Skip to Main Content

APSC 176 - Engineering Communication


Chat loading...

APA Citation Style

Why do you cite?

Citations and references indicate when words or ideas are not your own. Proper citation and reference:

  • Gives credit and respect to the original author(s)
  • Allows readers to locate the original source(s)
  • Strengthens the credibility of your report

If you don’t cite your sources, it’s plagiarism.

When/what do you need to cite?

Whenever you use someone else's words or ideas, you must indicate that the information is not your own by properly citing and giving credit to your sources. This applies to any type of resource, written or otherwise (including books, articles, websites, images, personal communications, etc.).

You don’t need to cite your own experiences, observations, results, ideas, or conclusions.

You also don’t need to cite information that is considered common knowledge. Common knowledge is information that is generally known by many people. If you're uncertain if something is common knowledge, ask your instructor or a librarian!

How do you cite?

You can integrate sources into your report by paraphrasing or quoting the material. Paraphrasing is restating an author’s words or ideas in your own words, while quoting is using the author’s exact words.

In general, there are two parts to a citation:

  1. In-text citation
    • Appears in the body of your paper, indicating the information you are using is from another source
  2. Full reference
    • Appears at the end of your paper, generally in the references or bibliography section
    • This is where the reader will find the full publication details for all material used to write your report

But how do you know how to format your in-text citations and references, and what publication details to include?

Citation Styles

There are numerous citation styles, which ensure your in-text citations and references are written consistently. Your employer or instructor will usually specify which citation style they would like you to use.

Citation styles specify:

  • Which publication details to include (author name(s), publication year, publication title, etc.)
  • Order of appearance for publication details
  • Formatting conventions (when to italicize, punctuation, etc.)
  • Order of appearance of entries in your bibliography or reference list

Some common citation styles for engineering are APA (American Psychological Association) and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). For example, let’s look at how the same work can be cited in each citation style:

  • APA
    • In-text citation (paraphrased)
      • The operation of electric power networks are essential in post-disaster mitigation, but are composed of fragile and vulnerable equipment not designed for horizontal movements (Vanzi, 2000).
    • Full reference
      • Vanzi, I. (2000). Structural upgrading strategy for electric power networks under seismic action. Earthquake Engineering and Structural Dynamics, 29(7), 1053-1073.
  • IEEE
    • In-text citation (paraphrased)
      • The operation of electric power networks are essential in post-disaster mitigation, but are composed of fragile and vulnerable equipment not designed for horizontal movements [1].
    • Full reference
      • [1] I. Vanzi, “Structural upgrading strategy for electric power networks under seismic action,” Earthquake Eng. Struct. Dyn., vol. 29, no. 7, pp. 1053-1073, June 2000.

This is a paraphrased passage from an article, cited in APA style. This is the same paraphrased passage, cited in IEEE style. In both citation styles, there is an in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased sentence, and a corresponding complete entry in the references list. The full references contain similar publication details. Format of in-text citations and references are designated by the citation style. Here, we have correctly and clearly given credit to the original author.

You may also want to use another’s image or diagram in your report. Some styles have specific instructions for image citation, but generally you cite as you would any other type of work. Here’s an example in APA style:

  • Caption:
    • Figure 1. Three directions of earthquake action: horizontal axial, horizontal transverse, and longitudinal (Wu, Lu, Huang, Wu, & Qiao, 2015, p. 2)
  • Full reference:
    • Wu, X., Lu, H., Huang, K., Wu, S., & Qiao, W. (2015). Frequency spectrum method-based stress analysis for oil pipelines in earthquake disaster areas. PLoS ONE, 10(2), 1-24. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115299

You should have an in-text citation within the figure caption, and a full reference in the references section.

You don’t have to memorize the details of each citation style - there are numerous guides and manuals to consult as needed. There are also other styles you may be instructed to use.

You can find more information about citing and citation styles at How to Cite, from UBC Library.