How To Easily Add Citations in Google Docs (MLA, APA, and Chicago)

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How to add citations in a Google Doc – TechRepublic

Oct 23, 2020 · How to add citations in a Google Doc . Students and teachers may be glad that Google Docs now includes a citation tool, but professional researchers might seek more robust citation management options.

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Title pages in APA Format

The title page, or APA format cover page, is the first page of a paper or essay. Some teachers and professors do not require a title page, but some do. If you’re not sure if you should include one or not, ask your teacher. Some appreciate the page, which clearly displays the writer’s name and the title of the paper.

The APA format title page for student papers includes six main components:

  • the title of the APA format paper
  • names of all authors
  • institutional affiliation
  • course number and title
  • instructor’s name
  • due date

Title pages for professional papers also require a running head; student papers do not.

Some instructors and professional publications also ask for an author’s note. If you’re required or would like to include an author’s note, place it below the institutional affiliation. Examples of information included in an author’s note include an ORCID iD number, a disclosure, and an acknowledgement.

Here are key guidelines to developing your title page:

  • The title of the paper should capture the main idea of the essay, but should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. For example, instead of using the title “A Look at Amphibians From the Past,” title the paper “Amphibians From the Past.” Delete the unnecessary fluff!
  • Center the title on the page and place it about 3-4 lines from the top.
  • The title should be bolded, in title case, and the same font size as your other page text. Do not underline or italicize the title. Other text on the page should be plain (not bolded, underlined, or italicized). 
  • All text on the title page should be double-spaced. The APA format examples paper below displays proper spacing, so go take a look!
  • Do not include any titles in the author’s name such as Dr. or Ms. In contrast, for your instructor’s name, use the form they prefer (e.g., Sagar Parekh, PhD; Dr. Minako Asato; Professor Nathan Ian Brown; etc.).
  • The institutional affiliation is the school the author attends or the location where the author conducted the research.

In a hurry? Try the EasyBib title page maker to easily create a title page for free.

Sample of an APA format title page for a student paper:

Sample of title page for a professional paper:

Sample of title page for a professional paper:

View our in-depth APA Title Page Guide

Citations References

In-text citations

An APA in-text citation is included in research projects in three instances: When using a direct quote, paraphrasing information, or simply referring to a piece of information from another source.

Quite often, researchers and scholars use a small amount of text, word for word, from another source and include it in their own research projects. This is done for many reasons. Sometimes, another author’s words are so eloquently written that there isn’t a better way to rephrase it yourself. Other times, the author’s words can help prove a point or establish an understanding for something in your research project. When using another author’s exact words in your research project, include an APA in-text citation directly following it.

In addition to using the exact words from another source and placing them into your project, these citations are also added anytime you paraphrase information. Paraphrasing is when you take information from another source and rephrase it, in your own words.

When simply referring to another piece of information from another source, also include a citation directly following it.

Citations in the text are found near a direct quote, paraphrased information, or next to a mention of another source. To see examples of some narrative/parenthetical citations in action, look at the image above, under “All About Citations & References.”

Note: *Only include the page or paragraph number when using a direct quote or paraphrase. Page numbers have a p. before the number, pp. before the page range, and para. before the paragraph number. This information is included to help the reader locate the exact portion of text themselves. It is unnecessary to include this information when you’re simply referring to another source.

Examples of APA in-text citations:

“Well, you’re about to enter the land of the free and the brave. And I don’t know how you got that stamp on your passport. The priest must know someone” (Tóibín, 2009, p. 52).


Student teachers who use technology in their lessons tend to continue using technology tools throughout their teaching careers (Kent & Giles, 2017, p. 12).

If including the author’s name in the sentence, place the year in the parentheses directly next to his or her name. Add the page number at the end, unless it’s a source without any pages or paragraph numbers (See Section 8.10 of the Publication manual for more details).

In-text citation APA example:

According to a study done by Kent and Giles (2017), student teachers who use technology in their lessons tend to continue using technology tools throughout their teaching careers.

The full references, or citations, for these sources can be found on the last part of a research project, titled the “References.”

