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How to Use APA Citations in Your Nonfiction Book

Bijgewerkt op: 2 dagen geleden

In my work with nonfiction clients, I've discovered one thing most have in common: they don't know how to properly use citations in their books. This makes sense: not everyone is familiar with academic writing and learned referencing (or you did but blocked it out, which I totally get).

So, from my experience, they tend to have one of two ways in which they reference sources:

  • Either they write their book with the knowledge they've gathered over the years, thinking this means they don't need sources (spoiler: you do. The knowledge still came from somewhere.);

  • Or they looked things up for their book, started writing it, and then completely forgot where which source should go (been there).

Below I'll share some tips & tricks for using APA citations in your nonfiction book correctly, and the process that will end up saving you a lot of time. Because nothing is worse than having to go over your entire manuscript and try to find the proper source again (which I can attest to from personal experience).

how to use apa citations in your nonfiction book

Why use references?

First things first: why do you even need references?

For one: it gives your information more substance and credibility. Let's say you're writing a self-help book that teaches meditation as a technique to reduce stress. When you claim that meditation can help reduce stress, you should cite a source (or sources) to back up this claim. Yes, even though most of us have heard about studies that showed this.

Readers may also wish to read more about the subject. When you cite your sources, they can have a look at them and read more deeply about something that interests them.

Finally, in some cases, it's also mandatory to cite, for instance, when you put in a direct or paraphrased quote. It's also the decent thing to do, right? When someone else comes up with an idea and you use it in your book, it's better to reference them than to give off the impression it's an original idea by you.


When use references?

You should put in a reference when you use:

  • A direct quote;

  • Paraphrased material from another source;

  • Facts or claims that have been studied;

  • Someone else's idea.

How to cite sources when writing a book?

Now you know why you should reference sources and when, it's time to look at the practical side of referencing.

First: what makes a good source for facts and claims? A good rule of thumb here is to only use sources that come from an actual expert. This means that most of the time, blogs aren't very reliable sources.

For instance, if you're writing a parenting book and you're looking for a good source for a proven parenting technique, you can cite an article from a renowned parenting expert or a scientific study of the technique. However, you shouldn't cite an article from a mom with a parenting blog who doesn't have the proper qualifications to call themselves a parenting expert.

Oftentimes, blog articles will have sources in them as well. So, it's possible to take the blog article as a starting point and read the sources they cited. Always check these sources (sometimes they're interpreted incorrectly or the wrong numbers are used) and don't just copy whatever conclusion the blogger made.

1. Keep a list of sources when doing research

When you’re doing research, it’s good practice to keep a running list of the sources you found. Add a few sentences about what you found in the source and would like to use for your book. That way, when you start writing, you can easily see what you found and where you found it.


2. Write down your in-text references as you're writing

It’s tempting to write your book first and then go back and put in the references, but, trust me, you’ll forget where you’re supposed to put your sources (unless you mark the areas, but then you might as well just put in the citation straight away). Just add the in-text citation as you write; you need to look up your source and information anyway.

3. Write your reference list at the ending

Once you’re done, you can write your reference list at the end of the book. Some authors like to have a reference list after each chapter, so feel free to go that route if you think it’s more convenient for the reader.

With APA style, the reference list is sorted alphabetically. The indentation is reversed, meaning that the first line is not indented, but the consecutive lines are.

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Use technology to make life easier when citing sources

It’s a good thing technology exists, right? You can use a program to help you store your references and use a plugin for Word to easily add your in-text citations and reference list. Awesome, right?

I really love Mendeley for this. It’s a free program where you can save your citations. It does operate with what you give it, so make sure that you put your citations in correctly.

Some nonfiction reference examples in APA style

Of course, you now wonder how these references actually look. Here are some examples:

A meta-analysis of 11 double-blind randomized controlled trials by Usala et al. (2008), showed that only fluoxetine (a type of SSRI) was significantly different from the placebo group.

Only one study showed that it worked better than electroconvulsive therapy (Prousky, 2010).

Also, in countries that warn about SSRI prescriptions in youth (e.g. the United States and the Netherlands) a decrease in SSRI prescriptions was associated with an increase in the youth suicide rate (Gibbons et al., 2007).

The above examples are all in-text citations. The first one is used in the text itself. As you can see, you don’t need to put parentheses around the names in that case, but you put them around the year after the names.

The second example shows an in-text citation with one author name. The final example shows the use of “et al.,” which is used to show that there are three or more authors.

The reference list would be as follows:

Gibbons, R. D., Brown, H. C., Hur, K., Marcus, S. M., Bhaumik, D. K., Erkens, J. A., Herings, R.

M. C., & Mann, J. J. (2007). Early evidence on the effects of regulators’ suicidality warnings on SSRI prescriptions and suicide in children and adolescents. American journal of psychiatry, 164(9), 1356-1363. Doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2007.07030454.

Prousky, J. E. (2010). Vitamin B3 for depression: case report and review of the literature.

Journal of orthomolecular medicine, 25(3), 137-147.

Usala, T., Clavenna, A., Zuddas, A., & Bonati, M. (2008). Randomised controlled trials of

selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in treating depression in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European neuropsychopharmacology, 18, 62-73. Doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2007.06.001.

As you can see, the references take the form of:

Author A last name, initial., & Author B last name, initial. (year). Title. Journal, volume(issue), page numbers. Doi.

Of course, this is different when you cite a blog article, book, book chapter, or magazine article. For instance, for a book, it would be:

Author A last name, initial., & Author B last name, initial. (year). Title (edition). Publisher.

You can look at this website for more examples of different formats. Always make sure you look at the most recent version of the APA guide (at the time of writing, they use the 7th edition). When you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always google: “APA 7th edition referencing.”

Go forth and cite

I hope this article gave you some idea on how to properly cite the sources within your nonfiction book. Having a good process for referencing will help you save time as well.

If you want your citations checked, put it as an extra in your booking request for a copy edit, and I’ll be happy to help you!


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