APA (6th ed.) referencing bite-sized: reference lists made simple

Post-it notes stuck all over a laptop screenAssuming you have been sensibly listing links for all the articles, ebooks and other online information sources you have used as you went, and have grouped everything as best you can by resource type (books, ebooks, journal articles, etc.), you will be well set up to build your reference list.  Here’s a quick guide to painlessly turning your skeleton reference list into a fully formatted one in three easy steps.

1. Check you have just the references you need

Make a copy of your skeleton reference list (in case you make a mistake later on).  Go through your in-text citations and make sure that each of them has a corresponding entry in your skeleton reference list.  You can remove from this copy of your reference list any entries that have no in-text citation, saving you time.  Hopefully, you won’t find citations without references but if you do, you can go and hunt down the original source or a substitute at this stage.

2. Copy and use the examples from Referencing@Portsmouth

Use Referencing@Portsmouth Different types of information source (books, ebooks, journal articles, websites, streamed videos, tweets, etc.) are referenced differently.  You can find the format for each type of resource you have used by looking it up on Referencing@Portsmouth.

From the relevant Referencing@Portsmouth page, copy and paste the example that most closely resembles the source you have used and overtype it.  This saves you having to remember the order of elements, punctuation, use of italics and many other things that make referencing harder than need be.  Having all the references of a particular format together also makes it easy to go through them efficiently as a batch using the same Referencing@Portsmouth page.

When copying titles, make sure to capitalise only the first word of titles, subtitles, proper nouns and acronyms, regardless of how they appeared in the original source.  In Microsoft Word, you can use the Aa button on the ribbon to change highlighted text to “Sentence case”, which can save you time.  A similar add-on for Google Docs is available.

3. Convert doi codes to doi links

If you have any doi codes which are not yet links, add https://doi.org/ to the start of them (no spaces, this replaces doi: if there is one).  This should turn the doi code into a working link that takes you to the article.  You should use doi codes in preference to other forms of permalink in APA (6th ed.) references where you have a choice.

4. Sort your reference list

The last job is to sort your reference list into alphabetical order.  While you can install plug-ins for Google Docs to do this, it is easier to just use Microsoft Word.  (You can download Office 365 (including Word) for free via Apps Anywhere if you are using the VPN.)

There are two stages to this:

4a. Make sure there are no ‘hard returns’ in the middle of any of your references

Click on the show/hide button () on the ribbon. Each reference should have a (paragraph mark) at the end of the reference, separating it from the next.  Make sure the symbol does not appear in the middle of any of your references, including before the web link.

4b. Use the sort function in MS Word to alphabetise your reference list

Highlight the entire reference list then click on the “Sort A-Z” button on the ribbon.  A dialogue option box will appear.  Click OK to select the default options (alphabetical, ascending), which will sort your references into alphabetical order.

If you were working in Google Docs, you can now copy and paste this alphabetical list back into your document.  You might have to highlight the entire reference list again and adjust the spacing between paragraphs under the Format | Paragraph menu option to make it easy to read again after Word has finished with it.

Final tips

That’s it, folks.  A completely formatted and technically correct reference list in four relatively easy steps.

You might run into difficulties at step 2 if you cannot identify what sort of information source you have used.  If in doubt, please chat to us online and share the link with us.  We can quickly identify what it is and send you the Referencing@Portsmouth page link you need.

If you are right up against the deadline with mere moments to spare, it is safe to assume that anything you find online that does not have its own Referencing@Portsmouth page can safely be referenced as if it were a web page.

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