Research Structure

Referencing Styles

In scholarly writing, it is both a moral & legal requirement to properly acknowledge someone else’s ideas or words you have used in your research project. Failure to acknowledge your source of information, you may be accused of plagiarism and infringing copyright.

The American Psychological Association (APA) referencing styles is a widely used standardized style in scholarly writing to acknowledge the source of information used in research. By referencing properly, it demonstrates your scholarly honesty in having undertaken research on your topic and having located relevant information.

The Two Parts of APA Referencing Styles

There are two main parts to APA Referencing (Universal College of Learning [UCOL], 2017) :

  • This part is often referred to as citing in text, in text citations or text citations. It is the source of information you have used to write your project where you demonstrate support for your ideas, arguments and views.
  • The second part to referencing is the construction of a reference list. It shows the complete details of whatever you cited. It appears in an alphabetical order at the end of your research report with a hanging indentation.

Types of Citations

  • If citations are in brackets they are referred to as parenthetical. An example is given as: (Mahama, 2019). One straightforward rule by APA manual (2010, p. 174) states: “Do include the year in all parenthetical citations.” This means that the year of the pubnlication should be included in brackets in all citations. This applies irrespective of the style (part of the narrative, or parenthetical) of the first citation.
  • If a citation is part of the narrative, then it’ll look like: According to Mahama (2019)…. There are two rules for this style of citing. If the first citation is part of the narrative, do not include the year in subsequent references that are in the narrative (APA, 2010).


According to Mahama (2019) ……
In subsequent citation s within the same paragraph, the citation now reads as:
Mahama suggested that ….


Short Quotation

This quotation, otherwise known as direct quotation refers to materials you quote that are less than 40 words. One common practice for short quotation is to place the author and year before the quotation. The page appears at the end of the quotation. Place the words in double quotes.


According to Mahama (2011), “the general feeling on the focus of integration of ICT into Junior High School education is more in the formal school arrangement” (p. 35).


Long Quotation

When the quote is at least 40 words, it is considered long quotation. It is indented 5 to 7 spaces (1.27 cm) and set at double spacing. The words are not placed in quotes.


Mahama (2011) stated in his findings that the general feeling on the focus of integration of ICT into junior high school education is more in the formal school arrangement. The study identified the Internet cafés as the most significant location that influenced usage of the internet among JHS students. (p. 35)


Citing One Author

Mahama (2011) stated in his findings that the general feeling on the focus of integration of ICT into junior high school education …


Citing Two Authors

According to Annan and Mahama (2000), there are difficulties involved in descriptive survey …

Earlier studies had shown that there are difficulties involved in descriptive survey (Anan & Mahama, 2000).


More than Two Authors

When three to five authors are involved, you cite in your first citation all their surnames followed by year of publication. In subsequent citations, you cite only the surname of the first author followed by the Latin word “et al.” But when the subsequent citations are within the same paragraph, you omit the year for all the citations. When more than five authors are to be cited, use surname of the first author followed by “et al.” in both the first and subsequent citations. Do not italicise et al. in any citations.


The available research on students’ use of ICT … traditional educational system (Mioduser, Nachmias, Lahav & Oren, 1998).


Subsequent citation reads as:

Previous studies (Mioduser et al., 1998) on Internet use showed that …


Organisation as Author

When organisations are presented as authors in a publication, the full expression other than the initials of the body is cited. In subsequent citations, only the initials are used.


In furtherance with the new ICT curriculum, all students … (Ministry of Education [MOE], 2009).


Subsequent citation reads as

The MOE (2009) …


Two or More Works within the Same Parentheses

When you cite works of two or more sources within the same parentheses, sort the surnames of the authors alphabetically and separate the citations with semicolon (s).


… about the phenomenon studied (Best & Kahn, 1993; Gay, 1990).


An Author with Several Works with Same Date

When you cite several works by the same author with the same year of publication, you must introduce the letters a, b, c, etc. after the year of publication.


Adam authored the three books in 2010, (a) ABC of Excel, (b) Data Analysis, and (c) ABC of Database. The in-text citation, after sorting the titles alphabetically is presented as:

A lot of studies have been undertaken on data collection instrument (Adam, 2010a, 2010b, 2010c).


