General notes: APA (7th ed., 2020) citation guide



This guide is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. It provides selected citation examples for common types of sources. For more detailed information consult directly a print copy of the style manual.

Check out APA's Guide to what's new for APA 7.

Keep track of your document references/citations and format your reference lists easily with citation management software.


Consult SFU's customised APA citation guides with examples for business sourcesCanadian government documents and legal citation.

General notes on APA style

APA Style is based on the author-date system which requires citations to appear in two places in your essay:

For guidelines on avoiding undercitation and overcitation see APA's Appropriate level of citation or consult the guide directly (Section 8.1, pp. 253-256).

Check APA's lists on their Basic principles of citation on providing credit for sources used or see Section 8.10, pp. 261—278 of the guide.

 Citing generative AI

New technologies like ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools still need to be cited -- ask your instructor if they allow AI-generated text in your assignments. Please see the APA Style Blog post, How to Cite ChatGPT, for examples of how to cite ChatGPT and other AI tools.

Database information in references

  • [NEW] Do not include the name or URL of a database from most academic research databases in the reference list. Some examples include: PsycINFO, Academic Search Premier, Ebscohost databases, Google Scholar, MEDLINE, Nexis Uni, Proquest* databases, etc..
  • Exceptions are those works of limited circulation that are found only in a particular database OR works found in proprietary databases (e.g., Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, JSTOR primary sources, *Proquest Dissertations and Theses Abstracts and Index). See date element below for format details.

For further details and reference examples, see APA's Database information in references or consult the guide directly (Section 9.30, pp. 296-297) and the appropriate reference example in Chapter 10.

DOIs and URLs


  • Do not use "Retrieved from" or "Accessed from" before a DOI or URL. [NEW]
  • Current DOI format ("xxxxx" represents the DOI number)—as recommended by the International DOI Foundation
  • Standardize all DOIs in the reference list to the preferred format--even if presented in an older format.
  • There is no period at the end of a DOI or URL.
  • If work is published or read online, use live links—check with your instructor for their preference.


  • Include a DOI for all works that have one—even if you used the print version.
  • Use only the DOI for online works with both a DOI and URL.
  • Links too long?
    • Use shortDOI service to create shortened DOIs—a work has only one DOI and one shortDOI.
    • Use any URL shortening service as long as the link goes to correct location.
  • See Citing articles in this guide for examples of journal articles with and without DOIs.

For definitions and more details, see APA's DOIs and URLs or consult the guide directly (Section 9.34-9.36, pp. 298-300).

DOI resources

Does your resource have a DOI? Do you need to find it?

Missing citation information

Use APA's table Missing Information to adapt both in-text and reference citations when missing elements or consult the guide directly (Section 9.4, p. 284). Refer to reference examples according to type of work in Chapter 10.

In-text citations

For more detailed guidelines see APA's In-text citations or consult Chapter 8 of the guide directly [pp. 253–278].

There are two formats for in-text citations: parenthetical, the author and publication date appears within parentheses, or narrative, the author appears as part of the text and the publication date follows in parentheses [Section 8.11, p. 262].

Formatting the elements of an in-text citation

Author element

  • for work with one or two authors, include the author name(s) in each citation. For three or more authors,  use "et al." after the first author name in every in text citation.
    • Narrative citations always spell out the word "and"
    • Parenthetical citations use an ampersand (&) between names of two authors or before last author when all names are included to avoid ambiguity.
  • Consult the table, Number of authors to include in in-text citations for examples and exceptions to the basic in-text citation styles or consult the guide directly (Table 8.1, p. 266).
  • Use the following guides for two common exceptions:
  • Consult APA's Citing multiple works parenthetically for guidance or consult the guide directly (Section 8.12, pp. 263–264). For example,  list two or more works by different authors who are cited within the same parentheses in alphabetical order by the first authors' surnames and put semicolons between them (Section 8.12, p. 263):

(Anderson, 1980; Fowers & Powell, 1993; Simonetti, 1998)

Date element

  • Use only the year for in-text citations [Section 8.10, p. 262].
  • For works with no date, use "n.d." with no spaces between the letters (Section 9.17, p, 291).
  • For works accepted for publication but not published, use "in press" (Section 8.10, p. 262).
  • For draft manuscripts, use the year it was written or completed (Section 10.8, p. 335).

Adding location information

When citing a specific part of a source like print sources (books) or online articles (journals, magazines, etc.) the in-text citation ends with page numbers.

Many electronic sources do not provide page numbers. For material without page numbers, refer to the table on APA's Citing specific parts of a source for common examples or Direct quotation of material without page numbers for how to use paragraph numbers or headings. For more detailed information consult the guide directly (Section 8.28, pp.273-274).

Reference list

Review the Basic principles of reference list entries for an overview of the four elements of a reference list entry: author, date, title, and source.

For more details on each element, see APA's Elements of reference list entries or consult the guide directly (Section 9.7–9.33, pp. 285–298).

For reference examples not found in this guide, for example data sets, see APA's Reference examples.

Formatting the elements of a reference list entry

Author element

  • Write author's name as it appears in the work and retain author's preferred capitalization (Section 9.9, p. 287). See APA's Format of individual author names for examples. For group authors, review APA's Format of group author names.
  • For author's first name, use only initials: 'Smith, J.', not 'Smith, Jennifer' (Section 9.8, p.286).
  • Multiple authors:
    • Provide surnames and initials for up to and including 20 authors [see APA's blogpost on why the increase]. Use an ampersand (&) before the final author's name.
    • For 21 or more authors, include the first 19 names, insert an ellipsis, and then add the final author's name.
  • Use "Anonymous" only when work is signed "Anonymous" (Section 9.12, p. 289).

Date element

  • Use the abbreviation (n.d.) if there is no date of publication (Section 9.17, p. 291).
  • Include a retrieval date only if work may change over time or no archived version available:

Retrieved January 20, 2021, from https://xxxxx

Title element

  • For a work that stands alone (books, reports, webpages), italicize the title and use sentence case for capitalization (Section 6.17, p.168):

Decolonizing education: Nourishing the learning spirit.

  • For a work that is part of greater whole (journals, edited book chapters), use sentence case for capitalization and do not italicize:

A library matter of genocide: The Library of Congress and the historiography of the Native American holocaust.

  • For works with no title, include a description in square brackets (Section 9.22, p. 292).
  • Provide a bracketed description after the title to identify those works that are not part of academic literature (i.e., audiobooks, films, gray literature, etc..):

Dance of the warrior [Film].

Source element

The format of the source depends on the reference type. Due to the wide variety of sources, consult APA's Elements of reference list entries: Source which includes a table the most common cases or consult the guide directly for those that are less common (Section 9.24-9.33. pp. 293-298).

URLs in reference citations should link directly to the cited work when possible, for a full list of guidelines consult the guide directly (Section 9.34, p. 298-299).

Additional sources

APA 7th edition resources

Other APA resource guides

Interactive APA 7th ed. guide (Massey University, New Zealand)
Allows users to create examples for reference lists and in-text citations. Includes explanations for how to format parts of the citation, examples on incorporating in-text citations into body of work, and additional information on referencing. 

APA: Multimedia sources (College of DuPage) 
Includes podcasts, images & videos found online, software and mobile apps.

APA Management & business sources citation style guide (McGill University)
Includes many examples from popular databases and content types.

Online APA Style 7th Edition course (University of Waterloo)
A short online course showing step-by-step how to create both in-text and reference list citations.