In this tutorial, we outline the basics of putting together APA Style references.
Step 1: Make a Reference List, Not a Bibliography
You'll note that we don't refer to an APA Style bibliography or advise how to format a bibliography in APA Style. This is because a bibliography contains all the sources you read in the course of your research, regardless of whether they are cited in the paper. A reference list, on the other hand, is a list of the sources cited in the paper. For every entry, there must be a citation, and vice versa.
Step 2: Understand the Basic Components of an Entry
Boiled down, each reference list entry has four components: author, year of publication, title, and source. Easy peasy, right?
Usually the author is a person, such as the author of the book, chapter, or journal article; the writer of the blog post, Facebook post, tweet, or letter; the editor of a series or compilation; the director or producer of a TV show or video; or the creator of the painting, drawing, or sculpture.
- List the last name first and add the author’s initials.
- Write out up to seven authors in full. For eight or more authors, list the first six names, add an ellipsis, and list the final name.
- Sometimes the author is an organization, such as for an organizational report or website content. In this case, write the name out in full.
- Sometimes the author is missing, such as for online reference works, newspaper articles, or editorials. In that case, the title moves into the author position.
Year of Publication
Usually, the year of publication is . . . a year! Place it in parentheses following the author name.
- Sometimes, more than a year is needed: The month is added to contributions or presentations to meetings and symposia, as well as some periodicals, and the full date is used for newspaper articles, blog posts, e-mails, and the like.
- If the same author has two or more sources with the same year of publication, letters (a, b, c, etc.) are placed immediately following the year to differentiate them. In these cases, entries are alphabetized according to title.
- If you really, really can't find a year of publication, use (n.d.), for "no date."
What did you read/watch/review? That name goes in the title spot.
- Use sentence case (the first word, proper nouns, and the first word following a colon are capitalized). This is typically the book title (of a regular book), the chapter title in an edited book, or the article title in a periodical; it would also be the title of the blog post, artwork, video clip, newspaper column, web page, or what have you.
- If there's no title, such as unpublished raw data, write in your own description using square brackets.
- If you read a book chapter or journal article, that title goes here; the title of the book itself or the name of the periodical comes next (see Source).
If the nature of the source is nonroutine or important for retrieval, add a notation in square brackets. Common examples include an abstract, CD recording or DVD, data file, lecture notes, podcast, software, special issue or section, supplemental material, and Twitter or Facebook posts.
Everything else falls into the source bucket:
- journal names, volumes, and page ranges
- book editors' names, book titles, and page ranges of the book chapters or articles cited
- publisher name and location for print sources
- retrieval information for online sources (DOI or URL)
Step 3: Know Your Basic Forms
Citing an Entire Something
The title is italicized and written in sentence case. Editions or volume numbers are given in parentheses; descriptions are given in square brackets (a source could have both).
- Lastname, A. B. (Role, if not author). (Year). Title of work: Subtitle (edition, if applicable). City, Country: Publisher.
- Lastname, A. B., & Last, D. (Role, if not author). (Year). Title of work: Subtitle (edition, if applicable). City, ST: Publisher.
- Lastname, A. B. (Year). Title of work: Subtitle [description, if applicable]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx
- Lastname, A. B. (Role, if not author). (Year). Title of work: Subtitle [description, if applicable]. doi:xxxxx
Citing a Part of Something
Book and report titles are italicized in sentence case; print materials will have publication information and online materials will have a DOI or URL.
- Lastname, A. B. (Year). Title of article: Subtitle. In E. Editor & D. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (pp. xx–xx). City, ST: Publisher.
- Lastname, A. B., & Last, D. (Year). Title of chapter: Subtitle. In E. Editor (Ed.), Title of book: Subtitle of book (pp. xx–xx). City, Country: Publisher.
- Lastname, A. B. (Year). Title of article: Subtitle. In E. Editor & D. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (pp. xx–xx). Retrieved from http://www.xxxxx
Note. Write the publisher's name as simply as possible. Omit Publishers, Co., and Inc. (but keep Books and Press).
Periodical titles (journals, newspapers, magazines) are italicized and written in title case (all major words capitalized).
- Lastname, A. B. (Year). Title of article: Subtitle. Title of Periodical, Vol(issue), pp–pp. doi:xxxxx
- Lastname, A. B., & Last, D. (Year). Title of article: Subtitle. Title of Periodical, Vol(issue), pp–pp. Retrieved from http://xxxx
- Reporter, R. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper, p. xx.
- Reporter, R. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from http://xxxx
Step 4: Get a Pro to Look Everything Over
You don't know what you don't know. There's no substitute for having competent eyes review your references for accuracy and consistency. Contact us for a free estimate today.