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The Notion of APSA Citation Format: Rules of Application and Features

June 5, 2020

There are various citation styles, which are applied in certain areas. For this reason, students may confuse them and make errors while formatting their academic works. 

APSA Citation Clear Guide: All You Need to Know about this Format

It is very important, though, to adhere to a specific format of citation without mixing it with others; otherwise, it may lead to a considerable markdown of your assignment. 

Today we are going to pay close attention to the American Political Science Association format or APSA. This style is based on the citing rules of the Chicago Style and is widely used for publications by political scientists in the academic journal of the American Political Science Association.

Below we will present the whole schmear regarding APSA citation together with illustrative examples. So, read further, and you will master it before you could say, Jack Robinson.

General Requirements for APSA Formatting

In general, for APSA style of citation you have to use:

  • parentheses when the reference is inside the text – basically after the citation you indicate the surname of the author and the year of publishing inside the parentheses;
  • a reference list at the end of your work with all the sources enumerated in alphabetical sequence and with proper formatting. 

Such a way of citing is also known as a parenthetical system. With the help of it, your readers can trace the sources you have used when composing your work. And together with that, they are guided to the full reference at the end of your paper in case they want to find the original source for their own purposes. 

If you submit a manuscript, it should consist of:

  • front page;
  • actual text; 
  • appendix if so; 
  • footnotes or endnotes; 
  • reference list.

Tables or charts with titles and enumeration must be on a separate page. The same refers to the figures. 

Please, note that depending on the source you quote, the format of citation may differ. Rules for citing a book are not the same as for citing a web journal, etc. 

APSA Rules for In-Text Citations

In-text APSA citations usually consist of 2 components: 

  • author’s surname 
  • the publication year 

Sometimes the 3rd component is added too – i.e., the page number, which makes it easier for the readers to find the information in the original document if required. 

What is important to mention is that the comma between the author’s surname and the year of publication is not needed. 

Such citation is provided in the brackets after the quoted information, and it corresponds to the full reference in the bibliography, which is easy to find by the surname of the author. In cases when the author’s last name is mentioned in the text, you have to provide only the year and the page in the brackets. 

Citation Examples: 

  • (Muller 1995) 
  • (Imai 2009, 156)
  • Muller (1995) analyzed the election figures…

If you are citing a work, which was written by two or three authors, make sure to include the surnames of them all by using commas and then the year of publication:

Citation Example: 

  • (Campbell and Thistlewaite 1960)
  • (Burns, Davis and Turner 1988)

For works, which have four authors or more, specify the surname of only the first author, then indicate “et al.” and the year of publication.

Citation Example: (Lawrence et al., 1991)

APSA Rules for Citation in the Reference List

Now when it is clear how to organize in-text citations, let us review some recommendations for arranging your bibliography section:

  1. According to APSA Citation rules, all the sources you’ve used for writing your own work must be arranged in alphabetical order. 
  2. All the lines must have left alignment with a single line space. The first line is never indented. Indent the following lines inside a single reference. In the case of two separate references, there should be a blank line between them. 
  3. Title of books and serial publications, like journals, must be written in italics, while titles of articles and chapters must be indicated with inverted commas without italic characters.
  4. All the words in your reference list must start with capital letters, except for articles, conjunctions, or prepositions.  
  5. Surname and name of the author should be separated by a comma.

When citing books:

  • The first thing you should indicate in the full reference is the surname and name of the author, whose work contributed to your text. If the author is unknown, there should be the editor’s name. If you don’t know who the editor is, specify the title of the work then. 
  • After that comes the year of publishing of the work you cite. 
  • Then you indicate the title of the book.
  • Place of publication is the next thing you must specify.
  • The name of the Publisher comes last. 

Citation Example: 

Richards, Steve. 2019. The Prime Ministers: Reflections on Leadership from Wilson to May. Ormond, UK: Atlantic Books.

