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APA Formatting and Style Guide (7th Edition)
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How to Format an APA Reference Page
In APA, the “Works Cited” page is referred to as a “Reference List” or “Reference Page.” “Bibliography” also may be used interchangeably, even though there are some differences between the two.
If you are at the point in your article or research paper where you are looking up APA bibliography format, then congratulations! That means you’re almost done.
In this guide, you will learn how to successfully finish a paper by creating a properly formatted APA bibliography. More specifically, you will learn how to create a reference page . The guidelines presented here come from the 7 th edition of the APA’s Publication Manual .
A note on APA reference page style: In this guide, “bibliography” and “references” may be used interchangeably, even though there are some differences between the two. The most important thing is to use the label “References” when writing your paper since APA style recommends including a reference page.
Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:
Difference between an APA bibliography and a reference page
What about annotated bibliographies, understanding apa reference page format, apa reference page formatting: alphabetizing by surname, q: what should not be on an apa reference page.
The difference between a bibliography and a reference page is a matter of scope. A bibliography usually includes all materials and sources that were used to write the paper. A reference page, on the other hand, only includes entries for works that were specifically cited in the text of the paper.
There are some cases in which a professor or journal might request an annotated bibliography . An annotated bibliography is basically a reference page that includes your comments and insights on each source.
An annotated bibliography can be a document all on its own, or part of a bigger document. That means creating an annotated bibliography by itself could be an assignment, or you may have to include one as part of your research paper, journal submission, or other project.
If you do need to add an APA annotated bibliography , it goes after the reference page on its own page, inside the appendices.
A properly formatted APA reference page begins on a new page, after the end of the text. It comes before any figures, tables, maps, or appendices. It’s double-spaced and features what’s called a hanging indent , where the first line of each reference is not indented, and the second line of each reference is indented 0.5 inches. The reference page is also labeled with a bold, center-justified, and capitalized “References.”
To summarize, the reference page should be:
- Placed on its own page, after the text but before any tables, figures, or appendices.
- In the same font as the rest of the paper.
- Double-spaced the whole way through (including individual references).
- Formatted with hanging indents (each line after the first line of every entry indented 0.5 inches).
- Labeled with a bold, center-justified, and capitalized “References.”
Note: You can use the paragraph function of your word processing program to apply the hanging indent.
Q: What font am I supposed to use for the reference page or bibliography?
The APA reference page/bibliography should be in the same font as the rest of your paper. However, APA Style does not actually call for one specific font. According to Section 2.19 of the Publication Manual , the main requirement is to choose a font that is readable and accessible to all users. Some of the recommended font options for APA style include:
- Sans serif fonts: Calibri (11pt), Arial (11pt), or Lucida (10pt).
- Serif fonts: Times New Roman (12pt), Georgia (11pt), or Normal/Computer Modern (10pt).
Q: What are the margins supposed to be for the reference page or bibliography?
Aside from the 0.5 inch hanging indent on the second line of each reference entry, you do not need to modify the margins of the reference page or bibliography. These should be the same as the rest of your paper, which according to APA is 1-inch margins on all sides of the page. This is the default margin setting for most computer word processors, so you probably won’t have to change anything.
Q: What information goes into an APA style reference page or bibliography?
An APA style reference page should include full citations for all the sources that were cited in your paper. This includes sources that were summarized, paraphrased, and directly quoted. Essentially, if you included an in-text citation in your paper, that source should also appear in your reference list. The reference list is organized in alphabetical order by author.
The formatting for reference list citations varies depending on the kind of source and the available information. But for most sources, your reference list entry will include the following:
- The last name(s) and initials of the author(s).
- The date the source was published (shown in parentheses).
- The title of the source in sentence case. The title should be in italics if the source stands on its own (like a book, webpage, or movie).
- The name of the periodical, database, or website if the source is an article from a magazine, journal, newspaper, etc. Names of periodicals are usually italicized; names of databases and websites usually are not.
- The publisher of the source and/or the URL where the source can be found.
Here are a few templates and examples for how common sources should be formatted in an APA style reference list. If your source is not found here, there is also a guide highlighting different APA citation examples .
Citing a Book
Author’s last name, Author’s first initial. Author’s middle initial. (Year of publication). Title of work . Publisher.
James, Henry. (2009). The ambassadors . Serenity Publishers.
Citing a Journal
Author’s last name, Author’s first initial. Author’s middle initial. (Year, Month Date published). Article title. Journal Name , Volume(Issue), page number(s). https://doi.org/ or URL (if available)
Jacoby, W. G. (1994). Public attitudes toward government spending. American Journal of Political Science , 38(2), 336-361. https://doi.org/10.2307/2111407
Citing a Website
Author’s last name, Author’s first initial. Author’s middle initial. (Year, Month Date published). Article title or page title . Site Name. URL
Limer, E. (2013, October 1). Heck yes! The first free wireless plan is finally here . Gizmodo. https://gizmodo.com/heck-yes-the-first-free-wireless-plan-is-finally-here
Next, let’s take a look at a real example of a properly formatted APA reference page to see how these pieces come together.
APA reference page example
Creating an APA reference page is actually a lot easier than creating a bibliography with other style guides. In fact, as long as you are aware of the formatting rules, the reference page practically writes itself as you go.
Below is an example reference page that follows the guidelines detailed above. EasyBib also has a guide featuring a complete APA style sample paper , including the reference page.
All APA citations included in the reference page should be ordered alphabetically, using the first word of the reference entry. In most cases, this is the author’s surname (or the surname of the author listed first, when dealing with citations for sources with multiple authors ). However, there are times when a reference entry might begin with a different element.
