The APA-style – A Summary

When you write an academic text it is very important that you maintain all rules for citations and references. There are several different forms of references and reference lists, amongst others the Harvard style and the Chicago style. The Faculty of Social Sciences recommends the APA-style.


Why the APA-style?

The APA-style is developed by the American Psychological Association (APA). This style is chosen because it is frequently used in social science journals, and most of the other styles which are used strongly resemble the APA-style. In addition the APA has a large and full manual which makes it simple to have consistent rules for citation.

If you are in doubt as to which style you should use in your submission, you should contact your lecturer or seminar tutor to learn which style they recommended. If no style is recommended by a discipline, we prefer that you use the APA-style.

The APA-style is suited to an Anglo-American context, so this document is adjusted somewhat so that it can be used in Norway. This particularly concerns the use of abbreviations.

Regardless of which style you choose, it is important that you are consistent and accurate. The order of name, year and pages, use of, for example, parentheses and brackets, bold and italicized script is not random. Follow the rules for the style you have chosen.


Main rules for citations and references in texts

The aim is that the source you use shall be easily identifiable, both in the text and in the reference list. The reason is so that you make it as easy as possible for others to find the source you have used.

After a citation in the text, there should always be a reference to where you found it. The reference should stand in parentheses and contain, in this order: author’s name, year of publication and any page numbers.

Example: (Grimen, 2005, p.307)

Notice however the following exceptions:

  • When a text is not dated you should write n.d. which stands for “no date” where you normally place the year. Remember that almost all texts have a date, so if you don’t find the date right away, you should look well for it before you make use of (no date).
  • If the authors name is used in the text, write only the year in the parentheses (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2001, p.307). Example: Grimen (2005) asserts that there is much which affects the relationship between researcher and research objects in the social sciences.
  • If both author and year are mentioned in the text, the reference can be omitted. Remember that the page number must be included, unless it also is clearly shown in the text. Example: In 2005 Grimen asserted on page 307 that there is much which affects the relationship between researcher and research objects in the social sciences.


To use these exceptions, it must be clearly stated who is cited in the text and when the text is published. If you are in doubt, use the main rule for references in texts.


Direct citation

With direct citations you should always give the author, year and page number in the text. This should also be given in the reference list.

When you quote directly from sources in your text there are two ways to do this.

  • The first is when you quote text which is less than ca. 40 words. Then you should mark the text which is directly quoted with double quotation marks (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p.170)

            Example: “The relationship between researcher and research object in the social sciences is a many facetted phenomena” (Grimen, 2005, P.307)

  • When you quote directly more than 40 words you should not use quotation marks. You should start the quotation with a new line. The quotation should be written with indents, ca. 1.3cm (or five indents), and you should use double line spacing (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p.171).

The relationship between researcher and research object in the social sciences is a many facetted phenomena. A significant reason for this is that social scientists study people and relations between people. People have an ability to make their own interpretations and explanations of themselves and others. People are, as the philosopher Charles Taylor has expressed it “self-interpretative animals”. (cf Aftenposten, 1.2.1991). Those things one studies in the so called “hard” natural sciences, such as physics and chemistry, have therefore no such ability to interpret and explain others behavior (Grimen, 2005, p.307).


Important! With direct citations the quote should always be exactly the same as the source you quote from. Words and punctuation should never deviate from the source you quote from. If there is a mistake in the punctuation, spelling or grammar in the source you quote from and this could potentially confuse the reader, the word “sic” should be written in italics in brackets right after the mistake in the text you have written, as “[sic]” (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p.172).



Paraphrasing is when you repeat what others or you yourself have written earlier, but do not quote directly. When you paraphrase, the same rules as for references apply as with direct citation. The only difference is that you don’t have to give page numbers, but all the same we encourage you to do it when you can.

Example: There is much which affects the relationship between researcher and research objects in the social sciences. In the natural sciences the research objects cannot interpret and explain their own situation. In the social sciences, where one studies people and relationships between people, the research objects can explain and interpret reality as they understand it (Grimen, 2005, p.307).


Referencing works with more than one author

  • When a work has two authors, both authors shall be mentioned each time the source is used (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p.175).
  • When a work has three to five authors all of the authors shall be mentioned when they first appear in your text. If you use the same reference later in the text, you should use first the author’s surname, followed by “”, and the year. You do not need to write the year if the source is used for the second time in the section.

Example: Wasserstein,Zappulla,Rosen,Gertman, and Rock (1994) found…

[Is used the first time the source appears in the text.]


Wasserstein (1994) found….

[Is used the first time the same reference appears in a section after it is mentioned for the first time]


Wasserstein found…

[Is used the next time the same source appears in the section]

  • When a work has more than six authors the surname of the first author is used, followed after by “”  If this leads to citations from different sources getting the same reference the names of the subsequent authors shall be used, until the references become distinguishable (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p.176)

Example in text:
Kosslyn, Koenig, Barrett, et al. (1996) and Kosslyn, Koening, Gabrieli, et al. (1996)


In subsequent texts the authors names shall be linked together with “and”. With referencing in parenthesis, in tables and in the reference list the authors names shall be linked together with “&” (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, s. 175).


When groups are authors

When it is a group for example, organisations, public institutions or similar which are cited, the name is always written in full the first time it appears as a reference. Sometimes the group name can be shortened the second time it appears as a source reference in your text. This can be done when the abbreviation to the organisation is generally known. When the group is less well known, you should write the name out in full each time it appears as a source. (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 176).


The first time the citation appears:

The Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, in Norwegian: Næringslivets hovedorganisasjon.
(Næringslivets hovedorganisasjon [NHO], 2007, p. 32).

The second time the citation appears you can write: (NHO, 2007, p. 33).


