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APA Format - 7th Edition

Reference Components

All APA reference list entries contain four main components: author, date, title, and source. Those components are organized as follows:

Author. (Date). Title. Source.

If you are unable to locate components for a reference, the APA Style website has a page on Missing Reference Information.


The first component in every APA reference is the author. Sometimes an author can be a corporation or group.

Author. (Date). Title. Source.

List the full last name, a comma, and then the initials of the author, with a space between the initials. Do not list the full first or middle name of an author.

  • William Shakespeare Shakespeare, W.
  • Louisa May Alcott Alcott, L. M.
  • Leonardo da Vinci da Vinci, L.
  • George W. Ogden Ogden, G. W.
  • Jean-Luc Lebrun Lebrun, J.-L.

Do not use courtesy or academic titles in your citations. Do include suffixes such as Jr., Sr., III, etc.

  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Doyle, A. C.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King, M. L., Jr.
  • Ronald C. White, Sr. White, R. C., Sr.

Some authors use non-standard capitalization. Retain that capitalization.

  • bell hooks hooks, b.
  • danah boyd boyd, d.

Some names, such as those with religious or nobility titles, may need to be listed differently in the References page in order to preserve the meaning.

  • Pope Francis
  • Queen Raina
  • Plato

List authors in the order they appear on the source. A comma should separate each author's name, and an ampersand (&) should precede the last author's name. Spell out up to twenty authors' names in the reference list in this format:

Two Authors:

Smith, J., & Miller, W. C. (Date). Title. Source.

(Smith & Miller, 2009)

Three to Twenty Authors:

Smith, J., Jones, B. E., Brown, K. E., & Doe, J. (Date). Title. Source.

List all authors in the reference; however, in-text citations will include the first author's name only, followed by et al.

(Smith et al., 2009)

21+ Authors:

Include the first 19 authors in the reference, then three ellipsis points (. . .), and then the last author (there is no ampersand). In the in-text citation, only include the first author and add et al.

Smith, J., Jones, B. E., Brown, K. E., Doe, J., Chan, L., Garcia, S. M., White, C-G., Fernández, J., Ahmed, A. J., Zhào, L., Cohen, D., Watanabe, K., Kim, K., Del Rosario, J., Yilmaz, P. K., Nguyễn, T., Wilson, T. H., Wang, W., Kahale, A. ... Zhang, Z. Z. (Date). Title. Source.

(Smith et al., 2009)

Some resources may be attributed to a group or organization, instead of a specific person or persons. In this case, give the name of the group or organization, capitalized as needed. You may abbreviate the organization to a common abbreviation beginning with the second in-text citation.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, October 3). Outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping. Retrieved October 8, 2019, from

First In-Text Citation:

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2019)

Subsequent In-Text Citations:

(CDC, 2019)

For government authors that may have multiple departments as a hierarchy (for example,U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine), you should use the directly responsible agency.

National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). A brief history of the NLM.

(National Library of Medicine, n.d.)

If the resource is published by that same organization, omit the publisher component.

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

First In-Text Citation:

(American Psychological Association [APA], 2020)

Subsequent In-Text Citations:

(APA, 2020)

Book Editors

If a book is compiled by an editor (usually specified on the cover or title page), list the names as usual, but add (Ed.) or (Eds.) after the names, to signify editor or editors. This abbreviation is not included in the in-text citation.

Forrester, D. A. (Ed.). (2016). Nursing's greatest leaders: A history of activism. Springer.

(Forrester, 2016)

Audiovisual "Authors"

Audiovisual materials may have different people for the author element. Common examples include director, host, executive producer, musical artist, composer, or a producer. Include a parenthetical clarification of the role.

Jacquet, L. (Director). (2005). March of the penguins [Film]. National Geographic Films; Bonne Pioche.

(Jacquet, 2005)

Wilson, T. V., & Frey, H. (Hosts). (2008–present). Stuff you missed in history class [Audio podcast]. Stuff Media.

(Wilson & Frey, 2008–present)

The Monkees. (1966). I'm a believer [Song]. On More of the Monkees. Colgems.

(The Monkees, 1966)

If you know both the real name of an author and the username, and the username is credited on the work, list both.

DeGeneres, E. [@TheEllenShow]. (2014, March 2). If only Bradley's arm was longer. Best photo ever. #oscars [Image attached] [Tweet]. Twitter.

(DeGeneres, 2014)

If you only have a username, use that for the author.

Motherboard. (2010, August 6). The effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki [Video]. YouTube.

(Motherboard, 2010)

If there is no listed author or editor, start your reference with the title, place the date after the title, and continue the reference as normal. Remember that authors can be a company, organization, or group author, and that should be used as the author if provided. Check very carefully to ensure that there is no organization that can be used as the author!


Title. (Date). Source.


Oxford English dictionary (2nd ed.). (1989). Clarendon Press.

Appeal to authority. (n.d.). Logical Fallacies.

For in-text citations, use the title of the item, followed by the date. If the title is long, you may abbreviate it to the first few words. Book titles are italicized; journal or website articles are put in quotations.