Creating an alphabetized reference page or bibliography might seem like a simple task. But when you start dealing with multiple authors and similar last names, it can actually get a little tricky. Fortunately, there are a few basic rules that can keep you on track.
The “nothing precedes something” rule
When the surnames of two or more authors begin with the same letters, the “nothing precedes something” rule is how to figure it out. Here is an example of how it works.
Imagine your reference page includes the authors Berg, M.S. and Bergman, H.D. The first four letters of each author are the same. The fifth letters are M and H respectively. Since H comes before M in the alphabet, you might assume that Bergman, H.D. should be listed first.
APA Style requires that “nothing precede something,” which means that Berg will appear before Bergman. Similarly, a James would automatically appear before a Jameson, and a Michaels before a Michaelson.
Disregard spaces and punctuation marks
If a surname has a hyphen, apostrophe, or other punctuation mark, it can be ignored for alphabetization purposes. Similarly, anything that appears inside of parentheses or brackets should be disregarded.
Ordering multiple works by the same author
It is not uncommon for a research paper to reference multiple books by the same author. If you have more than one reference entry by the same person, then the entries should be listed chronologically by year of publication.
If a reference entry has no year of publication available, then it should precede any entries that do have a date. Here’s an example of a properly alphabetized order for multiple entries from the same author:
Guzman, M.B. (n.d.).
Guzman, M.B. (2016).
Guzman, M.B. (2017).
Guzman, M.B. (2019).
Guzman, M.B. (in press).
“In press” papers do not yet have a year of publication associated with them. All “in press” sources are listed last, like the one shown above.
Ordering works with the same author and same date
If the same author has multiple entries with the same year of publication, you need to differentiate them with lowercase letters. Otherwise, the in-text citations in your paper will correspond to more than one reference page entry.
Same author and same year of publication
Here’s a look at how to use lowercase letters to differentiate between entries with the same author and same year of publication:
Guzman, M.B. (2020a).
Guzman, M.B. (2020b).
Guzman, M.B. (2020c).
These lowercase letters are assigned to make the in-text citations more specific. However, it does not change the fact that their year of publication is the same. If no month or day is available for any of the sources, then they should be ordered alphabetically using the title of the work.
When alphabetizing by title, ignore the words “A,” “An,”,and “The” if they’re the first word of the title.
Same author and same year of publication, with more specific dates
If more specific dates are provided, such as a month or day, then it becomes possible to order these entries chronologically.
Guzman, M.B. (2020b, April 2).
Guzman, M.B. (2020c, October 15).
Ordering authors with the same surname but different initials
Authors who share the same surname but have different first or middle names can be alphabetized by their first initial or second initial.
Guzman, R.L. (2015).
Ordering works with no listed author, or an anonymous author
If you have reference entries with no listed author, the first thing to double-check is whether or not there was a group author instead. Group authors can be businesses, task forces, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, etc.
If there is no individual author listed, then have another look at the source. If it is published on a government agency website, for instance, there is a good chance that the agency was the author of the work, and should be listed as such in the reference entry. You can read more about how to handle group authors in Section 9.11 of the Publication Manual .
What if the work is actually authored by “Anonymous”?
If the work you’re referencing actually has the word “Anonymous” listed as the author, then you can list it as the author and alphabetize it as if it were a real name. But this is only if the work is actually signed “Anonymous.”
What if there is no listed author and it’s definitely not a group author?
If you have confirmed that there is no individual or group author for the work, then you can use the work’s title as the author element in the reference entry. In any case where you’re using the work’s title to alphabetize, you should skip the words “A,” “An,” and “The.”
An APA reference page should not contain any of the following:
- The content of your paper (the reference page should start on its own page after the end of your paper).
- Entries for works for further reading or background information or entries for an epigraph from a famous person (the reference page should only include works that are referenced or quoted in your paper as part of your argument).
- Entries for personal communications such as emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. (since the reader would not be able to access them).
- Entries for whole websites, periodicals, etc. (If needed, the names of these can be mentioned within the body of your paper instead.)
- Entries for quotations from research participants (since they are part of your original research, they do not need to be included).
Published October 28, 2020.
APA Formatting Guide
- Annotated Bibliography
- Block Quotes
- et al Usage
- In-text Citations
- Multiple Authors
- Page Numbers
- Parenthetical Citations
- Reference Page
- Sample Paper
- APA 7 Updates
- View APA Guide
- Book Chapter
- Journal Article
- Magazine Article
- Newspaper Article
- Website (no author)
- View all APA Examples
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The following rules will help you identify when to use DOIs and when to use URLs in references:
- Use a DOI wherever available, be it a print version or online version.
- For a print publication that does not have a DOI, do not add a DOI or URL (even if a URL is available).
- For an online publication, if both a DOI and URL are given, include only the DOI.
- For online publications that only have a URL (and no DOI), follow the below recommendations:
- Add a URL in the reference list entry for publications from websites (other than databases). Double check that the URL will work for readers.
- For publications from most academic research databases, which are easily accessible, do not include a URL or database information in the reference. In this case, the reference will be the same as the print version.
- For publications from databases that publish limited/proprietary work that would only be available in that database, include the database name and the URL. If the URL would require a login, include the URL for the database home page or login page instead of the URL for the work.
- If a URL will not work for the reader or is no longer accessible, follow the guidance for citing works with no source.
To format your APA references list, follow these recommendations:
- Begin the references on a new page. This page should be placed at the end of the paper.
- All sides of the paper should have a 1-inch margin.
- Set the heading as “References” in bold text and center it.
- Arrange the reference entries alphabetically according to the first item within the entries (usually the author surname or title).
- Add a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (i.e., indent any line after the first line of a reference list entry).
