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APA Style: Basics

This guide is intended to help you cite sources in APA style, avoid plagiarism, learn what APA style is and includes, find examples of APA style, lead you to campus resources that can help you cite sources in APA, and more.

Elements of the Reference List


Your reference entry includes the author, date, title, and source. See the examples below to see how to format these different elements in your reference lists.

Authors

An author can refer to individuals, multiple people, groups, or a combination of them. The formatting of author names has been updated in the new edition. The basic format is the last name (surname) followed by a comma, and then the first and middle initials separated by a space (e.g. Smith, T. E.). See the example formats below for more information.

NOTE: Don't forget to indent the second and subsequent lines. 

Single Author: Include the author's last name and initials. Add space between the first and middle initials. If there is no middle initial, exclude it.

Author, A. A.

Author, A.

Two Authors: Include the authors' last names and initials. Add a comma and an ampersand (&) between the first author and the second author. Add space between the first and middle initials. If there is no middle initial, exclude it.

Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.

Author, A. A., & Author, B.

Three Authors: Follow the same general format with a comma between names and an ampersand (&) between the second and third authors.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C.

Author, A., Author, B. B., & Author, C.

Four to Twenty Authors: If your reference includes up to and including 20 authors you will list all of the authors (When there are two to 20 authors, use an ampersand before the final author’s name).

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., Author, C. C., Author, D. D., Author, E. E., & Author, F. F.

Twenty-One or More Authors: When there are 21 or more authors, include the first 19 authors’ names, insert an ellipsis (but no ampersand), and then add the final author’s name.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., Author, C. C., Author, D. D., Author, E. E., Author, F. F., Author, G. G., Author, H. H., Author, I. I., Author, J. J., Author, K. K., Author, L. L., Author, M. M., Author, N. N., Author, O. O., Author, P. P., Author, Q. Q., Author, R. R., Author, S. S., . . . Author, Z. Z.

For more information refer to the Author section on the APA Style's page Elements of Reference List Entries This link opens in a new window.

Dates

The format of the date element depends on the resource type. If a date cannot be determined then use no date (n.d.). Check the manual to know which format to use. The most common types of dates are:

  • Year
  • Year, Month Day
  • Year, Month
  • Year, Season

Enclose the year in parenthesis and a period after.

(2018).

Enclose the date in parenthesis with a period after. The year is followed by a comma, the month, and day. Do not abbreviate the month.

(2018, March 2).

If the publication date doesn't include a day, only include the year, followed by a comma, and the month. Enclose the date in parenthesis and end with a period. Do not abbreviate the month.

(2018, March).

Enclose the date in parenthesis with a period after. Include the year, followed by a comma, and the season. Do not abbreviate the season.

(2018, Summer)

Retrieval Dates

Retrieval dates aren't typically required. See the APA's explanation of retrieval dates This link opens in a new window.

For more information, including when to use "ca." for circa, refer to the Date section on the APA Style's page Elements of Reference List Entries This link opens in a new window.

Titles

Types of Work

The format of the title element depends on what type of resource you are citing. There are two types of work:

  1. Works that stand alone (e.g. entire books, films, albums, TV shows, etc.) and
  2. Works that are part of a greater whole (e.g. book chapters, songs, and episodes of a TV show).

The title should be italicized and capitalized according to sentence case.

For Example:

Sustainable development.

The Oxford handbook of Tudor literature, 1485-1603.

Career, work, and mental health: Integrating career and personal counseling.

Works that are part of a whole include journal articles and edited book chapters. The titles of journal articles and edited book chapters should be capitalized using sentence case. Do not italicize or use quotation marks.

For Example:

Neuropsychological impact on mental health and associated treatments for children with chronic illness.

Include edition and volume numbers after the title. This information is added after the title - do not add a period between the title and the parentheses and do not italicize this information.

For Example:

Mental health services: A public health perspective (3rd ed.).

Access to environmental justice: A comparative study (Vol. 11).

 

If both edition and volume numbers are included in the citation separate them by a comma in the same parentheses.

For Example:

Environmental criminology: Spatial analysis and regional issues (2nd ed., Vol. 3).

 

If a numbered volume has its own title include that in the main title information and not in parentheses.

For Example:

International Law: Vol. 3. European Union.

If you are citing a work that isn't a traditional academic resource use bracketed descriptions to identify the resource type.

For Example

Tipasa [Computer software].

For more information refer to the Title section on the APA Style's page Elements of Reference List Entries This link opens in a new window.

Source

The format of the source element also depends on the type of resource that you are citing. A source that is part of a whole has multiple pieces of information that need to be included in the source. 

The source includes periodical title, volume, issue, page range, and DOI or URL.

For Example:

Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, 46(2), 323-344. https://doi.org/10.1080/03086534.2018.1438965

The source includes periodical title, volume, issue, article number, and DOI or URL.

For Example:

PLoS ONE, 14(9), Article e0222826. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0222826

The source includes publisher name and DOI or URL.

For Example:

Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316535967.

The source includes information about the whole book (including editor name, book title, edition and/or volume number, page range, and publisher name) and DOI or URL.

For Example

In R. R. Heredia & A. B. Cieślicka (Eds.), Bilingual Lexical Ambiguity Resolution. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316535967.

The source includes the website name and URL.

For Example

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/brain-stimulation-therapies/brain-stimulation-therapies.shtml

The source includes the URL.

For Example

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

For more information refer to the Source section on the APA Style's page Elements of Reference List Entries This link opens in a new window.

URLs & DOIs

For more information on how to use and format URLs & DOIs visit the DOIs & URLs page on the APA Style website This link opens in a new window

Missing Information

If the resource you are citing has missing information there are different options to use in your reference list entry and in-text citation. See the APA Style's Missing Reference Information This link opens in a new window page.