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Reference List: Overview

Basics of Reference List Entries

Reference list entries contain specific publication information, 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.

  • Only list sources you cite in your text. Do not include sources you read but did not cite.
  • The reference list should come after the text of your paper but before any tables, figures, or appendices.
  • The reference list appears on its own page, with the title References at the top, centered and in bold type.
  • As with the rest of the paper, reference entries should be double spaced.
  • Use one space after the punctuation within each reference (e.g., after the period that follows the date). See APA 7, Section 16.1.
  • All references have a hanging indent, which means the first line is flush left, and all subsequent lines are indented ½ inch to the right. Learn how to create a hanging indent under the "General Document Formatting" section 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. For help on evaluating resources and identifying types of resources, please visit the library's Evaluating Resources pages.


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. When creating a reference for a work with two group authors, use an ampersand, not a comma to separate them (as you would with two individual authors).

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.

  • 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 a whole organization.

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

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Note that when multiple layers of government agencies are listed as authors in a work, use just the most specific author in the reference.

Instead of “U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute,” use the most specific author.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Health and awareness.

When creating a reference for a work with multiple authors, provide surnames and initials for up to 20 authors. For sources with 21 or more authors, use ellipsis points after the name of the 19th author, followed by the final author's surname and initials.

Steyer, T., Ortiz, K., Schemmel, L., Armstrong, B., Hicks, L., Simac, M., Perez, K., Nyung, J., Schlenz, W., Robins, K., O’Neil, O., Muhammad, E., Moore, J. L., Rosinski, P., Peeples, T., Pigg, S., Rife, M. C., Brunk-Chavez, B.,Tasaka, R.... Curtis, F.

When providing a reference entry to a whole edited collection, list the editors at the beginning of the entry and include the abbreviation Ed. (for one editor) or Eds. (for two or more editors) in parentheses after the names.

Bodhran, A. T. (Ed.).

Lai, P., & Smith, L. C. (Eds.).

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.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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

Hubbard, A. (2014, January 8). New York to be 21st state to OK Medical Marijuana. Los Angeles Times.

For republished texts, use the date from the republished version you read. At the very end of the reference list entry, include a note in parentheses with the original publication date.

Piaget, J. (2000). The psychology of the child. Basic Books. (Original work published 1969)

For in-text citations of these republished texts, include both dates with a slash separating them, listing the original publication date first and then the date of the republished version you read.

(Piaget, 2000/1969).

Title of Document

Include the title of the document that you are referencing. Depending on the type of resource, you may have to 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.
  • Provide the periodical title exactly as shown on the cited work (e.g., The New England Journal of Medicine). Abbreviate only if the official title has an abbreviation (e.g., JAMA Pediatrics).
  • Italicize journal titles and use title-case capitalization.
  • Italicize book titles and use sentence-case capitalization.
  • Italicize webpages and websites and use sentence-case capitalization.
  • For books in multiple editions, include edition information in parentheses after the book title: (5th ed.).
  • For ebooks, the format, platform, or device is not included in the reference. (Note that this guideline is a change from APA 6, which recommended including this information in brackets.)

Simpson, A.V., Stewart, C., & Pitsis, T. (2014). Normal compassion: A framework for compassionate decision making. Journal of Business Ethics, 119(4), 473–491.

Publishing Information

For Articles

For articles, you should generally provide the volume, issue number (if available), and page numbers for the publishing information. Italicize the volume number and use an en dash between the page numbers. For examples and more information, see the Common Reference List Examples page.

For Books

  • In APA 7, you no longer need to include the publisher location (city and state) as part of a reference.
  • Spell and capitalize the publisher name exactly as it appears in the cited work, except for designations of business structure (e.g., Inc., Ltd., LLC), which should be omitted. If the publisher is an imprint or division of a larger publishing company, provide only the specific imprint/division. If two or more publishers are listed on the copyright page, include them all, separated by semicolons.

Burgess, R. (2019). Rethinking global health: Frameworks of power. Routledge.

  • In a situation where the publisher of a book is the same as the author, omit the publisher from the publishing element.

World Health Organization. (2019). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems (11th ed.).

Electronic Retrieval Information

Provide the digital object identifier (DOI) number for articles and books that have them. For articles and books without DOI numbers retrieved from common academic research databases, there is no need to provide any additional electronic retrieval information (the reference list entry looks like the entry for a print copy of the source). For articles and books without DOI number retrieved on the open web, include the URL.

  • In APA 7, standardize DOIs in URL form with "" before the number.
  • In almost all cases, the name of the library or institution should not be in the DOI.
  • In APA 7, active hyperlinks for DOIs and URLs should be used for documents meant for screen reading. Present these hyperlinks in blue and underlined text (the default formatting in Microsoft Word), although plain black text is also acceptable. Be consistent in your formatting choice for DOIs and URLs throughout your reference list.

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

Knowledge Check: Reference List Overview