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Research: APA Referencing Style: What is APA?

Notes to help you understand and use the APA referencing style. This lib guide is focused on the needs of IB Diploma Programme level students.



Just like the other major styles (e.g. Chicago, MLA, Harvard) APA style is not just a guide or style of referencing, but a style guide for academic writing, formating, and many other details associated with technical or academic writing styles. However, referencing and citation are two major aspects of the style.

What is APA?

If your teacher asks you to use an "author/date" system, APA is one of the styles you can choose.

Just to recap on useful terms:

  • citation is the method you use to identify where you have used a source of information in your text. 
  • reference comprises the details used to identify a source of information. 

References build up to form a reference list or bibliography.

Don't forget, you need to cite and reference a source of information if you quote the source in your text.

However, many people forget that you also need to cite and reference a source if you paraphrase the source, or just refer to a specific source of information in your writing. 

Styles of academic writing/referencing are updated from time to time, and the latest version of the APA style is the 6th edition.

You will need to read the information on both the following tabs to complete your referencing using APA style.

APA is an acronym, and stands for American Psychological Association.

Studyweb has a good page of information about how and when to cite and reference. 

Reference List or Bibliography?

In APA style, the preferred term is Reference List.

IB requires you to reference all the sources you use in the Reference List. You should not include items you have not used in your essay. 

Annotated bibliogaphy

Some IAs require you to provide an annotated bibliography as part of your work. 

  • Purdue Owl has a good page of information

  • Studyweb has a good list of tips about constructing an annotated bibliography (scroll down to the bottom of their page for the list), together with a good example. 

College Academic Honesty Policy

APA Tutorials

Sample Paper

Here is a sample paper provided by the APA which has been fully annotated to explain all the citation elements.  Well worth looking at before you start.

Book in the College Library about APA

Can you use an online tool to help you with referencing in the APA style?

Yes, you can use any number of citation tools, e.g., Citefast.

There is a LibGuide about various bibliographic referencing tools -- see here

In addition, MacWord has a citation/reference option, in which you can choose APA as your reference style. 

If you use an online citation generator, you need to check the accuracy of the work, so it is worth knowing how APA style works. 

What does the IB require?

The IB says that you (and your teacher) can choose a major style of referencing.

Once you have chosen a style, you need to be consistent in its use.

This means that in a piece of work, e.g. Extended Essay, TOK essay or IA, you need to stick with one style. In addition, you need to follow the style through. For example, if you use footnotes and have opted to use APA, you're not being consistent in your use of APA, as APA requires you to follow an in-text system where the author and date of the source of information you use is given in parenthesis or brackets in the text - for example (Singh, 2003) or (Taylor, 1999). 


See the tab "APA posters" for examples for websites, books, articles and so on.

Go to the tab "APA posters" to see how to reference images, articles, websites and books. 


This guide was created and maintained by Dr. Anthony Tilke, 2013-2015. Updates have been maintained by Kurt Wittig, 2015-2016.