How to Make an APA Format of an Essay in Google Docs

A fountain pen

When writing an essay or article and using other people's ideas, you have to give them credit. You can pass on other people's opinions in your own words or make a direct quote, but you still have to acknowledge the resource from which you took the material - by citing it. If you don't, it would be considered plagiarism and against ethics. Citation style is a set of rules for citing sources. It differs mainly in the citation information's arrangement, order, and layout. A variety of citation styles means different priorities, such as concision, dates, authors, publications, and readability.

A fountain pen

The most commonly used citation styles are APA, MLA, Chicago, and CSE.

  • The APA citation style was developed by the American Psychological Association for manuscripts submitted for publication in journals. It also cites works in social science history, business, nursing, etc.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) citation style is commonly used in literature, philosophy, religion, languages, and the arts.
  • The Chicago citation style is mostly used for citing history and for the humanities and social sciences.
  • The CSE (Council of Science Editors) citation style is used mainly in the natural sciences.

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APA style was created in 1929 to develop straightforward rules for scientific publications. Although it is not the only one possible, APA style formatting is widespread worldwide.

The scope covers the social sciences, including law, history, and sociology. The realities of practice show that APA rules are pretty clear and convenient, but they need to be clarified, which is what we will do in this article.

Citation Rules

Even if you present someone else's ideas or information in your own words (e.g., paraphrasing), you still need to cite where the original was taken from. This is all part of the academic writing process. APA's referencing rules are based on the author-year system, i.e., the author's last name and the date the source was created are listed inside the text.

It makes no difference where the quotation is taken from, from a paper source or the Internet - it is necessary to make a reference. When citing the text of a paper, the last name of the author/authors (or editor/editors) and the year of publication must be indicated.

A reference should be given for each paragraph or sentence that was not written by the author of the work or in the formulation of which someone else's thoughts and ideas were used.

For a paragraph, the reference is added after the period; for a sentence, at the end of the sentence, before the period, or in the middle, depending on the wording of the text. In the case of a direct quote, it is necessary to indicate the page number from which the quote was taken.

How to Add Bibliographical References to a Document

Adding footnotes and bibliographies to documents can be time-consuming. However, you can quickly add them directly from Google Docs using your preferred reference style (the ones described above).

Google Docs provides a convenient way to include a citation list. You can use this list to cite sources directly in your document or simply include them in the bibliography. With Google Docs, you can automatically create a bibliography from the sources used to write your paper.

Every time you add a new citation to your document, Google Docs adds that source in the desired format - APA, in our case. In other words:

- you can add source citations and in-text citations to essays, articles, research, and other papers;

- you can use the automatic insertion of a bibliography based on the sources cited in the document.

How to start citing in Google Docs

  • In Docs, open a document.
  • Click on Tools and then on Citation.
  • Select the formatting style - APA (it is usually default).

How to add a source

  • Select Tools and then Citations from the menu.
  • The Citations sidebar opens, and you can add sources. You can choose the citation format at the top if you plan to cite them directly in the document. You can select this later when you insert the bibliography.
  • Click on Add citation source.
  • Select the Source type from the drop-down list. You can choose from options such as a book, journal article, newspaper article, etc.
  • Next, select Accessed by. Depending on your source type, you will see options such as online database, print, and website.
  • Fill in the source information, which also varies depending on the source type.
  • Click Add citation source when you are finished.

How to add your sources to the text

  • You will see the sources listed in the Citations sidebar.
  • To cite a source in a document, place the cursor in the desired location and, click Cite, choose from the sources in your list.


  • To edit or delete a source, press More options (three dots) and select Edit or Delete.

Organizing your list of references

When you write an essay, research paper, or similar type, you will probably need to include a bibliography. The list of references is directly the list of used sources.

According to APA guidelines, the list of references is always located at the end of the academic work on a separate page.

This informative piece allows you or the reader to get the necessary primary source at any time, find it, and use the data. Each source mentioned in the text is reflected in the bibliographic list and vice versa.

Cited material is provided:

  • In alphabetical order by the author's surname or, in his absence, the editor or the compiler.
  • By the first letter of the title if the material has no author.
  • In chronological order by year of publication, if scientific work is given several sources of authorship of the same person.
  • If a web page was used, then it is also necessary to indicate the author and the year (date of update or viewing).
  • The title and year should be cited if no author is listed in the source.
  • The source should be well-researched, and the author can be the organization or owner of the web page.

How to Add a Bibliography to Google Docs

With the built-in Google Docs tools, you don't have to worry about figuring out the right formatting or style for your bibliography. Fortunately, it provides a convenient way to include the sources. You can add your sources and insert your bibliography in the formatting style you want.

  • Once you're ready to insert the bibliography into your work, place your cursor where you want the bibliography.
  • Open the Citations sidebar again under Tools.
  • If you didn't choose a citation format when you created your list of sources, or if you want to use a different format for the bibliography, select it from the drop-down list at the top. You can choose MLA, APA, or Chicago-style formatting.
  • Click Insert bibliography at the bottom of the sidebar.

Edit or update your bibliography

A bibliographic description, regardless of its style, is rarely unique. This is due to the impossibility of distorting the original information. Nevertheless, copying an index of sources from other works is forbidden. Individual selection of material is evaluated. Here is something to also keep in mind:

  • Once the bibliography is in your document, you can change it just like any other text. Change the words, adjust the font style, or make changes as needed.
  • You'll have to insert a new bibliography if you need to change the format style. Select the format at the top of the Citations sidebar and click Insert bibliography to include the bibliography in the desired style. If you add additional sources to your document and want to update the bibliography to include them, you will need to insert a new bibliography. There is currently no easy "Update" button in Google Docs.

Hopefully, you have got the general idea of style, and now you will not be freaked out when you see a requirement for APA style formatting in an essay or research paper.