See above for a visual example of a reference page and additional examples.
Multiple entries with the same author(s) are arranged by publication year. Entries with no dates first, then in chronological order. If the year published is also the same, a letter is added to the year and the entries are arranged alphabetically (after arrangement by year).
- Robin, M. T. (n.d.)
- Robin, M. T. (1987)
- Robin, M. T. (1989a)
- Robin, M. T. (1989b)
Single-author source and multi-author source that share one author. One-author entries are listed first even if the multi-author entries were published earlier.
- Dave, S. P., Jr. (2006)
- Dave, S. P., Jr., & Glyn, T. L. (2005)
For references with multiple authors that have the same first author but different subsequent authors, alphabetize the entries by the last name of the second author (or third if the first two authors are the same).
APA Citation Examples
Other Citation Styles
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- Knowledge Base
- APA Referencing (7th Ed.) Quick Guide | In-text Citations & References
APA Referencing (7th Ed.) Quick Guide | In-text Citations & References
Published on 18 January 2021 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on 4 September 2023.
This citation guide outlines the most important citation guidelines from the 7th edition APA Publication Manual (2020). Scribbr also offers free guides for the older APA 6th edition , MLA Style , and Chicago Style .
Generate accurate APA citations with Scribbr
Table of contents, apa in-text citations, apa references, formatting the apa reference page, free lecture slides.
In-text citations are brief references in the running text that direct readers to the reference entry at the end of the paper. You include them every time you quote or paraphrase someone else’s ideas or words.
An APA in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and the year of publication (also known as the author-date system). If you’re citing a specific part of a source, you should also include a locator such as a page number or timestamp. For example: (Smith, 2020, p. 170) .
Parenthetical vs. narrative citation
The in-text citation can take two forms: parenthetical and narrative. Both types are generated automatically when citing a source with Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator.
- Parenthetical citation: According to new research … (Smith, 2020) .
- Narrative citation: Smith (2020) notes that …
Multiple authors and corporate authors
The in-text citation changes slightly when a source has multiple authors or an organization as an author. Pay attention to punctuation and the use of the ampersand (&) symbol.
When the author, publication date or locator is unknown, take the steps outlined below.
Prevent plagiarism, run a free check.
APA references generally include information about the author , publication date , title , and source . Depending on the type of source, you may have to include extra information that helps your reader locate the source.
Citing a source starts with choosing the correct reference format. Use Scribbr’s Citation Example Generator to learn more about the format for the most common source types. Pay close attention to punctuation, capitalization, and italicization.
Generate APA citations for free
It is not uncommon for certain information to be unknown or missing, especially with sources found online. In these cases, the reference is slightly adjusted.
On the first line of the page, write the section label “References” (in bold and centred). On the second line, start listing your references in alphabetical order .
Apply these formatting guidelines to the APA reference page:
- Double spacing (within and between references)
- Hanging indent of ½ inch
- Legible font (e.g. Times New Roman 12 or Arial 11)
- Page number in the top-right header
Which sources to include
On the reference page, you only include sources that you have cited in the text (with an in-text citation ). You should not include references to personal communications that your reader can’t access (e.g. emails, phone conversations or private online material).
Are you a teacher or professor looking to introduce your students to APA Style? Download our free introductory lecture slides, available for Google Slides and Microsoft PowerPoint.
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Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.
Streefkerk, R. (2023, September 04). APA Referencing (7th Ed.) Quick Guide | In-text Citations & References. Scribbr. Retrieved 3 November 2023, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/referencing/apa-style/
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APA Reference Page
The main and simple purpose of the APA reference page is to ensure that the reader can locate and retrieve the sources cited in the paper. And because sources come in many different shapes and sizes, APA has guidelines on page structure for different kinds of publications that need to be attributed.
Table of Content
- 1 Basic Rules of an APA Reference Page
- 2 Example Reference Page
Basic Rules of an APA Reference Page
Before delving into specific types, here are some basic rules to take note of when writing an APA reference page.
- The reference page should appear at the end of the paper. It should be separated from the last page of text.
- Each source cited in the paper should appear twice—it should be cited in the actual text and then listed on the reference page.
- The page should be labeled “References,” centered at the top of the page and without any formatting (do not bold, italicize, underline or use quotation marks). As in the rest of the body text, an APA reference page should be double-spaced.
- All lines after the first line of each entry should be indented half an inch from the left margin. This is called the hanging indentation.
- Alphabetize, according to last name, the entries on the reference list. If an author has multiple articles, list down in chronological order from oldest to newest.
- Author’s name should follow the format: last name and then initials of the first and middle name (if provided). If there are two authors, use the ampersand instead of using “and.” If there are up to seven authors, list down the last name followed by initials. If there are more than seven authors, write down the first six and then use ellipses after the sixth author’s name. After the ellipses, write down the last author’s name.
- Maintain the punctuation used in journals. Capitalize all major words.
- Italicize titles of longer works. These include books and journals.
- For shorter works such as essays and journal articles, do not bold, italicize, underline or put quotation marks.
- When attributing books, chapters, articles or Web pages, capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a title or subtitle. You may also capitalize the first word after a colon or a dash in the title, and, of course, proper nouns. In a hyphenated compound word, do not capitalize the first letter of the second word.
- When citing location, use the postal abbreviation format without period. For example: NY for New York or MD for Maryland.
- When referencing a Web page with no author, cite the title of the article followed by the year it was written in parentheses. Also indicate the date it was retrieved and the URL. For example: Retrieved October 21, 2013, from http://www.website.com/
Example Reference Page
For more visual guidelines especially on the elements of the page structure, here are some sample APA reference pages.