(Oxford English Dictionary, 1989).

("Appeal to Authority," n.d.)

If the item is expressly attributed to "Anonymous," list that as the author:

Anonymous. (2006). Go ask Alice. Simon Pulse.

(Anonymous, 2006)


The second component in a reference is the date. Most citations only need the year in parentheses, followed by a period.

Author. (Date). Title. Source.

Most sources (such as books, journal articles, and films) only require the year. For magazines, newsletters, newspapers, social media, YouTube videos, blog posts, etc., provide the full date.

Valinsky, J. (2019, October 8). Instagram dark mode is here. CNN.

In-text citations, however, will only include the year.

(Valinksy, 2019)

If an item does not have a discernible date, you may use n.d. as the date (for no date); do not simply leave out the date. For webpages, do not use a general copyright date given for the website. Look for a specific created, updated, or modified date for the page or document you are using.

Santa Fe College. (n.d.). Fifty years to first.

(Santa Fe College, n.d.)

If you have two or more distinct works by the same author and published in the same year, differentiate them with letters. Organize these references by the title element.

Rowling, J. K. (1999a). Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets. Arthur A. Levine.

(Rowling, 1999a)

Rowling, J. K. (1999b). Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban. Arthur A. Levine.

(Rowling, 1999b)

For items that have a full date, such as blogs or newspaper articles, add the differentiating letter to the year, and keep the month and/or day. Recall that only years are included in an in-text citation. Organize them in the references list by date.

Flaherty, C. (2018a, March 14). Same course, different ratings. Inside Higher Ed.

(Flaherty, 2018a)

Flaherty, C. (2018b, April 12). Diversifying a classic humanities course. Inside Higher Ed.

(Flaherty, 2018b)

If both items are using n.d. instead of a year, include a hyphen before the differentiating letter. Organize these references by the title element.

Santa Fe College. (n.d.-a). Honors student code of conduct.

(Santa Fe College, n.d.-a)

Santa Fe College. (n.d.-b). Priority admissions dates.

(Santa Fe College, n.d.-b)

If you are citing a classic work that has been reprinted or republished, you can include the original date at the end of the reference. Include both dates in the in-text citation.

Freud, S. (2005). Civilization and its discontents. Norton. (Original work published 1930)

(Freud, 1930/2005)

If the resources you are citing may change substantially before readers can access it, you may add a retrieval date prior to the URL. Examples include wikis, dictionary entries, Twitter profiles, webpages that update frequently, etc.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, October 3). Outbreak of lung injury associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping. Retrieved October 8, 2019, from

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019)


The third component is the title. Depending on what you are citing, your title will be formatted differently.

Author. (Date). Title OR Title. Source.

APA requires you to only capitalize certain words in a title. You should capitalize the following:

  • The first word of the title
  • The first word of the subtitle, usually directly after a colon :
  • Any proper nouns (places, people, organizations, etc.)
  • All significant words in a journal/website title

Examples of Correct Capitalization:

  • Aces high: The heroic saga of the two top-scoring American aces of World War II
  • Can’t remember what I forgot: The good news from the front lines of memory research
  • The elements of library research: What every student needs to know
  • The FBI: A history
  • Introduction to research in the health sciences
  • Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs [journal title]
  • The Oxford guide to library research
  • Preparing research articles
  • Publication manual of the American Psychological Association

APA requires you to italicize the titles of stand-alone works:

  • books
  • journals
  • films
  • reports
  • webpages

If you are citing something that is part of a bigger work, you do not italicize the titles:

  • chapters in books
  • title of entry in a reference book
  • articles from journals, magazines, or newspapers

If a title ends with a non-period punctuation mark (such as a question mark or an exclamation mark), use that as the ending punctuation without adding a period.

Jacobs, J. B. (2002). Can gun control work? Oxford University Press.

(Jacobs, 2002)

If the title uses an em dash instead of colons for a subtitle distinction, preserve those.

Jain, S. K., Singh, B. P., & Singh, R. P. (2004). Indian homemade firearmA technical review. Forensic Science International, 144(1), 11–18.

(Jain et al., 2004)

Format Clarification

If the information you are citing is not a routine format, use square brackets after the title to clarify. Common examples include:

  • [Video]
  • [Tweet]
  • [App]
  • [Painting]

CrashCourse. (2019, September 27). Natural language processing: Crash course AI #7 [Video]. YouTube.

(Crash Course, 2017)

Edition/Volume Clarification

For some books, you will need to add the edition or the volume used after the title, in parentheses.

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

(American Psychological Association, 2020)

In very rare cases, you may be using a source without a specific title. This may be something like a social media post, untitled artwork, or a Google map. In the title component, include a description in brackets; try to include the medium in the description if possible.

Google. (n.d.). [Google Maps directions for driving from Gainesville, FL, to Miami, FL]. Retrieved October 8, 2019, from


The final component of a reference is the source, which is the retrieval information.

Author. (Date). Title. Source.

The components of a source may change depending on the format of the work you are citing.

The source for a book is the publisher.

