The difference between references and citations

When you use APA referencing you need to create a reference list and use in-text citations to show what resources you have used in your assignment.


A reference list is a list of the resources that you used when writing your assignment or doing your research. These resources may include:

  • books, including electronic books, journals (online an paper based)
  • online sources including websites, blogs and forums
  • speeches
  • conference papers, proceedings and theses
  • other sources of information such as film, television, video, etc. 

Reference lists come at the end of an assignment, and are arranged in alphabetical order, usually by author or editor. If there isn’t an author or an editor, the title is used.

When marking, lecturers/tutors will look at the content and format of a reference lists.


Citations or in-text citations are similar to references, but occur in the body of the text with direct quotes and paraphrases to identify the author/publication for the material you have used. Citations are used:

  • To show which reference supports a particular statement.
  • For direct quotes – when you repeat a passage from a text (or speech, video, etc.) in your assignment without changing any words.
  • When you paraphrase – this is when you use your own words to restate the meaning of a text in your assignment.

One of the most important things to remember is that every citation should also have a corresponding entry in your reference list.

Short guide to APA referencing (PDF 63KB, opens in new window) - see Citations (in-text references) and paraphrasing

Remembering your sources

Tip: When you are doing your assignment research, keep a list of all of your sources. This will help when it comes to writing your references and including citations. Check our information on how to avoid plagiarism for tips on how to do this.

More help with APA referencing

APA interactive  - Massey University (opens in new window)

Punctuating around quotation marks – APA Style blog (opens in new window)


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