Notice that the entry has four essential elements: the author’s name, the year of the publication, the title and additional information on the publication.
When creating your APA reference page, do not forget to list down even the non-print sources such as interviews or documentaries. There are specific rules for each source so it is important to identify the type of material you used to determine which formatting rules apply.
Admittedly, this is a bit more tedious than doing a non-APA reference page but this is something that can be done with a lot of help along the way. This process ensures that your paper gives proper credit to the people and their body of work which have been instrumental in the creation of your own.
How to Format an APA Reference Page
In APA format, a reference page is the page at the end of a written work that lists all the sources used for citations along with their bibliographic information. “Reference page” is the name used by APA format, whereas MLA calls it a “works cited page,” and Chicago uses “bibliography.”
Because each format has particular rules about how to cite and list sources, the APA format reference page is very different from the works cited page or other bibliographies. If you’re writing a paper in APA format, use the rules and guidelines below to make sure your reference page is correct.
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What is a reference page?
Although it has unique rules for formatting sources, the reference page in APA format is essentially a bibliography. It contains all the sources whose ideas influenced the work, including details like the sources’ authors’ names, publication data, and URLs.
In academic writing, every time you use an idea or evidence from another source, you must credit that source using an in-text citation. An in-text citation in APA usually includes the author’s surname, the year of publication, and often a page number.
At the end of the work, all the sources used for in-text citations are listed on the reference page, along with the extra details that didn’t fit in the in-text citations, such as the full title and the name of the publisher.
This system of citations and references is necessary for verifying a work’s accuracy and prove that you didn’t just make everything up! Following the reference page rules is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your paper, especially if you’re having trouble passing a plagiarism checker .
What to include in an APA format reference page
APA format maintains that each reference page entry—one entry per source—should ideally include four parts:
- date of publication
- source type (not always applicable)
How this information is organized depends on the type of source used, such as a book, website, or video. For example, the same article could be cited on the reference page two different ways depending on whether it was found online or in print.
Check out our citation guides below for specific instructions on how to cite each type of source in the APA format reference page.
- How to Cite a Book in APA Format
- How to Cite a Website in APA Format
- How to Cite an Article in APA Format
- How to Cite an Image or Photo in APA Format
- How to Cite a Movie in APA Format
- How to Cite a TV Show in APA Format
- How to Cite Wikipedia in APA Format
- How to Cite a YouTube Video in APA Format
- How to Cite a PDF in APA Format
- How to Cite a Lecture or Speech in APA Format
Otherwise, check out our citation generator to cite sources automatically.
What sources are not included in the reference page?
The only sources that are not mentioned in the reference page are personal communications. These informal sources require only in-text citations that mention the name of the communicator and the phrase “personal communication,” as well as the exact date of the conversation—but you don’t need to add them to the reference page.
Personal communications include:
- in-person conversations
- telephone conversations
- text messages
- online chats or direct messages
- personal interviews
- classroom lectures with original content (like personal anecdotes)
- memos and letters
However, personal communications do not include interviews conducted as part of your own research. These require a specific entry in the reference page.
How to make a reference page: Format and rules
Aside from the rules for how to write each entry, you also have to correctly format the reference page itself. Here are the fundamental formatting rules for how to make a reference page in APA format:
- The reference page comes after the body text but before any final tables or appendices.
- Start the reference list on a new page.
- Place the title “References” in bold and center-aligned at the top of the page.
- Reference pages are double-spaced, both within the entries and between them.
- Each entry uses a hanging indent: The first line is not indented, but every line after the first is. The standard indentation is half an inch. See our APA reference page example below.
- Author names are inverted, and the given first name or names are listed as initials with a period. So if you were crediting Louisa May Alcott, you would write her name as Alcott, L. M.
- If a source has more than one author, list the names in the order they’re given by the source. Use commas in between names and place an ampersand (&) before the final author.
- Titles in the reference list are written in sentence case, not title case. That means only the first letter is capitalized (e.g., Much ado about nothing ).
- Entries are listed alphabetically by the authors’ surnames. If the same author is the only credit for more than one source, order their sources chronologically by publication. If there is no listed author, alphabetize by whatever word comes first, usually the first word of the title.
- Reference pages include the APA format’s running head. For student papers, this is simply the page number flush right at the top of the page.
APA reference page example
Brown, D. (2022). Quitting Twitter? What people say about life after social media. The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/quitting-twitter-what-people-say-about-life-after-social-media-11651415387
Kohout, S., Kruikemeier, S., & Bakker, B. N. (2023). May I have your attention, please? An eye tracking study on emotional social media comments. Computers in Human Behavior , 139(1), 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.chb.2022.107495
McMahon, C. (2019). The Psychology of Social Media. Routledge.
What’s the difference between a reference page, bibliography, and works cited page?
Reference page , works cited page , and bibliography are all terms used by different formats to refer to the page of bibliographical information at the end of a work. Although the pages all display the same kind of information, the different formats all use their own names:
- APA format calls it the “reference page”
- MLA format calls it the “works cited page”
- Chicago calls it the “bibliography page”
In all cases, the page displays the detailed information for all the sources used in the paper or work, including specifics like the publisher and publication dates.
However, the format to display the information, such as the order the information comes in and the punctuation used to separate it, varies among styles. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the individual guidelines for whatever style you’re using.
APA reference page FAQs
A reference page is the section of a piece of writing that displays the bibliographical information for all the sources used, such as the title of the source, the publisher, and the publication date. “Reference page” is the name used by the APA format, although other styles have their own names.
What to include in an APA format reference page?
The APA format reference page includes a separate entry for each source used as a reference in the writing. Each entry should include the source’s author or authors, date of publication, and title, as well as where to find it if applicable (for example, a URL).
