Citing properly: Differences between AP and APA formats

citing-properly-differences-between-AP-and-APA formats

Citing properly is extremely important in writing essays. It not only adds credibility to your arguments but also helps you avoid the traps of plagiarism. However, what students often do not realize is that the way of citing is equally important. Incorrect citations can lead to a reduction in grades and can even compromise the academic integrity of the work.

The basic rule of thumb is this: If you did not write the information yourself, you should always cite a source. Failure to cite your sources, especially in college-level writing, is plagiarism.

Citing properly: Styles and importance

There are many different writing styles in use today, each with its own set of rules for citation and formatting. Some of the used styles are:

  • AP (Associated Press). Commonly used in journalism and media-related articles.
  • APA (American Psychological Association). Commonly used in the social sciences.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association). Frequently used for humanities and liberal arts.
  • Chicago. Suitable for history and some other fields, offering two styles: notes-bibliography and author-date.
  • Turabian. A simplified version of the Chicago style, often used by students.
  • Harvard. Widely used in the UK and Australia, it employs an author-date system for citations.
  • IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Used in engineering and technology fields.
  • AMA (American Medical Association). Employed in medical papers and journals.
Understanding the nuances of each style is crucial, especially since different academic disciplines and institutions may require different styles. Therefore, always consult your assignment guidelines or ask your instructor to know which style you should use.

Plagiarism and its consequences

Plagiarism is the act of using a written piece, in whole or in part, for your own projects without giving proper credit to the original author. Basically, it is in the same league as stealing material from other authors and claiming the material as your own.

The consequences of plagiarism differ based on the school, the seriousness of the mistake, and sometimes even the teacher. However, they can generally be categorized as follows:

  • Academic penalties. Reduced grades, failure in the assignment, or even failure in the course.
  • Disciplinary actions. Written warnings, academic probation, or even suspension or expulsion in severe cases.
  • Legal consequences. Some cases could lead to legal action based on copyright infringement.
  • Negative effects on your career. Damage to reputation can affect future academic and career opportunities.

The consequences depend on which school you attend. Some schools may adopt a “Three strikes and you’re out” policy, but I find that many professional universities have a zero-tolerance policy toward plagiarism, and don’t be concerned about affecting you negatively at first.

Therefore, it’s critical to understand the severity of plagiarism and to ensure that all academic and professional work is cited and attributed by citing properly. Always consult your institution’s plagiarism policy or guidelines to understand the specific consequences you could face.

How to properly cite sources: APA vs. AP formats

Proper citation is essential in academic and journalistic writing to attribute ideas to their original sources, avoid plagiarism, and enable readers to verify the facts. Different academic disciplines and mediums often require different styles of citation. Here, we will delve into two popular styles: APA and AP.

In academic or professional settings, citations are crucial for avoiding plagiarism and proving that something is believable in your work. A simple link or a basic ‘sources’ section often won’t suffice. Being marked down for improper citation can affect your academic performance or professional reputation.

APA (American Psychological Association) and AP (Associated Press) formats are among the most commonly used citation styles, each serving different reasons and needing particular kinds of information for citations.

  • The APA format is particularly popular in social sciences like psychology, and it requires detailed citations both within the text and in a ‘References’ section at the end of the paper.
  • The AP format is favored in journalistic writing, and it aims for more concise, in-text attributions without the necessity for a detailed reference list.
Despite these differences, both styles have the main aim of showing information and sources clearly and briefly.

Examples of citations in AP and APA formats

These formats differ greatly from each other in the type of information that is required for citations.

Example 1

A proper citing in AP format may be something like this:

  • According to, a website that tracks Government spending, the national debt has grown by 1.9 trillion dollars over the past three years to $18.6 trillion. This is a growth of approximately ten percent.

However, that same citation in APA format would have 2 parts. You would present the information in the article with a numerical identifier as follows:

  • According to, a website that tracks Government spending, the national debt has grown by 1.9 trillion dollars over the past three years to $18.6 trillion.
  • [1] This is a growth of approximately ten percent.

Next, you would create a separate ‘Sources’ section for citing properly, using numerical identifiers to correspond with each cited source, as shown below:


[1] Chantrell, Christopher (2015, Sept. 3rd). “Projected and Recent US Federal Debt Numbers”. Retrieved from

Example 2

In AP format, you attribute the information directly to the source within the text, eliminating the need for a separate sources section. For example, in a news article, you could write:

  • According to Smith, the new policy could impact up to 1,000 people.

In APA format, you would include a ‘Sources’ section at the end of your academic paper. For example, you could write:

  • The new policy could impact up to 1,000 people (Smith, 2021).


Smith, J. (2021). Policy Changes and Their Impacts. Journal of Social Policy, 14(2), 112-120.

Example 3

AP format:

  • Smith, who holds a PhD in Environmental Science from Harvard University and has published multiple studies on climate change, argues that rising sea levels are directly correlated with human activities.

APA format:

  • Rising sea levels are directly correlated with human activities (Smith, 2019).
  • Smith, who holds a PhD in Environmental Science from Harvard, has conducted multiple studies reinforcing this claim.


Smith, J. (2019). The Impact of Human Activities on Rising Sea Levels. Journal of Environmental Science, 29(4), 315-330.

Citing properly is crucial in both academic and journalistic writing, with APA and AP formats serving different needs. While APA requires a detailed ‘Sources’ section, AP incorporates citations directly into the text. Understanding these differences is essential for maintaining the trustworthiness and honesty of your work.


We hope that you, as a student, now understand the importance of citing properly your sources. Learn it, and put it into practice. By doing so, you increase your chances to pass and maintain a strong academic record.

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