Hain, P. (2018). Mandela: His essential life. Rowman & Littlefield.

(Hain, 2018)

If you are using a portion of a book, such as a chapter in an edited book, the source also includes the information from the book being used.

Johnson, P. (2019). Efforts to ban Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. In R.C. Evans (Ed.), Censored & banned literature (pp. 169–186). Salem Press.

(Johnson, 2019)

Article sources typically include the journal, volume, issue, page numbers, and DOI. Spell out the entire journal title; do not abbreviate it. The journal title and volume should be italicized.

Steckler, R. A., & Bartkowski, J. P. (2018). "God is my first aid kit": The negotiation of health and illness among Christian Scientists. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 57(3), 585–603.

(Steckler & Bartkowski, 2018)

If you are missing any of this information, omit it. This example does not have an issue number or a DOI.

Tremblay, M. S., Inman, J. W., & Willms, J. D. (2000). The relationship between physical activity, self-esteem, and academic achievement in 12-year-old children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 12, 312–323.

(Tremblay et al., 2000)

If an article has an article number, include it.

Van Hedger, S. C., Heald, S. L. M., & Nusbaum, H. C. (2019). Absolute pitch can be learned by some adults. PLOS One, 14(9), Article e0223047.

(Van Hedger, 2019)

If an article is freely available online and does not have a DOI, you may choose to add the URL to the full-text.

Rosener, A., Frigo, E., Ponischil, S., Bélanger, A., Rander, J., & Salazer, E. (2019, September 18). Leading from the center: Reimagining feedback conversations at an academic library. In the Library with a Lead Pipe.

(Rosener et al., 2019)

Database Information

Only include the name of a library database you used to retrieve information if the source you are using is exclusive to that database. Most journals, magazines, and newspapers would not fit this criteria. Several library databases, including A to Z the World, Cochrane Library, and some information in ERIC, Health and Wellness, and Opposing Viewpoints will fit into this category.

Denissen, S., Staring, W., Kunkel, D., Pickering, R. M., Lennon, S., Geurts, A. C. H., Weerdesteyn, V., & Verheyden, G. S. A. F. (2019). Interventions for preventing falls in people after stroke. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

(Denissen et al., 2019)

Locating DOIs

APA requires you to provide DOIs if available when citing a journal article. DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier. DOIs serve as a permanent link to electronic content. Because some databases generate dynamic links (i.e., links that change each time you access an article), it is impossible to use these links to direct someone to an article. If an article has a DOI, you can give that information and easily direct readers to your references. DOIs are commonly found in the database record, the journal's page for the article, or on the first page of the article itself. A DOI will be a string of numbers and slashes (possibly with letters) that begins with 10.

DOI in a database record

DOI in a PDF of a journal article

DOI on a journal homepage

Once you have a DOI, you can use a DOI resolver to access the article. There are several resolvers, but the is recommended. Input the entire DOI, and you will be directed to the main article page. DOI resolver

Sometimes this DOI will take you to a link that says Lesley University Library does not have access. If this is the case, follow the instructions to Find a Specific Article on the Self-Service Portal.

Internet sources typically include the website on which the source is located and the URL. If the author and the website title are identical, omit the website title. You may elect to add a retrieval date to the URL if the information is expected to change.

Leibsohn, D., & Mundy, B. E. (n.d.). Surveying the Pre-Columbian. Vistas: Visual Culture in Spanish America, 1520-1620.

(Leibsohn & Mundy, n.d.)

Royal Collection Trust. (n.d.). Albert's life and times.

(Royal Collection Trust, n.d.)

Levine, E. (1936). Amateur contest for children Final eliminations, Sept. 24, 1936 [Image]. Library of Congress.

(Levine, 1936)

Feldman, J. (2019, October 9). Dogs can help you live longer, as if you needed another reason to get one. HuffPost.

(Feldman, 2019)

U.S. Department of State. (2019, April 9). Afghanistan travel advisory. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from

(U.S. Department of State, 2019)

If a URL is excessively long, you may use a URL shortener.

American Library Association. (n.d.). Performance of or showing films in the classroom.

(American Library Association, n.d.)

Film and Television

The source for film and television is typically the production company. Multiple production companies are separated by semicolons. For online films/television, you may choose to add a URL.

Boyle, D. (Director). (2008). Slumdog millionaire [Film]. Celador Films; Film4.

(Boyle, 2008)

Macdonald, K., Burk, B., Carpenter, B., King, S., & Abrams, J. J. (2016). 11.22.63 [TV series]. Carpenter B.; Bad Robot Productions; Warner Bros. Television.

(Macdonald et al., 2016)

Online Videos

Online videos follow the same guidelines for Internet sources. The source component consists of the website and the URL.

Karim, J. [jawed]. (2005, April 23). Me at the zoo [Video]. YouTube.

(Karim, 2005)

Items with no source are considered personal communication and would be cited in the text only; there will be no references list entry. This also includes items that are not retrievable by the reader. Examples of personal communication include emails, personal interviews, live speeches, etc.

(J. Sasser, personal communication, October 9, 2019)