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Grand Canyon University GCU Style Guide for Lower-Division Students


Lower-division students of Grand Canyon University (GCU) are required to use a writing style based upon a simplified version of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) for preparing written assignments, except where otherwise noted. In the interest of providing resource material for student use, this guide to GCU style and format has been developed and made available. A template has been provided in the Student Success Center's Writing Center for student download and use.

PLEASE NOTE: The curriculum materials (Syllabus, Lectures, Resources, etc.) created and provided by GCU in the online or Web-enhanced modalities are prepared using an editorial format that relies on APA as a framework but that modifies some format and formatting criteria to better suit the nature and purpose of instructional materials. Students and faculty are advised that GCU course materials do not adhere strictly to APA format and should not be used as examples of correct format when preparing written work for class.

GCU Style


Academic writing, which is independent thought supported by reliable and relevant research, depends on the ability to integrate and cite the sources that have been consulted. Use GCU style for all references, in-text citations, formatting, etc. If this GCU Style Guide does not provide an example of a reference note for a specific type of source, refer to the APA style. The APA style guide can be located in the Student Success Center under the Writing Center. Helpful sites and resources can also be found at the GCU Library Citing Sources Research Guide at

Use one space after punctuation marks at the end of a sentence. Write in third-person point of view unless otherwise noted. Use first- and second-person sparingly, if ever. This means, avoid using I, we, and you; instead, use he, she, and they. Do not use contractions (e.g., it's, don't, should've).

The Writing Process

Students should become familiar with “The Writing Process” tutorial, located in the Student Success Center. This multimedia resource walks students through the process of writing by explaining and demonstrating the organization, drafting, editing, revision, and finalization of written papers. It also provides valuable information on the research process, locating and citing sources, and how to paraphrase and use quotations. This is an essential tool students can use to improve their writing and should be used in conjunction with the GCU Style Guide.

Paper Organization and Presentation

The standard organization of a GCU style paper includes the paper heading, the body, and references. However, students are required to follow any specific directions given in the syllabus or assignment rubrics that may differ from this standard. Students can access a template for GCU Style paper format in the Student Success Center under the Writing Center. Students can write over the template instructions and be certain the paper is in the proper, GCU style format.

Paper Heading

The paper heading includes four lines in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. The student's name, the course number, the date of submission, and the instructor's name each take up their own line. The whole paper, including the heading, body, and references should be double-spaced.

An example paper heading would look like:

Figure 1 - Example of paper heading (document page viewpoint)


The body will contain all of the author's main points as well as detailed and documented support for those ideas.

The title is centered on the line after the paper heading, in initial caps. Refer to the GCU Style Guide Template for an example.

Due to the nature of most student essays, there is not usually a need for section headings and subheadings (Introduction, Methods, Conclusion, etc.). If guidelines are required or helpful, ensure there is a clear break in the flow of text and that the new heading/subheading is easy to spot.


The References list provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source cited in the body of the essay. The reference list should be on a new page, separate from and following the body of the essay. Label this page References (with no quotation marks, underlining, etc.), centered at the top of the page. The References page should be double-spaced just like the rest of your essay.

References on the References page are presented consistent with the following:

· All lines after the first line of each entry in the reference list should be indented a half inch (0.5") from the left margin. This is called hanging indentation.

· Authors' names are inverted (last name first); give the last name and initials for all authors of a particular work.

· Reference list entries should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each work.

· See the Reference list section and examples in this document for details on specific conventions.

Preparing References and Citations for Sources Used in Papers

Citations are used to reference material from another source. Using citations to give credit to others whose ideas or words you have used is an essential requirement to avoid issues of plagiarism. Just as you would never steal someone else's car, you should not steal their words either. To avoid potential problems, always cite your sources.

Common knowledge does not need to be cited. However, determining if a fact is common knowledge can be difficult, so when in doubt, cite the material. Not properly citing a resource is plagiarism; please refer to GCU's policy on Plagiarism in the University Policy Handbook.