When citing electronic sources:

The beginning is similar to the rule of citing books, i.e., the surname and name of the author, year of publication of the electronic journal. And after that we indicate: 

  • the title of the article in inverted commas, which is followed by the title of the journal in italics; 
  • issue number;
  • number of the page cited;
  • web address or URL of the journal;
  • date of access.

Citation Example:

Hertzberg, Benjamin, R., 2015. “Chains of Persuasion in the Deliberative System: Addressing the Pragmatics of Religious Inclusion.” The University of Chicago Press, vol. 77, pp. 889-900. (accessed November 7, 2019.)

However, if you haven’t got any of these information details, try to provide as much data as you possess. 

When citing legal documents:

For Statutes use:

  • Statute name;
  • Year of Statute creation;
  • Statute source in italics;
  • Number of the volume;
  • A number of the section.

Citation Example:

The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. 1776. Statutes at Large. Vol.1, sec. 1. 

For Hearings: 

  • At the beginning indicate “U.S. Congress”;
  • Specify the Congress chamber;
  • Committee name;
  • Year when the hearing took place;
  • Hearing name;
  • Number of the Congress Meeting;
  • Number of the Congress session;
  • Date of the hearing.

Citation Example:

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on foreign relations. 2019. The Humanitarian Impact of Eight Years of War in Syria. 116th Cong., 1st sess., 1 May.

For court cases use:

  • Name of the court case;
  • Year of the court case;
  • Volume Source Page when the court case starts

Citation Examples 

Edison v. Hopkins, 1978. 315 U.S. 398. 

Exceptional cases vs APSA Citation

Amon generally understood cases with common rules of citation; several unusual situations may occur. And here you need to know how to act. We are going to help you out with this too:

1. Problem:

Two or more authors, whom you quote, have the same surname. 


Add initial letters of their names to differentiate them:

  1. Howard, 2007; P. Howard 1983)

2. Problem:

You have to cite two works of one author. 


Put the semicolon sign between the publication years of the works:

(Acosta 2007; 2009)

3. Problem:

One and the same author wrote two works, which you cite, in the same year.   


Indicate a small letter after the publication year to distinguish the works, and duplicate them in the References according to the rules described above in our article:

(Bearce 2003a)

4. Problem:

There is a direct quotation in your sentence.   


Indicate the number of the page in your citation either at the end of the sentence or after the direct quotation: 

  1. In his campaign speech for general elections, Paddy Ashdown admitted that “Our education system has been undervalued and underfunded for too long now” (1997, 7).
  2. Speaking about the protection of the society from gun violence, the politicians claim: “We agonize over health because we cherish life” (Swaim 2016, 12), and together with that, “terrorists must be stopped from arming themselves” (Nussbaum 2016, 13).

5. Problem:

There are two or more resources for the information you cite.


Put the citations into the same brackets and order the surnames alphabetically, dividing them by semicolons:

(Niagle 2014; Kovar 1974; Andrews 1985)

APSA Citation: Tips and Recommendations

  • If you cite electronic journals or other publications, don’t forget to provide its URL;
  • If you cite a book or publication with four authors or more, indicate “et al.’ after the surname of the first author instead of enumerating all of them”;
  • All the references, which are cited in the text must be provided in the alphabetic order;
  • Pay attention that private communications, like letters or emails, phone calls or interviews, etc. can be cited only in text or in notes. 

In addition to the rules and peculiarities of citation, which we’ve described here, you can also make use of specially developed automatic citation generators to save your time in case you are falling behind schedule.

Moreover, you can contact our writing service and request the assistance of our qualified experts. No matter how much information you’ve examined mastering the rules of citation, it is always good when a professional can revise your work and offer some improvements. 

Our writers are aware of all the peculiarities of APSA citation formatting, as well as other citation styles. Whatever assignment you have, our talented authors with lots of years of academic experience can help you with both editing and writing from scratch.    

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