How is an APA reference page formatted?
An APA reference page includes the title “References,” bold and centered at the top, and all references written double-spaced. It uses a hanging indent, which means the first line of each entry is not indented, but all lines after the first are. Like all pages in APA format, include the page number at the top in the running head.
A reference page, bibliography, and works cited page all refer to the section of a work that contains the bibliographical information of the sources used. Each style has their own name for it: APA calls it a “reference page,” MLA calls it a “works cited page,” and Chicago calls it a “bibliography.”
APA Style Guide: Reference Page
- APA Style: Home
- Getting Started
- Citing a Book
- Citing an Article
- Citing a Website
- In-Text Citations
- Reference Page
- Terms & Definitions
- APA Frequently Asked Questions
- Handouts & Tutorials
- Math Center This link opens in a new window
- Research Center
- Writing Center
A reference list is essentially a list of all of the resources that you have used in your paper. If you cite a resource in your writing or if you used an in-text citation anywhere, you will need to create a full citation for that resources and include it in your references page.
The reference page should adhere to the following rules:
- The reference page is double spaced.
- The reference page may have any of the following titles, depending the requirements laid out by instructors: "References," "Works Cited," or "Bibliography."
- All sources listed in the reference list have been used at least once in the paper.
- Publication date
- Publication Information
- Other relevant retrieval information
- Every line after the first line of each entry in the list is indented ½ inch from margin. This is called a "hanging indent."
- All references have been checked for proper punctuation, formatting, parentheses and brackets, and appropriate retrieval information, particularly for electronic sources.
- For multiple resources by the same author: list resources chronologically, with the earliest published work listed first.
- If a work has no author, use the title of the work to alphabetize it.
NOTE: Entries in the reference list should not be numbered or bulleted.
- Sample APA Reference List
- How to Format Your Reference List A brief guide to formatting your reference list in Microsoft Word according to the APA style requirements.
Sample References Page
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APA Reference Page Examples and Format Guide
When it comes to creating your APA reference page, this is on a separate page after the body of your paper. The formatting of your APA 7 references page includes 1-inch margins, double spacing, references sorted alphabetically, and a hanging indent. To make sure you have everything on your APA reference page perfect, use this step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.
Table of Contents
What Is an APA Reference Page?
Formatting the apa reference page, example apa citations.
An APA reference page is where you find all the references for the in-text citations included in your research. It provides the who, when, what, and where information for each different resource you used.
Like the paper itself, the reference list includes similar elements to what is found in the body of the paper like an optional running header, title, double spacing, page number, and 1-inch margins. However, it also has some special formatting requirements like being sorted alphabetically and a hanging indent.
APA Reference Page Example
To get clarity about formatting, it’s best to see an APA reference page example in action.
References vs. APA In-Text Citation
With a reference page clarified in your mind, it’s essential to explore the difference between a reference citation and an in-text citation . A reference is listed only on the APA reference list; however, an in-text citation is created throughout the body of the text. Every in-text citation, beyond those specified by APA, has a corresponding reference list on the References page.
The formatting for an APA reference page is precise. Why? Because it follows the specific format called for by APA requirements. The essential APA reference page arrangement list includes:
- “References” is centered 1-inch down. It’s not capitalized, bold, or italicized.
- The reference citations are double spaced with no additional lines between them.
- References that go past the first line have a hanging indent.
- All references are in alphabetical order.
What Information Goes on the APA Reference Page?
In most cases, the information you find in the references includes the author, date, title, and source elements for each different in-text citation you used for websites, periodicals, and books. However, there are individual cases where you do not include a reference citation for some sources. These include personal communications , entire websites, and common knowledge. For these particular cases, you add an in-text citation, but APA doesn’t make you create a reference citation.
APA requires you to alphabetize your reference list by the author’s last name or title. Putting everything in alphabetical order can seem easy, but it gets a little confusing when it comes to duplicate names and numbers. Thankfully, APA has all the rules laid out for you when it comes to trying to alphabetize Dougla and Douglas. Just remember to follow the alphabet A to Z, and numbers are alphabetized how they sound.
Alphabetical Order Example in APA
Dougla, B. Douglas, C. Douglas, D. D’ouglas, J. Douglas, J. & Connor, R.
Punctuation in APA
Punctuation for your APA reference page can get confusing fast with all those commas and periods. However, in their 7th edition of the APA Manual, this style guide tried to make it simple with a few overarching rules.
- Include periods to separate every element (authors, titles, etc.), but not after a URL.
- Journal issue numbers are in parenthesis rather than having a comma between the issue and volume.
- The titles of books and journals are in sentence case.
- Use commas between parts of the same reference, like separating the author’s last name and first initial.
Handling Authors in APA
In APA formatting, another area with extensive variations is the listing of the author’s on the reference page. If you only have one author, it’s pretty straightforward, but most of the time, there are multiple authors. Before you check out how to format multiple and no authors, there are a few overarching rules.
- Use the spelling exactly as it appears in the work, including lowercase letters, hyphenated, and two-part surnames.
- Put one space between the initials.
- Spell out the full names of groups.
General Author Example
Santa-Karlene, S. da Vinci, L.
Now that the general rules are out of the way, it’s time to look at how to format multiple authors. When you have two or more authors , you list them out with an & between them. However, when you have more than 20 authors, you list the first 19, then use ellipsis then the last name.
Two Author Example
Smith, J. A., & Johnson, B. C.
