The more and more information that is produced in the world, the more important it becomes to credit our sources. Though our classes range from applied to research-focused,  it is always necessary for you to properly document your sources. APA is the most widely used format in the social sciences. For all of those reasons, all of our courses require APA formatting for citing sources. The following supplement is intended to provide you further guidance on just how to do that. 

Plagiarism and the Student Code of Academic Integrity

Most often, students find themselves guilty of plagiarism not because of an intentional and willful act of presenting the work of another as their own but because of a failure to properly document their sources. Simply, plagiarism encompasses a wide array of scenarios from blatant intellectual theft to good-intentioned or accidental failure to use proper documentation and style formatting.

Examples: The representing of the work of others as one's own, including the use of term papers written by others, is plagiarism. The use of another's words, ideas, or information without acknowledgment is also plagiarism. The student should seek guidance from the professor about acceptable methods to be used to acknowledge the work and ideas of others.

If you are found to have plagiarized or submitted unoriginal work in UA courses then you will automatically receive a zero for that assignment and may face more serious consequences based on the Student Code of Academic Integrity. Note: We use Turnitin throughout the D2L Dropbox to detect plagiarism. This is done automatically on all assignments.

When should you cite?

Anytime you write something you didn't know before you must cite your source(s). In fact, even if you knew it sometimes you should make that clear! (For example you can say 'According to my past studies', or 'In my experience', etc. to indicate that this was not information you gained from an outside source. Even then, if you're quoting work you have yourself written and published, it should be cited!)

Common knowledge (or things everyone should probably know if they attended public school) typically do not need to be documented. For example if you were writing about George Washington being the first President of the Unites States, and you read that fact during your studies you could skip citing it because this qualifies as common knowledge.

Basically it's best to cite rather than not cite - but lots of things only require parenthetical citations - which are references to the source at the end of a sentence where the information was used. More examples of how this works and how to do it properly are in the Citing using APA Formatting ⇓section. This can get complicated, but here's a simple example:

At the time of the controversy, Martin was living in Boston and attending Boston College (Smith, 2006, p. 34). 

Citing using APA Formatting

Nearly all assignments in our program need to cite relevant references. Often our decisions, observations, and actions should be neither arbitrary nor capricious. Citing experts in the field, current journal articles, credible websites, and other relevant sources reflects a level of professionalism expected at this level of education.


There are many tools to help you do this correctly, but here are 4 of our favorites:
  1. Purdue's OWL Guidelines (easily searchable for the type of cite you need; absolutely indispensable and should remain bookmarked throughout your time with us)
  2. Microsoft Word added some amazing new features in their last two updates that will enter APA citations for you in the text AND generate your references list as well as you go!
  3. Many automated citation tools are available now: EasyBib (also tells you how credible your cites are!) or Citefast (free) can help you build perfect APA citations. It doesn't matter which you prefer - just pick one and stick to it. Even the free version of Citavi works well.
  4. UA also licenses certain citation software (EndNote is through Web of Science, while Mendeley is preferred personally in the program for its cross-platform availability, PDF annotation, meta-info tagging, and Word integration) and they provide some support for learning how to use it as well. If you intend to go on to graduate school or to a research-based position it is an excellent idea to get familiar and start using this type of software now. Regardless, something is better than nothing.

Tip: Use Google Scholar for research + generating perfect citations

There's one other quick and easy way to get an accurate citation for most articles and books using Google Scholar. If you find an article in the University library or through another source and need to develop a citation for it, you can run a search in Google Scholar and then select the cite link under the article in the search listing to generate a copyable citation for it.

You can also use Google Scholar in the reverse to conduct your initial search for scholarly works on a topic and then access them through the University library once you have found what you are looking for. If using the Cite option in Google Scholar (above), always double-check that the formatting comes through properly when pasted.

Mini-Guide to In-Text/Parenthetical Citations

These are the ones that go at the end of a sentence to indicate where you got the information in that sentence from. Note: The period ALWAYS goes after the citation because the citation is considered part of the sentence. Likewise, periods and commas ALWAYS go inside end quotations unless the sentence ends in a citation and a direct quotation. 

Here are some correct examples:

  • For a normal sentence without a source ▸    ...at the end." 
  • For a sentence with citation and quotation ▸     ...at the end" (Smith, 2005, p. 134).
  • For a sentence with citation only ▸     ...at the end (Smith, 2005).
  • For a sentence with multiple sources ▸     ...at the end (Smith, 2005; Jones, 2007).

NEVER put two periods like this:

  • ...at the end. (Smith, 2005, p. 134).

Mini-Guide to Full References Section/List

At the end of your document (assignment, discussion post, etc.), you will need to list all of your sources in a References list. These citations look different than the in-text citations shown above. To figure out just how to do ALL of the different citations you may need you should use one of the Tools listed above, but here is a simple example showing what an online reference typically looks like:


Here are the two main sites which contain up to date and comprehensive APA reference information: The official APA Style Site and the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Creating a document that meets APA Format requirements

The focus of most of our courses is not on research, style, and documentation. However, you are participating in an academic program. As such, you are expected to produce work that meets academic standards. In addition, these skills can make your work stand out when you leave UA and go on to your next job. We truly believe it is in your best interest to learn to do this properly now so you stand out for your professionalism and skills in the future.

There are many tools to help you do this correctly, but here are 3 of our favorites:
  1. Purdue's OWL Sample Paper
  2. Microsoft Word APA Template
  3. You can also follow this YouTube video to teach you how to set up Word to format your paper in APA 6th Edition as you write. (This is very helpful if you will be doing more than one paper in APA formatting, plus it has captions if you need them.)