Here’s how to create in-text citations for specific amounts of authors:

APA citation with no author

When the source lacks an author’s name, place the title, year, and page number (if available) in the text. The title should be in italics if it sits alone (such as a movie, brochure, or report). If the source is part of a whole (as many web pages and articles are), place the title in quotation marks without italics (See Section 8.14 of the Publication manual).

Structure of an APA format citation in the text narratively, with the author’s name missing:

Title of Source (Year) or “Title of Source” (Year)


Structure of an APA style format citation, in parentheses at the end of the sentence, with the author’s name missing: (Title of Source, Year) or (“Title of Source,” Year)

Structure for one author

In the text, narratively: Last name of Author (Year)…(page number).


In parentheses, at the end of the sentence: (Last name of Author, Year, page number).

Structure for two authors

Place the authors in the order they appear on the source. Only use the ampersand in the parenthetical citations (see Section 8.17 of the Publication manual). Use ‘and’ to separate the author names if they’re in the text of the sentence.

In the text, narratively: Last name of Author 1 and Last name of Author 2 (Year)….(page number).


In parentheses, at the end of the sentence: (Last name of Author 1 & Last name of Author 2, Year, page number).

Structure for three or more authors

Only include the first listed author’s name in the first and any subsequent citations. Follow it with et al.

(Last name Author 1 et al., Year, page number)

(Agbayani et al., 2020, p. 99)


Last name of Author 1 et al. (Year)…(page).

Agbayani et al. (2020)…(p. 99)

One author, multiple works, same year

What do you do when you want to cite multiple works by an author, and the sources all written in the same year?

Include the letters ‘a’ ‘b’ ‘c’ and so on after the year in the citation.

(Jackson, 2013a)


Jackson (2013a)

Writers can even lump dates together.

Example: Jackson often studied mammals while in Africa (2013a, 2013b).

On the APA reference page, include the same letters in the full references.

Groups and organizations

Write out the full name of the group or organization in the first citation and place the abbreviation next to it in brackets. If the group or organization is cited again, only include the abbreviation. If it doesn’t have an abbreviation associated with it, write out the entire organization’s name each and every time (see Section 8.21 of the Publication manual).


First APA citation for an organization with an abbreviation: (World Health Organization [WHO], Year)


World Health Organization (WHO, Year)

Notice in the example directly above, the name of the organization is written out in full in the text of the sentence, and the abbreviation is placed in parentheses next to it.

Subsequent APA citations in the text for an organization with an abbreviation: (WHO, Year) OR WHO (Year)


All citations in the text for an organization without an abbreviation: (Citation Machine, Year) or Citation Machine (Year)

One in-text citation, multiple works

Sometimes you’ll need to cite more than one work within an in-text citation. Follow the same format (author, year) format but place semicolons between works (p. 263).


(Obama, 2016; Monroe et al., 1820; Hoover & Coolidge, 1928)

Reminder: There are many citation tools available on Head to our homepage to learn more, check out our APA citation website, and cite your sources easily! The most useful resource on our website? Our APA citation generator, which doesn’t just create full references, it’s also an APA in-text citation website! It’ll do both for you!

Click here to learn more about crediting work.

Setting Up Major Sections of an APA Format Template in Google Docs

1. Title Page

The APA referencing style has a fixed title page for student papers. Basically, students press the enter key on the keyboard to create blank spaces. In this case, the blank space is composed of at least two blank lines, but no more than five blank lines (marker 1; see figure 2). After the four-line space, an author writes the title of the paper, his or her names, the name of the institution that he or she attends, the course number and name, the instructor’s name, and the due date or submission date (marker 2). Also, students write each of these details on separate lines. Finally, the author centers elements of the title page using the centering functionality (marker 3).

Figure 2

Elements and Organisation of the Title Page

2. Abstract

Immediately after the date on the title page, students should jump to the next page through the creation of a section break (marker 4; see figure 3). Basically, authors create the section break by clicking on the “Insert” tab and navigating to the “Break” section in the dropdown menu, as shown by markers 1 and 2. Also, writers select the “Section break (next page)” option in the “Break” dropdown menu (marker 3). In this case, students center the title of the abstract page, “Abstract,” at the top of the page (marker 5). Besides, when creating an APA format template in Google Docs, the abstract begins with no indentation (marker 6). Then, the keywords appear after the last line of the abstract with half an inch indentation from the left margin. In turn, a colon follows the phrase “Keywords,” which authors italicize, as shown by marker 7.

