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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.


Still using the 6th edition of the APA Style Guide?

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.

    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 that are found only in a particular database (e.g., Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, JSTOR primary sources, *Proquest Dissertations and Theses Abstracts and Index).

    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).

    Direct quotations

    See APA's Quotations for additional formatting and punctuation guidelines or consult the guide directly in Sections 8.23–8.36, pp. 269–278.

    Short quotations contain fewer than 40 words and place double quotation marks around the words.  See Table 8.2 (p. 272) in the guide for a comparison of correct short quotation examples.

    Short quotations examples from print sources or online articles:

    • Narrative example, include the author and year in the sentence and place the page number in parentheses after the quotation:

    Mooney (2000) found that ..."direct_quotation" (p. 276).

    • Parenthetical example, give the author, year, and page number in parentheses immediately after the quotation or at the end of the sentence (Section 8.25, pp. 270-271):

    "Direct_quotation"... (Walker, 2000, p. 135).

    Use block quotation format for quotes of 40 words or more. Start the quotation on a new line, indent the quotation about ½ an inch, double space the quote and omit the quotation marks. Do not add a period after closing parenthesis (Section 8.27, p. 272).

    Parenthetical example:

    Prince Edward Island is a curved slice of land from three to thirty-five miles wide and about one hundred and twenty miles long, lying along the southern rim of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and separated from the mainland of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia by the narrow waters of Northumberland Strait.(Ives, 1999, p. 1)


    When paraphrasing from a source, or when referring to an idea contained in another work, you are encouraged to provide a page number, or other parts of a source, to help locate the section within such works as a book or video (Section 8.23, p. 269). See section Adding location information above.

    Review APA's how to cite long paraphrases and other guidelines, including examples, in Paraphrasing or consult the guide directly (Section 8.24, p. 269).

    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). 

    Formatting the reference list

    In APA, the list of sources at the end of the paper (bibliography) is called the reference list. The reference list must include all references cited in the text of your paper. (Chap. 9, p. 281).

    The word References should appear at the top of your reference list, and it should be centred on the page (Section 9.43, p. 303).  

    Order of references in the reference list is alphabetical, by the last name of the first author (Section 9.44–9.48, pp. 303–306) or, if author is not available - by title.

    Alphabetize letter by letter. "Nothing precedes something". 'Brown, J. R.' comes before 'Browning, A. F.'.

    For several works by the same author cite them in your reference list by year of publication with the earliest first - Smith, A. (1999) ... Smith, A. (2002) (Section 9.46, p. 304).

    For reference entries of works by the same author and the same year, refer to Citing works with the same author and date or consult the guide directly (Section 9.47, p. 305) for further details on the two-step process for assigning dates.

    Second and subsequent lines of each entry are indented 1/2 inch or 5 spaces. The chosen format should be consistent throughout the references.

    Double-space between all lines of your work, including references. 

    See Chapter 9, pp. 280-309 APA Publication Manual, 7th ed. [print] for detailed information on the preparation of the reference list.

    Additional sources

    APA 7th edition resources

    Other APA resource guides