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Reference List: Overview

Basics of Reference List Entries

An entry in the reference list contains information on a specific publication, allowing readers to find the publication. The information is presented in a standard format, including order of information, use of italics and parentheses, and other markers to help distinguish between different parts of the reference entry. APA style entries follow this basic format:

Author. (Publication date). Title of document. Publishing information. Electronic retrieval information if applicable.

  • The reference list appears on its own page, with the title References at the top.
  • As with the rest of the paper, reference entries should be double spaced.
  • All references have a hanging indent, which means the first line is flush left, and all subsequent lines are indented ½ inch on the left. Learn how to create a hanging indent under "APA Formatting" at the Academic Skills Center.
  • References appear in alphabetical order by surname of the author. If there is more than one source with the same author, then those references appear in chronological order, earliest source first.

For specific examples of numerous reference formats with notes and tips, see the Common Reference List Examples page.

Author

Start with each author's last name, followed by a comma and the first and middle initials (or just the first initial if that is all that is provided). Separate each author with a comma, and include the ampersand (&) before the last name in the list. Note that you should include a comma even in a list of just two names.

List authors' names in the order in which they appear on the publication. The order of names often carries significance, so it is important not to change the order in your listing. To be listed as first author for a publication usually means that person is the lead researcher on the project.

Severino, C., & Knight, M.

Graves, S. J., Anders, K. C., & Balester, V. M.

Moore, J. L., Rosinski, P., Peeples, T., Pigg, S., Rife, M. C., Brunk-Chavez, B. ... Tasaka, R.

  • For corporate authors—companies, institutions, and other types of collective authors—simply list the corporate name. Corporate authors are common in technical reports and other institutional documents that represent the work of an organization as a whole.

American Psychological Association.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Walden University.

  • List all authors up to seven names. If a publication has more than seven authors, list the first six authors, insert an ellipses, and then end the list with the last author.
  • When providing a reference entry to an edited collection as a whole, list the editors at the beginning of the entry, and include the abbreviation ed. (for one editor) or eds. (for two or more editors) after the names.

Lai, P., & Smith, L. C., eds.

Bodhran, A. T., ed.

Publication Date

For most publications, include just the year in parentheses.

For publications with no publication date noted, use the letters n.d. within the parentheses to indicate no date. The most common type of resource with no date is a web page.

For some serial publications like newspapers and popular magazines that are easier to find with the month or day of publication rather than a volume and issue number (such as a weekly news magazine like Time or a daily newspaper like The New York Times), include the month or month and day.

Title of Document

Include the title of the document that you are referencing. Depending on the type of resource, you my include more than one title (for an article and the journal, for instance). Do not add quotation marks around titles (unless part of the original title).

  • Article and chapter titles follow sentence-case capitalization in regular font style.
  • Also capitalize the first word in a subtitle following a colon.
  • Italicize journal titles and use title-case capitalization.
  • Italicize book titles and use sentence-case capitalization.
  • For books in multiple editions, include edition information in parentheses after the book title: (5th Ed.).
  • For atypical resource types, include extra information after titles in brackets: [Kindle ed.].

Publishing Information

For articles, you should generally provide volume and page numbers for the publishing information. Italicize the volume number and use an en dash between the page numbers. (Include issue numbers only if the issues all start over with page 1.) For examples and more information, see our Common Reference List Examples page.

For books, provide the location of the publisher followed by the publisher's name. For locations in the United States, give the city name followed by the two-letter state abbreviation (with no periods). For locations outside the United States, give the city name followed by the country name. In a situation where the author of a book is the same as the author, use the word Author for the publisher instead of repeating the name (see the reference list example for the APA manual).

New York, NY: Norton.

Cambridge, England: Python.

Electronic Retrieval Information

For all references that you accessed electronically rather than in print form, you should include electronic access information. The preferred method is to use the digital object identifier (DOI) number for articles and books that have them. Note that there is no space between the colon and the number that follows it.

Article in a journal:

Thompson, I., & Wittek, A. L. (2016). Writing as a mediational tool for learning in the collaborative composition of texts. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 11, 85–96. doi:10.1016/j.lcsi.2016.05.004

Chapter in an edited ebook:

Damron, R., & Brooks, R. C. (2017). Using autoethnography to bring together writing center and composition practicums. In A. J. Myatt & L. L. Gaillet (Eds.), Writing program and writing center collaborations: Transcending boundaries. New York, NY: Palgrave. doi:10.1057/978-1-137-59932-2_3

If an electronically-accessed article does not have a DOI, provide instead the URL for the homepage of the journal's website. Remove all font formatting and underlining that Microsoft Word might automatically introduce for URLs.

Eaton, T. V., & Akers, M. D. (2007). Whistleblowing and good governance. CPA Journal, 77(6), 66–71. Retrieved from http://www.cpajournal.com/

For web pages and other online content, use specific web addresses (or Universal Resource Locator [URL] addresses). In almost all cases, you should never provide the name of the library database that you retrieved articles from.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.) Programs & services. Retrieved March 30, 2017, from https://www.hhs.gov/programs/index.html

Please see our Quick Guide to Electronic References for more guidance on how to format DOI numbers, URLs, and other electronically accessed information.

Related Multimedia and Social Media Resources

Knowledge Check: Reference List Overview