Figure 3

Developing an Abstract

3. Title of the Paper

All essays or research papers in APA begin on a new page, which requires the insertion of a section break using the technique described in the previous section (marker 1; see figure 4). In this case, authors write full titles of their papers at the top of the new page (marker 2). Besides, students use title case styling and center the title (marker 2). Then, scholars write their essays on a new line, with no spaces between the title and first line (marker 3). In turn, the essay text aligns with the left margin of the paper.

Figure 4

Formatting the Title and Essay Text

4. References Page

After the final word of the essay, students place a section break to move to the next page (marker 1; see figure 5). In this case, authors create the section break using the procedure in figure 3. Moreover, the title of the reference page, “References,” appears at the top of the new page (marker 5). On the next line, students write their first citation, covering the rules of organizing an APA format template in Google Docs. Then, each reference list entry exists in its paragraph, which has a hanging indentation (marker 6). In turn, students click on the “Format” tab (marker 2) and select the “Align and indent” option (marker 3) to reveal a dropdown menu that contains the “Indentation options” functionality (marker 4). Upon clicking the “Indentation options,” a new window opens, which allows authors to select “hanging” under the “special indentation” section and set the indentation distance to 0.5 inches.

Figure 5

Setting up the Reference Page

Abbreviation dos and donts in APA Format

Abbreviations can be tricky. You may be asking yourself, “Do I include periods between the letters?” “Are all letters capitalized?” “Do I need to write out the full name each and every time?” Not to worry, we’re breaking down the publication manual’s abbreviations (p. 172) for you here.

First and foremost, use abbreviations sparingly.

Too many and you’re left with a paper littered with capital letters mashed together. Plus, they don’t lend themselves to smooth and easy reading. Readers need to pause and comprehend the meaning of abbreviations and quite often stumble over them.

  • If the abbreviation is used less than three times in the paper, type it out each time. It would be pretty difficult to remember what an abbreviation or acronym stands for if you’re writing a lengthy paper.
  • If you decide to sprinkle in abbreviations,  it is not necessary to include periods between the letters.
  • Prior to using an unfamiliar abbreviation, you must type it out in text and place the abbreviation immediately following it in parentheses. Any usage of the abbreviation after the initial description, can be used without the description.
    • Example: While it may not affect a patient’s short-term memory (STM), it may affect their ability to comprehend new terms. Patients who experience STM loss while using the medication should discuss it with their doctor.
  • If an abbreviation is featured in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as is, then it is not necessary to spell it out.
    • Example: AIDS
  • For units of measurement, include the abbreviation if it sits with a number. If the unit of measurement stands alone, type it out.
    • Examples APA format:
      • 4 lbs.
      • The weight in pounds exceeded what we previously thought.

Why is it important to include citations references

Including APA citations and references in your research projects is a very important component of the research process. When you include citations, you’re being a responsible researcher. You’re showing readers that you were able to find valuable, high-quality information from other sources, place them into your project where appropriate, all while acknowledging the original authors and their work.

Insert an In-Text Citation

1. In the text of your document, place your cursor where you want the citation to appear.

2. In the Citations sidebar, hover over the source you want to cite.

3. A Cite button appears on the side of the citation source.

4. Click Cite.

5. The source appears in your selected style within the text of your document.

6. If a “#” appears in the text of your document, delete it or replace it with the page

Saving APA Format Template in Google Docs

The free version of Google Docs does not allow users to create their APA format templates. Nonetheless, a student may create this template and save it as an ordinary document, which he or she may reuse when necessary. In particulars, scholars open the original template file and click on the “File” tab, which generates a dropdown menu (marker 1; see figure 12). Then, students click on the “Make a copy” option (marker 2), which preserves the integrity of the original template and creates a new document that authors may use for an assignment.

