not unless you are writing a comprehensive review. Focus on quality, and cite your best and most relevant sources.


    In summary, we cite uncommon knowledge, only works we read, direct influences, and most representative sources.


    When you are ready, proceed to Set 2.

  • Single Authors


    We may cite sources in a few ways:

    • Parenthetically, we cite sources like this (APA, 2010).
    • In-text, APA (2010) instructed us to cite sources like this.
    • In 2010, APA instructed us to alternatively cite sources in-text like this.

    What makes a citation in-text versus parenthetical? A citation is in-text if the author is integrated in the primary sentence structure rather than separated from it with parentheses.


    We must cite page numbers for direct quotations and may cite page numbers for paraphrases.

    For in-text citations, APA (2010) instructed us to cite page numbers like this (pp. 171–172).

    How do you think we cite page numbers for parenthetical citations? For parenthetical citations, we cite page numbers like this (APA, 2010, pp. 171–172).


    If a source includes only paragraph numbers, we replace p. 1 or pp. 1–2 with para. 1 or para. 1–2.

    Replace the page number with a paragraph number:

    In its fourth paragraph, APA (2010) instructs us to carefully track the sources of our ideas (p. 170).

    APA (2010) instructs us to carefully track the sources of our ideas (para. 4).


    If a source includes neither page nor paragraph numbers, we replace p. 1 with Example section, para. 1 or “Example Heading,” para. 1.

    Replace the page number with section and paragraph references:

    In the first paragraph of its plagiarism section, APA (2010) instructs us to carefully track the sources of our ideas (p. 170).

    APA (2010) instructs us to carefully track the sources of our ideas (Plagiarism section, para. 1).


    Citations must have clear referents.

    Cite the following sentence assuming we based only the underlined content on APA (2010):

    APA journals use an author-date citation system, which makes more sense than a publisher-date citation system.

    APA journals use an author-date citation system (APA, 2010), which makes more sense than a publisher-date citation system. (Note that APA journals does not qualify as an author, so we included the author, APA, in our parenthetical citation.)


    What problem arises if we replace “APA journals” in frame II-11 with APA (2010)? We no longer need the parenthetical citation, and the reader no longer knows that the second half of our sentence (i.e., “which makes more sense than a publisher-date citation system”) is an independent idea of our own.


    Recalling that citations must have clear referents, what is the problem with end-of-paragraph citations for crediting ideas spanning multiple sentences? The reader may erroneously assume that the citation only applies to the last sentence of the paragraph and that the other sentences in the paragraph contain original ideas.

    How might we cite the following paragraph whose entire content we derived from APA (2010)?

    The first edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was a mere seven pages. The current, sixth edition totals 272 pages. Part of this growth stems from new digital sources for content.

    Parenthetically:

    The first edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was a mere seven pages (APA, 2010). The current, sixth edition totals 272 pages (APA, 2010). Part of this growth stems from new digital sources for content (APA, 2010).

    In-text:

    APA (2010) recounted that the first edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was a mere seven pages. APA’s current, sixth edition totals 272 pages. APA attributed part of this growth to new digital sources for content.

    Parenthetically and in-text:

    APA (2010) recounted that the first edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was a mere seven pages. APA’s current, sixth edition totals 272 pages. Part of this growth stems from new digital sources for content (APA, 2010).

    Reviewing the three citations options above, what rules can you discern for repeatedly citing a source within the same paragraph? In-text, we only cite the date of a source on its first occurrence in a paragraph; parenthetically, we always cite the date of a source.


    Update these citations as if the last sentence started a paragraph:

    APA (2010) recounted that the first edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was a mere seven pages. APA’s current, sixth edition totals 272 pages. APA attributed part of this growth to new digital sources for content.

    APA (2010) recounted that the first edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was a mere seven pages. APA’s current, sixth edition totals 272 pages.

    APA (2010) attributed part of this growth to new digital sources for content.


    If an author is identified as Anonymous, we use Anonymous for their name.

    If we cannot identify the author, do we credit the source to Anonymous? No, we only credit the source to Anonymous if the author is explicitly identified as such.


    When you are ready, proceed to Set 3.

  • Multiple Authors


    This set will be uploaded shortly (1/19/2017).


    When you are ready, proceed to Set 4.

  • Grammar and Punctuation


    This set will be uploaded shortly (1/19/2017).


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