In-Text Citations

When to Cite

All quotations, paraphrases, and summaries must be documented with an in-text-citation and reference note. In general, include an in-text citation immediately preceding or following the quote, paraphrase, or summary used. GCU style allows the writer to use one in-text citation at the end of a paragraph when only one source is used in that paragraph, even when multiple sentences have been paraphrased from the same source.

How to In-Text Cite
Paraphrasing and Direct Quotes

When paraphrasing a source (writing in your own words) the in-text citations should include the author(s) last name and the publication date in parentheses.

For a direct quotations (using three or more words in a row that are the same as the source), citations should include author(s), date, and page number(s) in parentheses.

If there is no author, then the first few words of the title, enclosed in quotation marks, are used in the author's place, followed by the date. If there is no date, the abbreviation "n.d." is used.

If a resource has no page number (as is often the case in electronic resources like websites) and a direct quote is used in text, indicate the paragraph number where the quote is located preceded by the abbreviation "para."


· For paraphrasing: There are many concerns over the impact of the No Child Left behind act on public education (Ornstein & Levine, 2008).

· For direct quotes: "Ethics examines moral values and the standards of ethical behavior" (Ornstein & Levine, 2008, p. 162).

· For no author: ("The Scientific Revolution", 2005)

· For no date: (Jones, n.d.)

· For no page number: ("Seventeen Moments in Soviet History," n.d., para. 2)

Sources With Multiple Authors

For a work by two authors, cite both last names followed by year for every citation. For a work by three to five authors, cite all last names followed by year on first reference, and the first author's last name followed by the abbreviation "et al." and the year for subsequent references (and page numbers for direct quotations). For a work by six or more authors, cite last name of the first author followed by the abbreviation "et al." and the year on the first reference and all subsequent references.


· Two authors: (Walker & Allen, 2004)

· Three or more authors (first reference): (Bradley, Ramirez, Soo, & Walsh, 2006)

· Three or more authors (subsequent references): (Bradley et al., 2006)

· Six or more authors (direct quote): (Wasserstein et al., 2005, pp. 345-347)

Citing Secondary Sources

Often, information will be found in a source that originated in another source. If this information is desired for use in a paper, it is preferable to cite the original source rather than the secondary source, as this is most direct and authoritative method of documentation. Using secondary sources should be avoided whenever possible as it can lead to information being misrepresented or used out of context. However, there are situations where obtaining the original source is not practical or possible, and so the secondary source can be used.

When citing a secondary source, identify the primary source and cite the secondary source preceded by "as cited in." Please note that the reference note that would be included for this citation on the References page would be for the secondary source, but not the primary source because the secondary source was used when writing the paper.

The following example represents a situation where an idea in a book by Wilson was cited/quoted in an article by Anderson, the Anderson article was read (but not Wilson's book), and paraphrased in the paper.


· Citing secondary source: According to Wilson… (as cited in Anderson, 2000).

· Note that the Anderson article would be listed on the References page

Citing the Bible

When referencing the Bible, cite the book, chapter number, and verse number(s) (starting and ending). The first time the Bible is cited in the paper, also include the version used. This system of citation for the Bible is sufficient and requires no reference note for the Bible on the References page.


· Citing the Bible, first reference: Use book, chapter, verse, and version (Luke 2:16-20 King James Version).

· Citing the Bible, subsequent references: Use only book, chapter, and verse (Luke 2:16-20).

Citing Personal Communications/Interviews/e-Mails/Letters

Like the Bible, personal communications are not listed on the References page, but as in-text citations only. The in-text citation should include the name of the interviewee or originator of the communication (first initials and last name), the words "personal communication," and the date the communication occurred.


· (A. E. Jones, personal communication, October 24, 2002)

Citing GCU Course Lecture Notes

When citing a GCU Lecture Note in your paper, use the title of the lecture and the copyright date for the in-text citation.


· Citing a GCU Lecture Note: Citation would appear in text like this ("Lecture 1," 2013). The title in quotation marks is used instead of the author because lectures in GCU courses are not attributed to individual authors; in this case, the title moves into the first position in the in-text citation and is enclosed in quotation marks.

Block Quotations

Direct quotations that contain 40 or more words from a source should be presented in "block" format, uniformly indented rather than within quotation marks, according to the following specifications:

· Start a block quote on a new line.

· Indent the entire quoted text block 0.5 inches from the left margin (in the same position as a new paragraph)

· Do not use quotation marks around the quotation block.

· The parenthetical in-text citation for a block quote is placed outside the final punctuation of the quoted passage.

· Block quotes are double-spaced as are all other elements of the paper.

In general, long quotations requiring block formatting should rarely be used, normally not more than once in an academic paper. Some papers, especially those in which the subject of discussion is the language of a specific text (such as an analysis essay on a work of literature or the rationale of a court's decision), may benefit from using long direct quotes more frequently, but these should always be justified by explanation of the quoted language in the students own words.

The following example shows a variety of in-text citations, including how to present and cite a block quotation.

An example paragraph with a block quotation would look like:

Figure 2 - Example of paragraph with a block quotation (document page viewpoint)

Reference List

When writing, it is important to document all sources with as much identifying information as possible. This includes who wrote it, who published it, and where to find it. Remember to obtain and make note of all of this information during the research process so that creating references for the paper will be easier when it is time to make the references list. Also remember that it is better to include information that is not required than to leave out necessary information.

Reference Note/In-Text Citation Rule

Each source cited in the essay must appear in the References list; likewise, each entry in the References list must be cited in the text of the essay.

Exceptions to this rule include the Bible (and other classical works) and personal communication, which are cited in text (as explained above in the In-Text citation section) but do not require a reference on the references page.

Note About Electronic Resources

For most electronic resources like websites, electronic journal articles, and electronic books, the URL or persistent link is a required part of the reference (though not included in the in-text citation).

Reference Examples


Book by a Single Author


Author, A. A. (Year). Book title: Subtitle after colon. Location, State Abbreviation: Publisher.


Daresh, J. C. (2004). Beginning the assistant principalship: A practical guide for new school administrators. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Book by More Than One Author


Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Book title: Subtitle after colon. Location, State Abbreviation: Publisher.


Black, J. A., & English, F. W. (1986). What they don't tell you in schools of education about school administration. Lancaster, PA: Technomic.

Edited Book


Editor, A. A. (Ed.). (Year). Title of work. Location, State Abbreviation: Publisher.


Feldman, P. R. (Ed.). (1997). British women poets of the romantic era. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University.

Chapter in a Book

Format — Print:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year). Title of chapter or entry. In A. A. Editor & B. B. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (pp. xxx-xxx). Location, State Abbreviation: Publisher.

Example — Print:

Haybron, D. M. (2008). Philosophy and the science of subjective well-being. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 17-43). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Format — Online:

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year). Title of chapter or entry. In A. A. Editor & B. B. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (pp. xxx-xxx). Retrieved from http://www.xxxx

Example — Online:

Haybron, D. M. (2008). Philosophy and the science of subjective well-being. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 17-43). Retrieved from Philosophy and the science.pdf

eBook by a Single Author


Author, A. (Year). Book title. Retrieved from URL


Cosgrove, M. (2006). Foundations of Christian thought. Retrieved from

Specific Edition of a Book


Author, A. A. (Year). Title of work (xx ed.). Location, State Abbreviation: Publisher.


Parker, F., & Riley, K. (2004). Linguistics for non-linguists: A primer with exercises (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Encyclopedia Entry With Author and Editor — Online


Author, A. A. (Year). Entry title. In A. A. Editor (Ed.), Title of encyclopedia (pp. xxx-xxx). Retrieved from http://www.xxxx


Lawrence, B. (1998). Transformation. In M. C. Talor (Ed.), Critical terms for religious studies. Retrieved from

Encyclopedia Entry With No Author or Editor — Online


Entry title. (Year). In Title of encyclopedia (pp. xxx-xxx). Retrieved from http://www.xxxx


Christianity. (2003). In The Macmillan encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Dictionary Entry — Online


Entry title. (Year). In Title of dictionary (pp. xxx-xxx). Retrieved from http://www.xxxx


Lord’s prayer. (2012). In Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. Retrieved from

The Holy Bible

The Bible does not need to be listed on the reference page, but it does need to be cited in-text. (Refer to in-text citation rule.)


Article in a Journal— Print


Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Year). Title of article. Journal Title, Volume(Issue), Page numbers.


Arnold, J. B., & Dodge, H. W. (1994). Room for all. The American School Board Journal, 181(10), 22-26.

Article in a Journal — Online


Author, A. A. (Year). Title of article. Periodical Title, Volume(Issue), Page numbers. Retrieved from URL or GCU Library persistent link


Smith, B. M. (2004). What will you do on summer vacation? Phi Delta Kappan, 85(10), 722. Retrieved from

Dewsbury, G., & Ballard, D. (2014). The managerial costs of nurse call systems. Nursing & Residential Care, 16(9), 512-515. Retrieved from

Article in a Magazine — Print


Author, A. A. (Year, Month). Article title. Magazine Title, Volume(Issue), xxx-xxx.


Mehta, P. B. (1998, June). Exploding myths. New Republic, 290(25), 17-19.

Article in a Magazine — Online


Author, A. A. (Year, Month). Article title. Magazine Title, Volume(Issue). Retrieved from http://www.homepage


Clay, R. (2008, June). Science vs. ideology: Psychologists fight back about the misuse of research. Monitor on Psychology, 39(6). Retrieved from

Article in a Newspaper — Print


Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Article title. Newspaper Title, pp. xx, xx.


Schwartz, J. (1993, September 30). Obesity affects economic, social status. The Washington Post, pp. A1, A4.

Article in Newspaper — Online


Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Article title. Newspaper Title. Retrieved from


Brody, J. E. (2007, December 11). Mental reserves keep brain agile. The New York Times. Retrieved from pagewanted=all&_r=0

Electronic Resources

Stand-Alone Online Document or Web Page, With Author and Date


Author, A. A. (Year). Title of document or page. Retrieved from URL


Landis, B. (1996). Carlisle Indian Industrial School history. Retrieved from

Stand-Alone Online Document or Web Page, No Author


Title of page. (date). Retrieved from URL


TCA Abu Dhabi launches new Global Destination campaign. (2016, November 1). Retrieved from

GCU Class Lecture Note

(Note: No URL is required for electronic resources within a GCU course)


Lecture title. (Year). PREFIX-number: Title of Course. Phoenix, AZ: Grand Canyon University.


Lecture 1. (2013). CWV-101: Christian Worldview. Phoenix, AZ: Grand Canyon University.


Motion Picture


Director, A. A. (Director). (Year). Title of motion picture [Medium]. Country of Origin: Studio.


Ray, N. (Director). (1961). King of kings [Motion picture]. USA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Streaming/Online Video


Username of poster. (Year). Title [Medium]. Retrieved from URL


TEDTalks. (2009). Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation [Video file]. Retrieved from



Band/Artist. (Copyright year). Title of song. On Title of album [Medium of recording: CD, record, cassette, etc.]. Location: Label.


Switchfoot. (2014). When we come alive. On Fading west [CD]. United States: Atlantic Records.



Artist, A. A. (Year). Title of artwork [Medium of artwork: Painting, sculpture, photograph, graphic, etc.]. Retrieved from URL


Richardson, J. (n.d.). Venice, Italy [Photograph]. Retrieved from

© 2016 Grand Canyon University 1 Last updated: November 4, 2016

© 2016 Grand Canyon University 2 Last updated: November 4, 2016