Figure 12

Opening a Copy of the Template

How to Use the APA Template in Google Docs

Google Docs offers several templates that automatically format your documents. To set up the APA template in Google Docs:

  1. Open a new document and select File > New > From template.

  2. The template gallery will open in a separate browser tab. Scroll down to the Education section and select Report APA.

    If you need to set up MLA format in Google Docs, there’s also a template for that.

  3. A new document will open containing dummy text in APA format. With the proper formatting already in place, you just need to change the words. If there are sections you don't need, delete them.

Choose a style and submit with confidence

Format your citations and bibliography in any majo

Format your citations and bibliography in any major citation style like APA, MLA, Chicago or in one of thousands of journal-specific styles.

Need a style with special requirements? Upload and use your own customized citation style.

How to add citation sources in a Google Doc

With a Google Doc open in your web browser:

1. Select Tools, then Citations. The Citations side panel will display to the right of your Google Doc (Figure A).

Figure A

With a Google Doc open in a web browser, select To
With a Google Doc open in a web browser, select Tools, then Citations.

2. If needed, use the drop-down menu to modify the citation format.

The system supports three citation formats (as of mid-October 2020):

  • MLA (Modern Language Association), often used in the humanities;
  • APA (American Psychological Association), typically used in education and social sciences; and
  • Chicago Author-Date (University of Chicago), generally used in history and the sciences.

3. Select + Add Citation Source.4. Adjust the Source type drop-down menu to match your cited material:

  • Book
  • Book section
  • Website
  • Journal article
  • Newspaper article

5. If needed, adjust the Accessed By options:

  • Print
  • Website
  • Online database

6. Enter as many details as possible about your source material into the data fields in the side panel (Figure B). At a minimum, complete the recommended fields, which the system indicates with an asterisk next to data field labels. For example, recommended fields for a print book source include:

  • First name and last name of the author
  • Title
  • Publisher
  • Published year

Figure B

Enter as many details as possible for each source.
Enter as many details as possible for each source.

7. After you’ve entered citation details, select the Add Citation Source button at the bottom of the side panel. This adds your source as a citable item.8. Repeat the process above for each and every source you need to cite in your Google Doc.

Formatting References for APA Style

At the end of your paper, there should be a separate page that begins with the word “References” (without quotation marks) centered below the heading. The appropriate format for each reference depends on the type of source. For instance, use the following format to reference articles found on the web:

  • Author last name, first name (year, month day). Title. Publication. URL.

So, an online news article can be referenced as follows:

  • Kelion, Leo (2020, May 4). Coronavirus: UK contact-tracing app is ready for Isle of Wight downloads. BBC News. .

Your references should be alphabetized by the author’s last name, and each entry needs a hanging indent, which means that every line after the first one is indented.

Other citation tools

Google offers at least one other free citation tool as part of Google Scholar. Go to, enter a search for relevant research, academic papers, case law, and books, among other sources, then favorite relevant items for future reference. Select the quote icon associated with a resource to display a citation for the resource in five different formats, including MLA, APA, and Chicago. Scholar additionally displays citations in Harvard format, which is often used in economics, and Vancouver format, generally used in the medical field.

People who write and cite often may want to explore options that allow citations to be used among multiple documents, without the need to re-enter resource information each time. offers a free, browser-centric method for creating and managing bibliographies, while delivers a robust open source installable citation app that works on Windows, macOS, and Linux., offers a Chrome extension along with iOS and Android apps, may be used to track up to 20 references and five bibliographies for free, with a paid upgrade ($50 per year) available that removes these limits.

However, if close integration with Google Drive and Docs matters to you, and you’re willing to pay for a citation service, explore Paperpile. Designed to work well with Google Drive and Docs, Paperpile offers both a Docs add-on and a Chrome extension, in addition to mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. The service costs approximately $36 per year for academic or nonprofit use and $120 per year for business use.

Ending words

Honestly, Google Docs makes it extremely easy to cite sources in three of the most popular formats. This feature becomes more apparent when you need to cite dozen of sources and all you have to do is search and click to cite with Google Docs. Let us know in the comments if you find this feature useful.

Let us know if you liked the post. That’s the only way we can improve.