menu

How to Cite an Anonymous Reference


Although it is less common among contemporary sources, it is possible for a researcher to find an anonymously authored source. In such cases, both the American Psychological Association (APA) and Modern Language Association (MLA) provide guidelines for citing texts written by unknown authors. The most important thing to remember when citing a text by an unknown author is that you must, as a good researcher, provide your readers and scholarly colleagues with as much information about the source -- such as the title, publishing company and date of publication -- so that they will be able to access your source.

APA Style

Write "Anonymous" in place of the author's name in the parenthetical reference if it is used in the source, for example: ("Anonymous, 2008).

Cite the source by its title if neither an author's name nor the word "anonymous" is present. Use an abbreviated title if the title is long. For example, "Rhetorical Strategies for Effective Research Papers" could be abbreviated and cited as ("Rhetorical Strategies," 2007).

Italicize the titles of larger works such as books and place the titles of shorter works, such as journal articles, in quotation marks.

Cite the source either by its full title or as "Anonymous" in your "References" page. This will enable the reader to identify the full citation in your list of sources based on either the word "Anonymous" or the abbreviated title in your parenthetical reference.

MLA Style

Cite an anonymously authored text by its title in the parenthetical reference. Create an abbreviated title if the title is long. For example, a journal article called "Citation Handbooks as an Asset to Student Achievement" could be abbreviated and cited as ("Citation Handbooks" 342).

Italicize the titles of books, films, plays and entire websites. Place the titles of chapters, journal articles, essays and poems in quotation marks.

Cite anonymously authored texts by title in your Works Cited. Alphabetize these entries using the first word of the title.

About the Author

Victoria Kennedy has an honors B.A. in English from Wilfrid Laurier University. She works as a writing tutor at her university's writing center and also contributed to her campus newspaper.

Photo Credits
  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images