Twenty or More Authors Example
Fran, A. A., Moore, B. B., Garrett, C. C., Done, D. D., Witting, E. E., Dunkle, F. F., Smith, G. G., Johnson, H. H., Bath, I. I., Williams, J. J., Brown, K. K., Jones, L. L., Miller, M. M., Davis, N. N., Bates, O. O., Lopez, P. P., Thomas, Q. Q., Taylor, R. R., Jackson, S. S., . . . Martin, Z. Z.
If you don’t have an author at all, use the title. APA also clarifies what you can do when other reference elements are missing.
While it’s good to have a basic understanding of APA citation format, viewing examples of some of the more tricky citations can ensure you have commas and periods right where you should. And if you use a citation generator to make your life a little easier, these examples can ensure nothing was missed.
Online Article Example Citation
When it comes to your APA paper, you might find that you use online articles to keep things recent and relevant to your study or topic. To create a citation of an online article , you need the author, date, title, publisher/publication, and URL.
APA Online Magazine Citation Example
APA Reference Page Website Example
Whether it’s a web news story or a study posted on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you’ll find yourself having to create citations for websites quite often. Learn how to format the author, date, title, and location for your website citation.
APA Website Citation Example
National Center for Education Statistics. (2020, August). Six-year persistence and attainment at first institution . U.S. Department of Education. https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2020/2020237.pdf
APA Meeting Citation Example
APA papers are designed for current and vital research; therefore, it’s common to create meeting and symposium citations . These citations include the speakers, date, title, and location.
Dell, I. H., Boddie, S. J., Daven, D., & McNab, R. J. (2010). Brownstone: a comprehensive system. In Proceedings of the fifth ACM conference on Digital libraries (pp. 113-121). ACM.
YouTube Citation Example
Sometimes a video says it all; therefore, it’s essential to know how to make multimedia and youtube citations in APA. In addition to the creator, you need the date, title, and where the video can be found.
APA YouTube Example
Davenport University. (2020, January 28). Creating a bibliography using APA [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdiUgws
Legal Case Citation Example
Now, it’s time to look at legal case citation examples . APA is excellent for legal writing, so knowing how to create these citations can be useful. For a legal case citation, you need the name of the case, volume source page, and court date.
Legal Case Example
MacDonald v. Taubner. F.3d 131, 145 (1968).
APA Annotated Bibliography
In addition to your APA reference list, you might also be asked to create an annotated bibliography in APA . An annotated bibliography includes citations for any sources used for the creation of the paper along with an annotation. The annotation provides the reader with further information about your source. See an APA annotated bibliography in action.
Reference Page vs. Bibliography vs. Works Cited
Terminology can get confusing, especially when it comes to a reference page vs. bibliography vs. works cited . Keep the wording clear by looking at each in turn.
- Reference page – APA reference list titled “References” includes sources cited in the body of the APA style essay.
- Works cited – MLA reference list titled “Works Cited” includes the sources cited in the body of MLA paper.
- Bibliography – typically used in Chicago style, and it includes all the sources used in the creation of the essay, not just those referenced.
Creating a Perfect APA Reference Page
Faq apa reference page examples and format guide, how does an apa reference page look.
An APA reference page has a distinct look set forth by the American Psychological Association Manual of Style. The formatting of the page includes an optional running header, page number header, 1-inch margins on all sides, references in alphabetical order, hanging indents, and centered title "References."
How do you write references in APA format?
The way that you create references in APA format depends on the specific citation you are creating. However, in general, each citation includes the author, date, title, and location information. For example, an APA book citation looks like: Austen, J. (1918). Pride and prejudice. New York Press.
How do you format a reference list?
A reference list in APA is formatted in alphabetical order. Additionally, any citations that go beyond the first line include a hanging indent. Each different citation will have a distinct format depending on if it is a book, website, journal, etc.
How do you put an APA reference in alphabetical order?
To put an APA reference in alphabetical order, you start with A and work your way down to Z. For titles, you will ignore articles like a, an, and the. Numbers are alphabetized the way they sound. For example: Austen, J. (1918). Pride and prejudice. New York Press. 1989. (n.d.). New York Press. The way we were. (1929). Gilmore Publishing.
Do you need page numbers in APA reference list?
Yes, in an APA reference list, you will include page numbers. The page numbers will start on your title page, and follow through to the APA reference page. The page number is right-aligned, 1/2 inch down.
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Putting APA References in Alphabetical Order
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- Creating APA reference entries
How to Create or Generate APA Reference Entries (7th edition)
Published on November 5, 2020 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on December 5, 2022.
APA reference entries provide detailed information about a source. They’re listed on the reference page at the end of your paper and correspond to APA in-text citations in the body text.
You can easily generate APA references (and in-text citations) with Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator , but it’s helpful to have a general understanding of the composition of an APA reference. It enables you to review your own work and that of any tool you might be using.
Generate accurate APA citations with Scribbr
Table of contents, the four components of an apa reference, abbreviations in apa references.
Although the reference format differs depending on the type of source (e.g., a book, webpage, or video), they’re built from the same four components:
- Author : who is responsible for creating the work?
- Date : when was the work published?
- Title : what is the work called?
- Source : where can the work be retrieved?
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The author is responsible for creating the work. This can be an individual, multiple people, an organization (such as a company, government agency, or workgroup), or a combination of them. The author can be the writer of a text, but also the host of a podcast or the director of a movie.
In an APA reference, the author’s name is inverted: start with the last name, followed by a comma and the initials, separated by a period and space.
Treat infixes, such as “Van” or “De”, as part of the last name. Don’t include personal titles such as Ph.D. or Dr., but do include suffixes.
- Smith, T . H . J .
- Van der Molen, R.
- Brown, A. T. W. , Jr.
Separate the names of multiple authors with commas. Before the last author’s name, you should also insert an ampersand (&).