A Secondary Source

We want to assume that you read the book of Amedahe he published in 2002 where he referenced previous studies undertaken by Glass and Hopkins on descriptive statistics. Amedahe’s material is what you are privy to and therefore becomes the secondary source.


The in-text citation of the given source is presented as:

According to Glass and Hopkins (as cited by Amedahe, 2002), descriptive statistics …


The citation then appears in the reference list entry as:

Amedahe, F. K. (2002). Fundamentals of educational research methods, mimeograph. Cape Coast: University of Cape Coast.

Reference List

For the reference list, use (a) hanging indentation for each reference list, (b) sentence case for the title of a non-periodic and title case for the article of a journal, and (c) double spacing (Figure 9).

Reference List

Mahama, A. (2011). In search of truth. Ghanaian   Psychologist, 48, 574-576.

Amedahe, F. K. (2002). Fundamentals of educational research methods, mimeograph. Cape Coast: University of Cape Coast.

Figure 10: A sample of reference list


To download sample of an indented reference list click


Periodicals (journal with one author)

Mahama, A. (2011). In search of truth. Ghanaian Psychologist, 48, 574-576.


Journal Article (with two authors)

Hussein, R., & Abu, S. (2009). The life of the companions. Islamic Perspective, 45, 100-136.


Non-Periodical (books)

Mahama, A., (1997). The Muslim family life. Ghana: The Call Consult.


Note: If the publication has no city of publication, then use the country as shown in the given example.


Book with Edition

Bowling, A. (2002). Research methods in health – investigating health and health services (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University Press.


Book with Editor

Boadie, J. (Ed.). (2009). The Internet in everyday life. Accra: Islamic University College, Ghana.


Daily Newspaper Article (with an author)

Wireko, V. (2011, December 14). Have we not done enough harm to our best talents? Daily Graphic, (No. 18716), p.7.


Daily Newspaper Article (no author identified)

In the reference of this type of article, you mention only the title of the article if no author is identified and italicize the newspaper name.


Private schools urged to run SSS courses. (1999, August 14). Daily Graphic, (No. 14769), pp. 1, 3.


Encyclopaedia or Dictionary

When dealing works with a large editorial board, you list the name of the lead editor, followed by et al.


Venes, D.(Ed.), et al. (2001). Taber’s cyclopaedic medical dictionary (19th ed.). Philadelphia: F. A. Davis.


Online Dictionary Sources

When you cite an online dictionary do the following: (a) Italicize the source of the cited word after In, (b) Insert the date the dictionary was published, or revised. In case the date is not so obvious use the copyright date, (c) Provide the full uniform resource locator (URL) and the date the material was retrieved.


Plagiarize.(2008). In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11th ed.). Retrieved December 8, 2011, from


Internet Articles Based on a Print Source

Use the same basic primary journal reference for online articles retrieved. If the article is viewed only in its electronic form, introduce square brackets [ ] after the article.


Mangesi, K. (2007). ICT in education in Ghana, survey of ICT education in Africa: Ghana country report. [electronic version]. The World Factbook. April 2007. Retrieved February 21, 2010 from


Article in an Internet-Only Journal

Newmarch, E., Taylor-Steele, S., & Cumpston, A. (2000). Women in IT – What are the barriers? Network of women in further education conference. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from research/docs/womenin_it


Universal College of Learning. (2017). A guide to APA referencing style (6th ed.). Retrieved on April 30, 2019 from

American Psychological Association. (2019). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

How to Acknowledge this Post  

The Call Info. (January 25, 2020). Referencing styles [Blog post]. Retrieved from

47 replies on “Referencing Styles”

Thank you for the encouragement. We’re however sorry for the late response.

In relation to the types of quotations, does it mean quoting information that is less than 40 words is known as Short Quotations whiles quoting at least 40 words is also known as Long Quotations?

Detailed explanations with very easy to understand examples. I’ve learnt quite a lot from this post. Thank you very much @The_Call_Info. Keep up the good work ?

