APA referencing: the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’.


If your first thought is “huh?” when you’re asked to cite or reference your sources in an assessment, don’t worry – you’re not alone!

Learning how to reference is a learning curve for almost everyone beginning further study. Luckily, there are plenty of great resources to help you.

Today we’ll answer the most common questions about referencing: “What is it?”, “Why do we do it?”, “Will I use this skill after study?”, and “How do I do it?”

What is referencing?

Referencing is used to show your reader where ideas from your research and sources have been used in your writing.

There are several different referencing styles, each with its own rules. At eCampus NZ, we use a style called ‘APA’, so that’s what we’ll focus on today.

Why do we reference?

Research is an important aspect of further study. Why? Because, as learners, it’s your job to understand and build on the knowledge and ideas of others.

As a learner, you’re on the journey towards becoming an expert in your chosen area of study. Academic experts before you have spent countless hours researching, thinking, discovering, and writing before going through a rigorous process to have their research and ideas added to books, journals, and other academic sources. When you read their work and feel that their ideas will add value to one of your assessments, it’s only right to acknowledge them and the work they have done. We use referencing to do this.

Will this skill help me in the world of work?

Yes! In business, it’s not unusual to be asked to research and write a report on a given topic. Anyone reading the report needs to know where the information was sourced and how the author came to the conclusions stated in the
report. How does the writer make sure that their readers can do this? Referencing.

In most jobs, it’s important to have a keen eye for detail. Learning how to reference your work accurately will help you to become detail-oriented and develop editing and formatting skills.

How do I use APA referencing?

The easiest way is to follow a guide.

Check out our APA Referencing Quick Guide to understand the basics, then follow the instructions in our detailed APA referencing Guide – 7th Edition.

Any top tips?


Like almost anything days, there are lots of online tools to help with APA referencing.

You can visit Citation Machine to automatically generate APA style references and in-text citations. Do make sure you use the above guides to understand the principles first, as this will help you catch any errors.

Good luck on your learning journey, and don’t get too intimidated by referencing. Once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s not so hard et al.

Check out our student support site, Tō Tautoko, for more resources designed with online learners in mind!

Important information for new learners

eCampus NZ as a business unit of Open Polytechnic, is now part of Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology.

From 1 January 2023, eCampus NZ will no longer enrol new learners into study plans delivered on the eCampus NZ learning platform.

However, all courses/programmes will still be available for online study through Open Polytechnic - Te Pūkenga.

The eCampus NZ team is here for you. If you are still experiencing ongoing issues related to Cyclone Gabrielle, please contact your advisor or facilitator so we can work with you to get you back on track.