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APA Citation Style

General Guidelines for Creating an APA Reference List

These guidelines will get you started. You should double-check the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, for the final word on APA style. The APA Manual is located in all University of Alberta libraries (PE 1475 A52 2010), usually in the Reference section of the library or at the service desk. 


  • List all (and only) the sources you quoted or paraphrased in the text of the paper
  • Electronic sources require a DOI or URL as part of their retrieval information 
  • Double-space all entries. 
  • Use hanging indent paragraph style: every line after the first of each citation is indented 0.5" from the left margin.

Author notes

  • Authors' names are entered surname first, with initials only for first and middle names, separated by commas, with an ampersand (&) before the last author's name
  • References are arranged alphabetically by the authors' last names
  • When you cite several works by one author, list them from oldest to newest
  • When you cite works by the same author alone and with different co-authors, cite the single-author paper first in the list
  • For papers with several authors, list alphabetically by the first author, then the second, third, etc.
    • If all authors are identical, then list them in chronological order from oldest to newest
  • If a paper has no author listed, use the first main title word goes in the author position, alphabetically in the list (ignoring initial articles such as A, The, An, etc.)
  • When the author's name and the publisher are the same, use the author's name to begin the reference, and use the word Author as the name of the publisher at the end of the reference
  • Spell out corporate/group authors in full; no acronyms
  • For a source with 7 or more authors, list the first six, insert an ellipsis, and conclude with the last author

Editor notes

  • Editors' names go in the author position when you reference an edited book as a whole,
    • (Ed.). or (Eds.). follow the editors' name(s)
  • If the source is a chapter in an edited book, the chapter author is listed first in the reference. After the title, write: In Editor name (Ed.), Title of book (pages of chapter).
    • e.g., In J. Smith (Ed.), Understanding sociology (134-167). 

Title notes

  • Capitalize only the first word in the title, all proper nouns, and the first word after a colon or semicolon
  • Titles of books are italicized
  • Capitalize all titles words in periodicals / journals and italicize the title and volume number
  • Occasionally you state the type of material cited, such as a special issue of a periodical, a DVD or Motion picture.  Include this information in square brackets.  For example, Sophie's choice [Motion picture].

Publication notes

  • Electronic sources require a URL or DOI; you don't need a retrieval date
  • Give the full names of book publishers, omitting endings such as "Co.," "Inc." Include the name Books or Press, if part of the name
  • Dates formats 
    • Books, journals, and multimedia: Include the year the item was published or produced;
    • newspapers and magazines give the year and exact date (2008, June 5);
    • no date available, use (n.d.),
    • if there is a date range provided for a series, enter it is a range (2004-2009)
  • Use the abbreviation "p." or "pp." before page numbers for book chapters. Page numbers for journal articles do not use p. 
  • If each issue of a journal begins with page 1, include the issue number in parentheses (but not italicized) after the volume number in the reference list entry
  • If the journal volume page numbers run continuously throughout the year, regardless of issue number, do NOT include the issue number in your reference list entry
  • Place of publication for books and chapters generally includes the city name, followed by 2-letter state/province code. For countries beyond North America, also include and spell out the country name
  • Multiple publisher locations? Give the location mentioned first, or if the home office is mentioned, use that

APA Style Video Tutorial

When do I exclude a source from my Reference List?

Every source cited in the text of your paper should have a corresponding entry in your reference list, with a few exceptions:

  • personal communications,
  • entire websites, and
  • social media feeds.

To cite a personal communication (such as a letter, email, text, or message you've received), include an in-text citation formatted as follows: (Author, personal communication, June 15, 2012). No reference list entry! 

To cite a website, or a social media feed, such as a Facebook or Twitter page, simply include the URL in brackets ( 

Note: If you are citing a particular webpage, tweet or Facebook post, rather than the site or feed as a whole, a reference list entry IS required. See our page on Citing Web Resources for more details. 

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