Skip to Main Content

Reference guide (APA 7)

This guide shows how you cite different types of sources. It is based on the APA 7 style (American Psychology Association)

Why cite?

When writing an academic text, always cite all sources you base your text on. This way the reader can distinguish your thoughts from the information you have found in other sources. Using a reference system means citing your sources in a standardized manner.

It is good academic practice to cite the sources you base your text on so that:

  • the reader can distinguish your thoughts from the information you find elsewhere
  • the reader gets the information needed to access the sources you have used
  • it shows that you master the rules for academic communication
  • it strengthens your arguments by tying them to previous research
  • you give credit to work done by others.


When to cite

Always cite your sources when you base your text on other sources. Even though you use other sources and cite them correctly, your own text should always dominate.


When not to cite

If you are referring to common knowledge, it’s not necessary to cite a source. It can be difficult to determine what common knowledge is within a specific subject area. Discuss with your teacher if you need help determining what is considered general knowledge in your subject area. When in doubt, always cite!


Creative Commons

Creative Commons is an organisation that provides licenses to be used for material the author wants to be made available to the public. Creative Commons licenses are a complement to copyright legislation. Read more about how to cite Creative Commons materials here.

Academic honesty & plagiarism

To plagiarize is to use texts and ideas produced by others without citing the source. If you don’t cite your sources, you give the reader the impression that the thoughts you present are your own. Plagiarism is a serious offence in an academic context.

To plagiarize is, e.g., to:

  • copy text (phrases, sentences, paragraphs) without quotation marks and without citing the source
  • copy text but change some words or change the word order
  • paraphrase a text in a way that your wording has too much resemblance with the original text, even though the source is cited
  • paraphrase the content of another source without citation
  • to use ideas, theories, methods or data and pictures originating from another source without citing
  • translate a text from another source to another language without noting that it’s your own translation and without citing the source
  • re-using your own texts without citation (self-plagiarism).

Many universities use tools for plagiarism detection. Read more about plagiarism detection at Hanken here.

Reference systems

A reference system or style consists of recommendations on how to cite sources in a standardized way. For example, APA, Harvard and Oxford are such systems. Different academic disciplines use different reference systems. Within social sciences and business and economics, the APA reference system is commonly used. In legal studies, the Oxford system is used.

A reference system consists of two elements:

  • in-text citing
  • reference list

There are two main categories of reference systems:

  • name/date systems (e.g., APA or Harvard)
  • numeric systems (e.g., Oxford)

This guide is based on the APA 7 system, developed by the American Psychological Association.

Regardless of which reference system you use, it’s important your citations are consistent. The citations should be correct, have a uniform presentation, and contain sufficient information for the reader to be able to access the sources.


General principles of in-text citations

In the APA 7 reference style, the author’s surname and publication year of the publication is seen in the in-text reference. The in-text citation is placed in the text so that the reader can determine which parts of the text are based on others' ideas and which parts are based on your own research or ideas. When you cite a specific content or a detail in a publication, you can add the page number(s) to your in-text citation.

The in-text citation guides the reader towards the reference list where more information on the source can be found. Therefore, the main entry in the in-text citation should be the first word in the reference list, so that the reader can find and identify the source. The in-text citation consists of the author and year of publication. If you quote a source, adding the page number(s) is a must. You can also add page number(s) if you want to help the reader find the exact place in your source even if you paraphrase or summarize the content of your source.


Paraphrasing is always preferred to quoting. When you paraphrase, you use the content or thoughts of another author and rewrite them in your own words.

You can choose an author-focused citation or an information-focused citation. If you emphasize who says something, the author’s name is placed in the text outside the in-text reference. Note that when paraphrasing, there is no need to add the page number(s) in the citation. If you, on the other hand, want to emphasize what is being said, you place the author’s name in the in-text citation.

Author-focused citation (parenthetical citation): According to Huddleston and Minahan (2011), there are five different shopper types

Information-focused citation (narrative citation): Of the five different shopper types, the lone browser is the most… (Huddleston & Minahan 2011).


When you quote something, you copy someone else’s text word-for-word. Short quotes melts into the text while long quotes start on a new row and with an indent. The in-text citation is placed in connection with the quote. When quoting the in-text citation, you should always have page number(s) (if the source is paginated). Note that tables, figures, and pictures from other sources should be treated as quotes and should also have a citation with the author, publication year, and page(s) included. The same rules apply to digital materials.

Paraphrasing is always preferred to quoting in academic writing. Quote only if it’s absolutely essential for your text, and avoid longer quotes. Paraphrasing also enables you to fit the material into the context of your paper and make it more appropriate for your writing style.


Short quotes

A short quote consists of two sentences at the most, or part of a sentence and is melted into the text. Always use quotation marks at the start and the end of the text.

In-text citation template: (Author, year, p. xx)

In-text citation example: In order to understand the literature, you need to know how to “apply theories and abstract concepts to the practical problem assumed in assignments” (Shone, 2018, p. 53).


Longer quotes (block quotes)

Avoid taking an entire paragraph from the same reference, but if you do need to quote a longer text, more than 40 words or three sentences, it is recommended that you use block quotation. Start the quote indented on a new row and use single line spacing. Add the in-text citation after the full stop. This tells the reader that the whole paragraph is a quote.


Changing or translating a quote:

Don’t change the original text when quoting, however you can omit a section of the text inside a quote. The omitted words are replaced by three dots in square brackets […]. If you want to underline or italicize something in the quote, add e.g., [own italics] after the quote.

If you translate a quote to another language, it should be apparent that the quote is a translation, e.g., by adding [own translation] after the quote. The in-text citation is placed in connection to the quote.


If you have a paragraph based on the same source, the placing of the in-text citation in regard to the full stop makes a difference. If the full stop is placed after the in-text citation (Example 1), the reader will understand that only the last sentence in the paragraph is based on the source by Hill. However, if you place the full stop before the in-text citation, you indicate that the whole paragraph is based on Hill. (Example 2)


Using punctuation when citing

What did Hill say?

Exempel 1

Facebook is very popular. Many students use it for keeping in touch with their friends. In 2015, 89% of university students had a Facebook account (Hill, 2016).


Answer: In 2015 89% of university students had a Facebook account

Exempel 2

Facebook is very popular. Many students use it for keeping in touch with their friends. In 2015, 89% of university students had a Facebook account. (Hill, 2016)


Answer: Facebook is very popular. Many students use it for keeping in touch with their friends. In 2015 89% of university students had a Facebook account.

Reference management tools

There are several tools for managing your references. The Hanken Library offers help with how to get started with Zotero. See the reference management guide, or attend a workshop. You can also book an appointment or email the library at

Zotero enables you to build your own reference library by adding references from databases, for example, Google Scholar. You can add references from your Zotero library to your Word document and create reference lists and in-text citations in different reference styles.

Many library databases offers automatic references, e.g. Hanna and many article databases. Always double check the references generated in this way, as this is an automatic function and errors can occur.