Citing Sources Guide


APA format is preferred by the American Psychological Association and is typically used in behavioral and social sciences such as psychology, sociology, history, and communication. It’s also used in business courses. At universities where the administration has decided to adopt just one documentation style across all courses, APA is often the style of choice because it is an effective style for multiple areas of academic study.

All Pennsylvania Institute of Technology courses require the use of APA formation

What is APA?

APA style was created by the American Psychological Association. It is a set of rules for publications, including research papers.

In APA, you must "cite" sources that you have paraphrased, quoted or otherwise used to write your research paper. Cite your sources in two places:

  1. In the body of your paper where you add a brief in-text citation.
  2. In the Reference list at the end of your paper where you give more complete information for the source.

There are three major styles of writing and citing sources at the college and professional levels. The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is the most popular and common style and it is predominately used in the liberal arts and humanities. The American Psychological Association (APA) style is most often used for scientific, medical, or engineering writing. The third and final member of the big three is the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). The CMS deals with aspects of editorial practice, from American English grammar and usage to document preparation. It is very similar to the Turabian style.

All three manuals are available in the PIT Library.

Citation Generators

Please be aware that automatically generated citations may not provide accurate results.

If you choose to use a citation generator, then take the time to make the necessary corrections using this APA guide.

Remember: It is your responsibility to double-check the results!


Scribr allows you to effortlessly create your reference list and in-text citations in APA format. 100% free and without ads! Easily download to Word, quick guide to APA citation, and an APA FAQ to answer questions 24/7.

ZoteroBib is a free service that helps you build a bibliography instantly from any computer or device, without creating an account or installing any software. It’s brought to you by the team behind Zotero, the powerful open-source research tool recommended by thousands of universities worldwide, so you can trust it to help you seamlessly add sources and produce perfect bibliographies.

Other Citation Resources


Purdue University's Online Writing Lab is the preeminent leader in citation support for students and considered the definitive source on citation. These resources will help you learn how to use the American Psychological Association (APA) citation and format style.

Mendeley is a citation management tool that allows you to generate and import or export citations directly from your browser to a virtual citation library. Create a free personal account on Mendeley to add papers directly from your browser or import any documents from your desktop. Access your library from anywhere. Generate references, citations, and bibliographies in just a few clicks.

Zotero is a free and open-source reference management software similar to Mendeley, which is used to manage bibliographic data and related research materials.

Commonly Used Terms

Citing: The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

DOI (doi): Some electronic content, such as online journal articles, is assigned a unique number called a Digital Object Identifier (DOI or doi). Items can be tracked down online using their doi.

In-Text Citation: A brief note at the point where information is used from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Reference List.

Paraphrasing: Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism: Taking, using, and passing off as your own, the ideas or words of another.

Quoting: The copying of words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Reference: Details about one cited source.

Reference List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.

Retrieval Date: Used for websites where content is likely to change over time (e.g. Wikis), the retrieval date refers to the date you last visited the website.

Academic Integrity and Academic Dishonesty

  • PIT defines academic integrity as “…the pursuit of scholarly activity free of fraud and deception” and emphasizes it as an educational priority of PIT.
  • Academic dishonesty is defined by PIT as, “the attempt to mislead or deceive to influence the grading system or process.”
  • Per the PIT Faculty Handbook:

“If it is determined by the instructor that a student has been academically dishonest, the student will receive a “0” for the assignment and will be placed on Academic Probation. Any subsequent act of academic dishonesty is likely to be deemed grounds for dismissal from the College.”

Plagiarism is using another's words or ideas without giving them credit.

To avoid plagiarism, acknowledge where you found:

  • someone's idea, opinion, or theory;
  • any fact or statistic that is not common knowledge;
  • quotation of another's spoken or written words;
  • paraphrase of another's spoken or written words.

When in doubt, cite the source of the material.