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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.

  • Only list sources you cite in your text. Do not include sources you read but did not cite.
  • The reference list appears on its own page, with the title References at the top, centered and in regular type.
  • 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 from the left margin. Use the APA Reference style tag in your program template to format the list correctly. If you do not use the template style, follow the directions 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.


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 20 names. If a publication has more than 20 authors, list the first 19 authors, insert an ellipses without an ampersand, and then end the list with the last author. (Note that in APA 6, the total number of authors to list was seven, with the same use of ellipses for sources with more than seven authors.)
  • 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 webpage.

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 may 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.
  • Italicize webpage 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.]. A blog post does not need a format description.

Publishing Information

For articles, you should generally provide volume, issue, and page numbers for the publishing information. Italicize the volume number, enclose the issue number (in plain text, not italics) in parentheses, and use an en dash between the page numbers. (In APA 6, iclude 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 and book chapters, provide the name of the publisher. In a situation where the author of a book is the same as the publisher, omit the publisher from the reference entry. (Note that in APA 6, publisher location information also preceded the publisher's name. Publisher location information is no longer a part of the reference entry for books in APA 7.)

Electronic Retrieval Information

If a work has a digital object identifier (DOI) number assigned to it, include it in the reference entry, regardless of whether you used the print or online version of the source. If a work has no DOI number, format the entry as if you accessed the print version. If you accessed an article from an academic database and it has no DOI assigned to it, do not include the database URL or name in the entry. Format the entry as if you accessed the print version.

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.

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.

Provide a uniform resource locator (URL) for works that do not have DOI numbers assigned to them (e.g., webpages and popular periodicals).

Eaton, T. V., & Akers, M. D. (2007). Whistleblowing and good governance. CPA Journal, 77(6), 66–71.

For webpages and other online content, provide the URL address that links directly to the source. The hyperlink should be active. "Retrieved from" should not be included before most URLs; simply insert the hyperlink.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.) Programs & services.

Note that there are substantial differences in how to format DOI and URL numbers in APA 6 and APA 7. If you are finishing a doctoral capstone study in APA 6, make sure to refer to your APA 6 manual for further guidance.