A reference entry may contain up to 20 authors. If there are more than 20, list the first 19 authors, followed by an ellipsis (. . .) and the last author’s name.
- Andreff, W. , & Staudohar, P. D.
- Andreff, W. , Staudohar, P. D. , & LaBrode, M.
- Miller, T. C., Brown, M. J., Wilson, G. L., Evans, B. B., Kelly, R. S., Turner, S. T., Lewis, F., Nelson, T. P., Cox, G., Harris, H. L., Martin, P., Gonzalez, W. L., Hughes, W., Carter, D., Campbell, C., Baker, A. B., Flores, T., Gray, W. E., Green, G. , . . . Lee, L. H.
Organizations or groups as author
When an organization or group is listed as the author of a source (e.g., a report or brochure ), list the name in full—don’t use abbreviations. If multiple organizations or groups are responsible for creating the work, include them all in the reference entry. Do not use a comma to separate two group authors.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (not CDC)
- Microsoft & Apple
An author’s name can also be a username (for example, a Twitter handle). If you don’t know the author’s real name, you only provide the username. If you do know the author’s real name, include the username in brackets after the author’s real name. Retain the @ symbol.
- Trump, D. J. [@RealDonaldTrump] .
Indication of roles
If contributors have a different role than “author”, a description of their role is sometimes (but not always) included in parentheses. Check the table below to learn when to provide a role description.
* Abbreviate the editor role to “Ed.” (one editor) or “Eds.” (multiple editors).
The author may not always be mentioned explicitly, but you can often infer it from the context. For example, an “About us” page on a website is usually written by the organization behind the website.
When you really cannot determine the author, you may omit the “author” component from the reference. The reference then begins with the source title, as in this Bible citation .
Note that legal citations (e.g. court cases , laws ) generally don’t have an author element.
The “date” component appears after the “author” component. Use the following guidelines to determine the publication date:
- For books, always take the copyright date.
- For journal articles, take the year in which the volume was published.
- For web pages, you may use the “Last updated” date if it applies to the content you’re citing. Don’t take the copyright date from the footer of a website.
The date of publication appears in parentheses and can take the following forms:
- (2020, January)
- (2020, January 15)
In most cases, you only include the year of publication in the reference entry. Sources published more frequently (e.g., newspapers , blogs , YouTube videos ) or events taking place on specific dates (e.g., conferences , speeches ) usually include the full date.
Only provide the retrieval date (i.e., the date you consulted the information) if a work is designed to change over time. Examples include:
- Online dictionary entries
- Social media profiles (not posts)
- Dashboards with statistics (like this world population counter )
The retrieval date appears after the source title and before the URL. Write the word “Retrieved” followed by the month, day, and year.
You do not need to include a retrieval date for an online newspaper article or blog post (like this one), even though the content might change a little over time. A retrieval date is also not needed if versions are archived, as is the case with Wikipedia articles .
Same author, same date
When citing multiple works from the same author, published in the same year, you need to add a lowercase letter after the year to distinguish between them. These lowercase letters are also included in the APA in-text citation .
- Cole, A. J. (2016 a ). Adoption of contactless payment solutions.
- Cole, A. J. (2016 b ). Trust differences between payment providers.
Assign the letters using the following rules:
- References with only a year precede those with more specific dates.
- References with specific dates are ordered chronologically.
- References with identical dates are ordered by their titles (disregard “A”, “An”, and “The”).
Unknown publication date
If the publication date is unknown, write “n.d.” for “no date” in place of the publication date.
In the “title” component, you write the name of the work that you’re citing. This can be the title of a journal or a book (i.e., a stand-alone work) or a specific article or chapter from that journal or book (i.e., a work that is part of a greater whole). In the latter case, you need to include two titles.
When citing a stand-alone work , its title appears in the “title” component , in italics and sentence case.
When citing a work that is part of a larger whole , the title of the work appears in the “title” component (sentence case, no styling) and the title of the larger whole appears in the “source” component (italicized).
Bracketed source descriptions
Descriptions help identify sources. You include them for pretty much every source type, except for books, journal articles, reports, websites and newspaper articles.
Place the description in square brackets after the source title but before the period. Capitalize the first letter of the description, but don’t italicize it. Try to keep the descriptions short and consistent.
If a work does not have a title, provide a description of it in square brackets in the place of the title.
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In the “source” component, you include information about where the work can be retrieved.
When citing a stand-alone work (e.g., a book or webpage), you include the name of the publisher, database, platform, or website (whichever is relevant to your source), and a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or URL.
When citing a work that is part of a greater whole (e.g., an article in a journal), you include information about this greater whole, like its title, relevant edition, volume or issue information, relevant contributors (like editors), the page range and the publisher, as well as a DOI or URL of the work.
Title of the greater whole
The inclusion of titles is explained in the “title” component section . The title of the greater whole (e.g., a journal, newspaper, or edited book) is usually the first element in the “source” component and is italicized.
Edition information and volume and issue numbers
Books can have different editions, while periodicals (such as journals and magazines) usually have volume and issue numbers. This information appears after the title.
Put edition information in parentheses, but unlike the title, don’t italicize it.
Italicize the volume number and place it after the periodical title. The issue number appears after the volume number in parentheses (not italicized). Do not add a space between the volume and issue number.
If there are relevant contributors other than the author of the work you’re citing, you need to credit them as well. The most common examples are editors of collections and translators of books in a foreign language.
Unlike the author component, the names of the contributors are not inverted. You introduce contributors with the word “In” right after the “title” component . Don’t forget to include a role description in parentheses.