It’s very educative. Personally, I’ve learnt a lot on referencing from the blog.

This article used the APA Style to explain Referencing styles used in scholarly writing. It is a wonderful article, both students and academicians will always find it very useful to reference. Thanks to the publishers.

Interestingly, I’m someone who’s not a fan of reading. But your detailed explanations with easy examples encouraged me to read every bit of your article with complete understanding. Honestly, I enjoyed the reading. Thank you

We’re pleased to hear that the article influenced your reading habit positively.

1. From the post I’ve learnt that double quotes (” “) are used in short quotation which simple means lifting an author’s information directly into your work.

2. Are there other referencing styles in scholarly writing other than APA that one can use to acknowledge the source of information? Thank you

1. Exactly so. But, always remember to properly cite and acknowledge the source of information.

2. There are other referencing styles, notably Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago, and Harvard. The choice of styles is normally influenced by your specialty or or institution of learning.

Thank you.

With this post I’m able to understand better why you should acknowledge someone’s ideas or words you’ve used in your own research work. Explanations and examples are easy to understand. Thank you so much

Kudos to the writers and publishers , this has been a full course for me in terms of referencing. Brief and clear for easy digestion . Looking forward to more educative content on this space. Thank you.

Your explanations on APA citations are very good and easy to understand. I will therefore recommend this post to anyone wanting to read about citations.

It’s unfortunate you’re having difficulties with some aspects of post. Could you use the contact form (Contact menu) to get back to us with your challenges. We would be thrilled to assist you. Thank you.

In my search on ” Et al” I got to know that is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “Et alia” which means “and others.” An example in a sentence – The article was written by Smith, Jones, Paul et. al

You are right, but note the following:
(a) always place the period after al – et al.
(b) cite only the surname Smith, eg. Smith, et all. Remember not to italicise et al. in any citations.

I have read a couple of materials on this subject but was unable to fully grasp the concept in each case. However, after reading this article, all the fears I have been harboring on this topic have evaporated. I can now face the world with confidence whenever a roll call on this subject is sounded. Thank you very much for this insightful post.

Great, referencing has always been a problem to me since day one but after reading this post I’ve now found a way out. God bless the writer and the publisher. Thank you.

Thanks to the writers for such an educative post. With the help of this educative and informative post , I now have a clear understanding of what APA referencing style is. Thank you very much.

Very interesting, I have learnt a lot out from this post. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this post. It is very clear and easy to understand. Thank you very much for the good work done.

Very informative piece of writing and very comprehensive too even for a novice in the area of APA style of referencing

If I cite severally from one source of information in my project report, do I need to construct a separate reference list for each citation?

A very important comment. Only one reference is required since all the citations are coming from one source.

Nice write up. In recent times, I do face a lot of challenges with regards to referencing style but after going through this article, I’m now able to understand it – it’s very clear and interesting.

A very informative and educative material but it seems cumbersome. One might forget some of the rules. It needs careful reading for you understand and practice it often. But my question is, I see some publications with numbers often in blue ink and these numbers are also found at the reference page,how are they done.
Thank you.

Thanks for the comment. But your question is not very clear to us. Could you the Contact form to get back to us for further clarification.

Could it be considered as plagiarism when I acknowledge the person’s work but failed to mention what he says word by word?

Mukhtar, to acknowledge someone’s work simply means to provide detailed information on his publication under Reference List.

If I write someone’s definition word by word and I acknowledged it but failed to put the definition in quotations. Will the definition be seen as narrative?

If the definition is less than 40 words, you need to place them in double quotes whether your citation is narrative or parenthetical. However, the double quotes are dropped if your definition is 40 or more words long.

When you paraphrase information from someone else’s work that you retrieved from the Internet without acknowledging it, does that imply plagiarism?

Very very succinct and easy to apprehend. Thank you. But my question is: If you cite a source twice or more in your literature review or background with the same year or different years but different ideas in different articles, in the reference list, must you reference the source following the number of times it has been cited?

Another question is: How can first name and surname of an author be differentiated and cited appropriately in an article?

Comments are closed.