Citing your sources, or giving proper credit to resources you use to find information, can help you to avoid plagiarism. In this lesson, we will discover the appropriate style for citing a textbook in APA format.

What is APA Format?

APA, short for American Psychological Association, is a specific format for papers written in fields such as psychology or education. As you write a paper in APA format, you will break it into four sections: your title page, the abstract, the main body, and references. When you cite a source, you first need to add the citation to your reference page. This is the last page of your paper where you will compile a list of all the resources you used to help you to write your paper.

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Think of a citation as being similar to a formula you might use in math. Once you have all of the information you need to describe your source, such as the date of publication, authors, editors, etc., you simply plug the information into the correct formula for a textbook, and you have the perfect APA citation.

Basic Format For a Textbook

When we look at what to include in our textbook citation, here is the most simple model with only one author:

  • Author’s Last Name, F. I. (Year of publication). Title of work: Subtitle goes here. Location: Publisher.

As we fill this in with real information, we can end with a real example that may look like the following:

  • Keating, J. K. (1992). The Seven Wonders: The changing world around us. New York, NY: Red Penguin Publishers.

There are a few important things to observe about APA formatting. The first is that the author’s last name always comes first. Rather than following this up with a first name, initials for the first and middle name are used instead. Secondly, the title of the textbook will be italicized, yet it will only use capital letters for the first word of the title and the word directly following the colon if there is a subtitle included. Finally, proper nouns such as ‘Seven Wonders’ are always capitalized.

The Case of Two or More Authors

The change from one author to two, or several, is fairly simple. If you look at the example below, we have added a comma and an ampersand (&), and then followed the same format for last name coming first followed by first and middle initials. If a middle initial is not provided, simply go with the first initial only.

  • Keating, J. K., & Harlington, T. R. (1992). The Seven Wonders: The changing world around us. New York, NY: Red Penguin Publishers.

How About No Author, Just Editors?

  • Thomson, O. P., & Angus, J. R. (Eds.). (1992). The Seven Wonders: The changing world around us. New York, NY: Red Penguin Publishers.

All Included Now: Authors and Editors

  • Keating, J. K., & Harlington, T. R. (1992). The Seven Wonders: The changing world around us. Thomson, O. P., & Angus, J. R. (Eds.). New York, NY: Red Penguin Publishers.

So Good They Printed It Again?!

New editions of textbooks are often published, marking changes in the publication over time. If your textbook is not the first edition, you need to be certain to cite the correct edition you are referencing since information varies from one edition to the next.

To show the textbook edition, follow this format:

  • Keating, J. K. (1992). The Seven Wonders: The changing world around us (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Red Penguin Publishers.

A Piece of the Pie

One final consideration for citing a textbook is to follow the format for citing only a piece of the text, or in other words, a chapter. If you only use information from one chapter of the book, go ahead and cite specifically by following this model:

  • Keating, J. K. (1992). Iconic monuments in Australia. The Seven Wonders: The changing world around us. (pp. 93-112). New York, NY: Red Penguin Publishers.

Notice a few subtle differences: the chapter name is included after the date of publication (with the same capitalization rules as the main text title) and the page numbers of the chapter are included towards the end of the citation using the abbreviation ‘pp.’

The Main Body: In-Text Citations

Even though you have already listed the textbook citation on your reference page, you will also need to use in-text citations for the information you put in your paper. The format for a direct quote includes the author, the year the text was published, and the page number where you found your information:

  • According to Keating (1992), ‘What were once considered the seven greatest wonders of the world may be losing relevance in light of recent geological discoveries’ (p. 675).

Even if you are summarizing or paraphrasing information, you must still cite it! You just don’t need to include quotation marks. For example, you may change the direct quote from above and put it in your own words by writing the following:

  • According to Keating (1992), many geological discoveries in the last century have made some people reconsider what the Seven Wonders of the World should be.

You could also include the page number in a format like this:

  • Many geological discoveries in the last century have made some people reconsider what the Seven Wonders of the World should be (Keating, 1992, p. 675).

Similar to formatting a citation for the reference page, we need to take into consideration how to use in-text citations if the textbook has multiple authors or no author.

No Author is Available

When no author is listed for a textbook, substitute the title for the author by either writing it out in your sentence in title case, capitalizing all major words, or using the first couple of words in your parentheses at the end of your sentence. Be sure to italicize the title either way.

Example 1 (Title in the Sentence): According to The Seven Wonders: The Changing World Around Us (1992), many geological discoveries in the last century have made some people reconsider what the seven wonders of the world should be.

Example 2 (Title in Parentheses): Many geological discoveries in the last century have made some people reconsider what the Seven Wonders of the World should be (The Seven, 1992, p. 675).

Note that when the citation ends the sentence, the punctuation comes after the parentheses.

A Two-Author Team:

Things can get a little tricky depending on just how many authors there are for your textbook, but just remember to plug your information into the basic formula. In-text citations for two authors could follow either of the following formats depending on where you place the information. The first shows how to incorporate the citation in your sentence while the second shows how to place it at the end of the sentence before the period.

  • Conclusions made by Keating and Harlington (1992) suggest that…
  • (Keating ; Harlington, 1992)

Groups of Three and Up:

If you have between three and five authors, the first time that you introduce this citation into your paper, you need to cite every named author in one of these two ways:

  • Conclusions made by Keating, Harlington, McKinnis, and Wagner (1992) suggest that…
  • (Keating, Harlington, McKinnis, ; Wagner, 1992)

However, after this first mention of all the authors, you can use a short abbreviation in the rest of your paper each time you cite your source, which looks like this:

  • Conclusions made by Keating et al. (1992) suggest that…
  • (Keating et al., 1992)

If you are lucky enough to have a textbook with six or more authors, you can simply cut right to the ‘et al.’ example and skip listing them all out.

Lesson Summary

APA format requires you to gather information from the front of your textbook such as the authors, editors, and date of publication so that you can create a citation that follows a specific formula. Each citation you create will go on your reference page at the end of your paper. There are many rules and variations for how to properly format a citation. By identifying the information you have such as no author and two editors, you can choose the correct format that applies. You must also cite your textbook and other resources when you are writing the main body of the paper by using in-text citations. These follow a specific format as well. Using the samples above, you should be well on your way to properly citing a textbook!