Page range of the work
When citing a work that is part of a greater whole, you need to provide the page number or page range of that work. This makes retrieving it easier. Depending on the type of source, the page numbers are preceded by “p.” or “pp.” and placed in parentheses or not.
Publisher, database, platform, or website name
Depending on the type of source, you should include the name of the publisher, database, platform, or website responsible for distributing the work. When the author of a work is the same as the publisher or website name, you may omit this information.
Some works are associated with a specific location—for example, an artwork in a museum or a conference presentation. In these cases, you include city and state/country in the reference.
Works that can be accessed online usually have a URL or DOI (digital object identifier) . A DOI is often used for scientific publications and books, while a URL is more common for other online publications.
Use the following guidelines:
- If available, always add a DOI
- A DOI is preferred over a URL (because it never changes)
- Include the protocol (http:// or https://) for both DOIs and URLs
- Do not add a period after the DOI or URL
If the source is unknown or not publicly available, the work that you’re citing cannot be retrieved by readers. In this case, you cannot include it as a reference entry. Instead, you should cite it as if it is personal communication .
To save space in the reference entry, some common parts of works are abbreviated. Pay attention to the differences in capitalization and punctuation.
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Streefkerk, R. (2022, December 05). How to Create or Generate APA Reference Entries (7th edition). Scribbr. Retrieved November 3, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/apa-style/reference-entry/
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Basic Rules of APA Format
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
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- Major Sections
- In-Text Citations
- Important Tips
Are you writing a paper for a psychology class? Then you will need to use APA format to organize your paper and list the references you used. If you’ve never used this format before, you may find that it is quite a bit different from some of the writing styles and guidelines you have used in the past.
While it might take a while to get used to, learning how to write an APA paper is a useful skill that will serve you well whether you are a psychology major or just taking your first social science class.
What Is APA Format?
APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology , education, and the social sciences. The APA style originated in a 1929 article published in Psychological Bulletin that laid out the basic guidelines. These guidelines were eventually expanded into the APA Publication Manual .
So why is APA format so important in psychology and other social sciences? By using APA style, researchers and students writing about psychology are able to communicate information about their ideas and experiments in a consistent format. Sticking to a consistent style allows readers to know what to look for as they read journal articles and other forms of psychological writing.
If you have never taken a psychology or social science class before, then you are probably accustomed to using a different style guide such as MLA or Chicago style. New college students are often surprised to find that after spending years having another formatting style drilled into their heads, many university-level classes instead require APA style.
It can be a difficult transition, especially if you have to bounce back and forth between different styles for different classes. Getting a solid grasp of the basics and bookmarking a few key resources can make learning this new format a bit easier.
Major Sections of Your Paper
In most cases, your paper should include four main sections: the title page, abstract, main section, and references list.
Your title page should contain a title, author name, and school affiliation. Then the page should display the course number and name, the instructor's name, and the due date of your paper. The purpose of your title page is to let the reader quickly know what your paper is about and who it was written by.
An abstract is a brief summary of your paper that immediately follows your title page. According to APA format, your abstract should be no more than 100 to 200 words although this can vary depending upon the specific publication or instructor requirements.
For something like an essay, the main body of your paper will include the actual essay itself. If you are writing a lab report , then your main body will be broken down into further sections. The four main components of a lab report include the introduction , method , results , and discussion sections.
The reference section of your paper will include a list of all of the sources that you used in your paper. If you cited any piece of information anywhere in your paper, it needs to be properly referenced in this section.
One handy rule of thumb to remember is that any source cited in your paper needs to be included in your reference section. And any source listed in your reference section must also be mentioned somewhere in your paper.
How to Handle In-Text Citations
As you are writing your paper, it is important to include citations in your text identifying where you found the information you use. Such notations are called in-text citations, and APA format dictates that when citing in APA format in the text of your paper, use the author's name followed by the date of publication.
For example, if you were to cite Sigmund Freud's book The Interpretation of Dreams , you would use the following format: (Freud, 1900). The extended information on the source should then appear in your reference section.
Important Tips for Reference Pages
The exact format of each individual reference may vary somewhat depending on whether you are referencing an author or authors , a book or journal article , or an electronic source .
It pays to spend some time looking at the specific requirements for each type of reference before formatting your source list. Here are some useful tips for incorporating reference pages into your document.
- Start a new page for your references.
- Title the new page "References."
- Center the title text at the top of the page.
- Put all entries in alphabetical order.
- Align the first line of a reference flush with the left margin.
- Indent each additional line (usually accomplished by using the TAB key).
- Make sure the reference section is double-spaced.
- Use italics for titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers.
- Include all sources cited both in the text and on the reference page.
Any reference that appears in the text of your report or article must be cited on the reference page, and any item appearing on your reference page must be also included somewhere in the body of your text.
If you are struggling with APA format or are looking for a good way to collect and organize your references as you work on your research, consider using a free APA citation machine . These online tools can help generate an APA style reference, but always remember to double-check each one for accuracy.
Purchasing your own copy of the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is a great way to learn more about APA format and have a handy resource to check your own work against. Looking at examples of APA format can also be very helpful.
While APA format may seem complex, it will become easier once you familiarize yourself with the rules and format.
The overall format may be similar for many papers, but your instructor might have specific requirements that vary depending on whether you are writing an essay or a research paper. In addition to your reference page, your instructor may also require you to maintain and turn in an APA format bibliography .
American Psychological Association. About APA Style .
Nagda S. How to write a scientific abstract. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2013;13(3):382-383. doi:10.1007/s13191-013-0299-x
Masic I. The importance of proper citation of references in biomedical articles. Acta Inform Med. 2013;21(3):148-55. doi:10.5455/aim.2013.21.148-155
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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