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How to Cite Case Studies in APA Format


As a student researcher, you know the value of both quantitative and qualitative research to your chosen area of study. Case studies are forms of qualitative, descriptive research used often in fields such as psychology or business, fields in which the American Psychological Association (APA) style is used most often for writing these papers. APA style doesn't provide instructions for how to style a case study specifically, so you generally cite one according to the type of publication you found it in.

Case Studies from a Book

Many textbooks or books about a given subject include a series of case studies you can use as a source in your own work. The basic APA format for books includes the author’s name, year of publication, book title and the publisher’s name and location. Since you probably want to refer only to the specific case study in the book, you also include the study’s title to direct your audience straight to the source, as in the example:

Lecourt, E. (1991). Off-beat music therapy. In K. Bruscia (Ed.), Case studies in music therapy(pp.73-98). New York: Barcelona Publishers.

This book had an editor, so it was included before the book title. It also has the page numbers in parentheses after the title to lead the reader to the exact place you sourced the material.

Journal Article Citations

You might also find a variety of case studies in journals dedicated to your given field of study. These citations look similar to the format for books, but with some differences. The most notable difference is the addition of volume and page numbers, which is, again, of great value to your readers. A sample citation of a case study found in a journal looks like this:

Schwartz, M. F., Marin, O. S. M., & Saffran, E. M. (2004). Dissociations of language function in dementia: A case study. