APA Basics Checklist: Citations, Reference List, and Style

By the Walden University Writing Center

Writing Center staff created this APA checklist to help students remember the basics of APA citations,

reference lists, and style. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but students should use it as a reminder

of the various APA rules that academic papers follow. If students are not sure what a particular item in

the checklist refers to or entails, they should follow the link for more information. Additionally, the

Writing Center can always help with APA questions at [email protected].


Citations are included in each sentence a source is used

Sources used and cited in the paper are included in the reference list

The abbreviation “et al.” is punctuated appropriately

Parenthetical citations:

Author(s) and publication year are always included

Page or paragraph number is included for all quoted material, using the appropriate

abbreviation: (p. xx) or (para. xx)

Citation is included within the ending punctuation for the sentence

In-text citations

Author(s) is included within the sentence

Publication year is included in parentheses immediately after the author(s)’ name

Publication rule is followed: publication years are included the first time a source is used

in a paragraph; all subsequent uses of that same source does not include the publication

year (Note: Rule starts over with a new paragraph)

Reference List

Title of the list is centered but not bolded

Sources listed in the reference list are used at least once in the paper

Reference entries:

Each entry has an automatically formatted hanging indent

Each entry has the basic information (as available): author(s), publication year,

title, and retrieval information

Each entry has been compared against the common reference entries and

reference entries FAQs on the Writing Center website, checking for:

Punctuation: periods and commas

Formatting: italics is used only when needed

Parentheses and brackets: used only when needed

Appropriate electronic information is included

APA Style

Past tense is used whenever literature or sources are talked about (i.e., Smith discussed)

Serial commas are used for all lists of three or more items (i.e., lions, tigers, and bears)

Hyphens are:

Used to join words that work together to modify another word (i.e., evidenced-based practice)

Used to join “self” compounds (i.e., self-esteem)

Not used with prefixes such as non, semi, pre, post, anti, multi, and inter

Block quotes (of 40 or more words) are formatted as such

Headings follow proper APA style (i.e., level 1 headings are centered and bolded)


10 and above are expressed using numerals

Nine and below are expressed using words

Expressing specific numbers and time use numerals

Expressing approximate time use words

Complex lists of items follow seriation rules (using letters within the list)

Bulleted and numbered lists are used for specific reasons

The third person editorial we is avoided (including us, our, and you)

Capitalization rules are followed (i.e., names of models and theories are not capitalized)


Template is used

Running head is inserted properly

Title page follows the template

Double spacing is used throughout the paper (including the reference list)

Two spaces (and consistently only two spaces) is used between sentences