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Psychology: Referencing and Writing

APA (American Psychological Association)

APA is the main citation/referencing style used in Psychology.

Check out the library referencing webpage for APA, or search the APA style website and/or APA style blog.

NB: The latest version (7th edition) of the APA style manual was released in 2020. Please make sure you are clear, consistent and concise using this style.

Guides to academic writing

Research methods books

Thesis writing

Take a look at our Thesis Information: Writing guide for links to resources about writing, structuring, and formatting your thesis.

If you would like an interactive tutorial to help get you started on your thesis journey, you might find these online modules from ProQuest useful.

Options for Managing References

Tips on choosing and using citation styles (also called referencing styles) plus using systems such as EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley.

Citation basics

A 'citation' or 'reference' is a standardised way of acknowledging materials used in your research.

In Psychology, we mainly use the APA style. For more information on that, check out the top box on this page.

For information and resources about the most popular styles, check out our Citation Styles Guide.

A citation (AKA a 'reference') is not only the way we identify a source of information we have used, it is also a way that we can locate a source of information.

While you are studying, you will need to find and use citations, and create your own references for the information you use.

Parts of a citation include:

  • Author(s) or editor(s)
  • Title (of book, book chapter, article, webpage, documentary, etc.)
  • Date of publication
  • Publisher and place of publication (books)
  • Page numbers
  • Journal title, journal volume and issue (articles)
  • And, other elements that are specific to the type of source, e.g. edition of a book, or DOI or URL for online content.

Citations are formatted differently, depending on the referencing style used. Here is a break-down of an example of a journal article citation in the APA (American Psychological Association) style:

Jerrentrup, A., Mueller, T., Glowalla, U., Herder, M., Henrichs, N., Neubauer, A., & Schaefer, J. R. (2018). Teaching medicine with the help of “Dr. House”. PLoS ONE, 13(3), Article e0193972.

  • Jerrentrup, A., Mueller, T., Glowalla, U., Herder, M., Henrichs, N., Neubauer, A., & Schaefer, J. R.

The authors are listed first, last name followed by initials.

  • (2018).

The year of publication is written after the authors, in brackets.

  • Teaching medicine with the help of “Dr. House”.

The title is next, e.g.; article title, book or book chapter, webpage, documentary, etc.

  • PLoS ONE,

Next is the name of the wider source if there is one (in APA it is written in italics), e.g.; this is where you would write the title of a journal that an article is found in, or the title of a book that a book chapter is in.

  • 13(3),

For journal articles, this is where you write the journal number (in italics), followed by the journal issue (in brackets). 

  • Article e0193972.

Next, the page numbers, or the article number is written; like it is in this example.

Finally, the DOI or an URL is included, because this is how we find the resource online.

NB: Full stops, commas, brackets and italics are all part of the referencing style, and will differ according to the particular style you are using or reading.

Citations will also differ depending on the source of your information, e.g. a webpage won’t have page numbers, or if you are citing a physical book, you would write the publisher last, instead of a DOI or URL.

Citing AKA 'referencing' the ideas and research you use in your assignments is a critical part of all academic work because it:

  • Acknowledges how others' work has influenced you thinking.
  • Provides evidence for your arguments, and
  • Assists other researchers to locate the sources you use.

Citing avoids plagiarism by giving you a way to correctly attribute credit to other authors or researchers.

The University of Otago takes plagiarism seriously. These resources will help you understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.

Information about academic misconduct, including definitions.

Definition of plagiarism and information on how to avoid it.

Identifies a range of support services and resources.

It is a good idea to have a basic understanding of what copyright is and how it pertains to what we do at University.

For information, explore the following linked websites:

Developing writing skills / support with writing

A free, online course in scientific writing that teaches how to write effectively in the sciences. It is structured in three lessons, with each containing principles, examples, and a worksheet for you to complete.

A concise section-by-section guide to writing a scientific paper, including examples and some links to further resources.

This is a more general resource on academic writing from Purdue University. It has useful sections on; conciseness, paragraphs, using logic, and varying your sentences.

Multimedia research support

  • Watch this 2 minute video ‘How to Write a Literature Review’ from University of California San Diego Psychology department. You might also want to check out some of their other short research support videos on their YouTube channel.
  • Scribbr’s YouTube channel has playlists of short videos providing research support, including using APA, writing a literature review, and avoiding plagiarism.
  • The University of Melbourne has created multiple videos providing research support and advice. Check out their channel to find short videos on academic writing and referencing.

Guides to writing for Psychology

Reference management tools

Reference management software helps you store, organise, and correctly cite all your research information with ease.  They include EndNote, Mendeley, & Zotero, all of which you can currently access for free.

Check out the Managing Your References guide for  support with these different tools. There are also some good help resources for EndNote on this library guide web page.

The University endorses and supports the use of EndNote software, and provides it to you for free. For EndNote troubleshooting, contact your Subject Librarian or Student IT.

IT resources for research

The University provides us with different software to help with research, mostly for free. Check out their website for more details.

And click here to find out about IT training courses.