Reference to public reports, studies, hearings and similar shall be referenced in the same way as a group of authors. Examples:

First citations appear as: Norway`s Official Statistics
(Norges offisielle statistikk [NOS], 2006: D376, s. 12)

The subsequent times you use this source you can write:
(NOS, 2006: D376, s. 15)

Authors with the same surname

When you use two or more authors with the same surname in a text, you shall use their initials each time they are cited in the text, even if they have not published in the same year (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 176).

Example: Weber, A (1899) and Weber, M (1927)


Works without authors or when the authors are anonymous

When you cite texts which have no author, you should use the first words in the reference list (the normal title) and the year. Use quotation marks around the title of articles, the name of chapters or a webpage. Use brackets when you refer to books, brochures, reports, journals or similar.

Example: “this course gives you knowledge about society and organisation” The Study Catalogue 2007-2008(2007).

When the text you are referring to is anonymous you should write Anonymous where you normally write the authors name, or refer as you would when the author is known (Publication Manual of The American Psychological Association, 2010, p.177).


References to legislation shall be treated in the same way as references to work without authors, but then the paragraph shall be given instead of page numbers. (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, s. 177).

Example: In accordance with the Law of Public Administration, you have the right to complain (Jf. Forvaltningsloven [FVL] 1/8 2003 nr 86 §§ 28)

For published judgements the following applies:

The first time the reference appears:
According to Isenedommen (Rettstidende [Rt] 1981 s. 745)

In later references the abbreviation Rt can be used.


Personal Communication

Personal communication can be a letter, e-mail, blogs, personal interviews, conversations or similar. When these shall be cited in text you should use the surname of those you are citing, together with the initials and an as accurate date as possible. As it is not a published source which it is possible for others to see, this type of citation should not appear in the reference list. (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 201, p.179).

Example: N.N Nilsen (personal communication, 4.October 2007)


Electronic Sources

You should use doi-number (digital object identifier) on all references in the reference list on published articles. A doi-number is a digital marker which follows the document/object on a permanent basis. The number should fall after page references (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 181).
Example: Endresen, I. M. & Olweus, D. (2005). Participation in power sports and antisocial involvement in pre-adolescent and adolescent boys. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 46, 468-478. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2005.00414.x

If no doi-number is found but the article is lying out on the net, URL shall be given after the page number.        

Example: Pedersen, W. & Wichstrøm, L. (1995). Patterns of delinquency in Norwegian adolescents. British Journal of Criminology, 35, 543-562. Taken from

You should not give the date of when you have taken an internet reference unless the source material will change over time.

Main rules for writing a reference list

The reference list should be placed at the back of your work (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010,p.180). In the reference list you should list all of the sources and references you have used in your text. It should not contain references which are not used in the text. It should also not include sources which are not available for others. (Concise Rules of APA Style, 2005, p. 138).Personal communication and similar should therefore not be included in the reference list, but only cited in the text.

The sequence of a reference list

The reference list should always be in alphabetical order, sorted after the surname of the author of the text who is referred to (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 2010, s. 181). When you have used texts with several authors, you should use the first author’s surname. It is also important that you pay attention to the order of authors, year, and name on the text, serial number, name of town and publishers, font and punctuation. This is an important part of making a correct reference list.

You should write the references in the list in this way.


i.e. books, reports, brochures, monographs, manuals and audio-visual media.

Format: Author, A. A. (year). Title of work. place. Publisher
Example: Grimen, Harald. (2004). Social Scientific Mindsets (3. Ed.). Oslo. The University Press.

Parts of ”non-journal”

i.e. parts of a book.

Format: Author, A. A. & Author, B. B. (year). Title of Chapter. I A. Editor, B. Editor, & C. Editor (ed.), title of book (p. xxx-xxx). place: published.


Morley, D. & Silverstone, R. (1991). Communication and context: ethnographic perspectives on the media audience. I K. B. Jensen & N. W. Jankowski (red.), A handbook of qualitative methodologies for mass communication research (s 149-162). London: Routledge.

Mayer, M. (1994). Post-Fordist City. I A. Amin (red.), Post-Fordism: A Reader (s 316-337). Oxford: Blackwell.

Journals, academic newsletters magazines and similar:

Format: Author, A. A., Author, B. B. & Author, C. C. (year) Title of article. Title of journal, volume nr. xxx-xxx.

Example: Howell, S. (2001). Feltarbeid i vår egen bakgård. Noen refleksjoner rundt nyere trender i norsk antropologi. Norsk antropologisk tidsskrift, 12 (1-2), 16-24.


When you use several works by the same author

  • With several references with one author the references shall be sorted chronologically after year with the most recent publication first. The authors surname shall be written each time it appears in the reference list.


Upenieks, V. (2003).
Upenieks, V. (2005).


  • If an author has contributed in several references, list the reference where the author appears first. Note that this only applies where the actual authors surname stands written first amongst the group of authors.
    Alleyne, R.L. (2001)
    Alleyne, R.L., Evans, A.J. (1999)
  • References with the same 1st. author and where two authors are different shall be listed alphabetically after surname to the 2nd author (if this is different). If the first author which is different is the 3rd author it is this surname you sort alphabetically after.

    Kosslyn, Koening, Barrett, Cave, Tang & Gabrieli (1996)
    Kosslyn, Koening, Gabrieli, Tan, Marsolek & Daly (1996)

More on the APA-style

If you are interested in reading more about the APA-style a tutorial on the style can be found on the official webpage. We refer further to the reference list under, where other literature about the APA-style which has been used in this article is listed.

Reference list

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. (6. ed). (2010). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association


Published Oct. 15, 2010 1:39 PM - Last modified Oct. 16, 2012 11:21 AM