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APA Reference Format Quick Guide

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APA Reference Format – A Quick Guide




·         A proper reference will have a hanging indent, with the first line flush left and the succeeding lines indented in. Use the indenting features of your word processor to do this. If you just type a return and then indent, then it might not format properly if someone else opens up the file.

·         A reference list includes the sources you actually refer to in your paper. Everything used in the paper is in the list, and everything in the list is cited at least once in the paper.

·         A reference list begins on a separate page, with the title “References” centered at the top.

·         The full reference list will be sorted in alphabetical order by the name of the first authors. 

·         Like everything else in the paper, the reference list will be double spaced.




·         Author list: Do not use full first or middle names, but initials only. Put each author’s last name first, then a comma, then the initials; there should be a period after each initial, and initials should be separated by spaces also. If there is more than one author, put a comma between names, and put an ampersand (&) before the last author’s last name. End the list in a period.

o   If the material doesn’t have an author (for example, a web page on which no author is given), then use the item title here instead

o   If there are more than 7 authors, give the first six and then three dots and then the last author.

o   Do not change the order of the authors given in an article. Keep them in the order given in the publication.



·         Year/date of publication: This goes in parentheses right after the author list, and there’s a period after it. For books and for scientific journals, give the year only. For publications that come out more than once per year and start the numbering over for each issue (for example, magazines and newspapers), include the month and date as needed. If there is no date available (for instance, for a web site with no date on the page), put n.d. (short for no date).



·         Item title: This is the title of the specific material you’re citing, which is one component of a whole publication: the article in a journal, the story in a magazine, or the chapter in a book if it has different authors from the rest of the book. (If the whole book has the same authors, you don’t have an item title, so you leave this out.) The item title goes in normal text, not italics. Capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle, and any proper nouns.  End with a period, unless the title has its own ending punctuation (such as a question mark), in which case you just end with that.

o   For a web site, this could be the title of a specific page within a web site.

o   If you used the title in place of the author list, then leave it out here.



·         Publication title: This is the name of the whole publication (for example, a magazine, a book, or a web site). This should be given in italics. For a magazine, scientific journal, or newspaper, capitalize all the major words; for a book, capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle and any proper nouns, just like an item title.



·         Publication information, which gives enough information for your reader to locate the original source. This will vary a lot, depending on the type of material:

o   For a scientific journal, where you either read it on paper or looked at a pdf copy of how it appeared in print: end the publication title with a comma, then put the volume number in italics, then a comma, then the page numbers with no italics, end with a period. If there is a digital object identifier (doi), write “doi:” and then the number. DO NOT end with a period unless it is part of the doi.

o   For a magazine or newspaper: end the title with a comma, then the volume number in italics immediately followed by the issue number in parentheses, then a comma, then the page number(s) with no italics, then end in a period.

o   For a published document that you read online in a web format, rather than a pdf of the actual printed copy, but is still a formal published document, with a volume number and page numbers given: end the title with a comma, then the volume number in italics, then a comma, then page numbers, then a period, then one of two things:

§  If there is a doi, write “doi:” and then the number. DO NOT end with a period unless it is part of the doi.

§  If there is no doi given, write “Retrieved from” and the URL of the journal home page.

§  If there is no journal home page, substitute the name of the database where you found the article.

o   For an ordinary web site, end the title with a comma, then the full URL for the web page. DO NOT end with a period, unless it is part of the URL itself.

o   For a blog or discussion group web page that changes constantly, do the same as for a regular web site except that you put “Retrieved on” and the date before the URL.

o   For a book, end the title with a period, then put the city of publication, a colon, and the name of the publisher. End with a period.

Some sample correct references




Goldstein, E. B. (2008). Cognitive psychology: Connecting mind, research, and everyday experience. Boston: Wadsworth.




Bower, G. H., Black, J. B., & Turner, T. J. (1979). Scripts in memory for text. Cognitive Psychology, 11, 177-220.



SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL ARTICLE: viewed online, with doi

Collins, S. E., Carey, K. B., & Otto, J. M. (2009). A new decisional balance measure of motivation to change among at-risk college drinkers. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 23, 464-471. doi: 10.1037/a0015841



SCIENTIFIC JOURNAL ARTICLE: viewed online, in database, no doi, no journal URL

Baber, L. D., Barrientos, J. I., Bragg, D. D., Castro, E. , & Khan, S. (2009). The Illinois College and Career Readiness Act: Year-one evaluation results. Retrieved from the ERIC Full-Text database.



NEWSPAPER STORY: with an author

Mayer, C. E. (2005, January 7). Group takes aim at junk food marketing. The Washington Post, p. E2.




Housing prices fall (2009, January 13). Democrat and Chronicle, A1,4.



ORDINARY WEB SITE: with an author

Evanovich, J. (n.d.). About Janet. Retrieved from http://www.evanovich.com/bio




Book clubs: A comprehensive guide to discount book clubs and reading groups. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.book-clubs-resource.com/




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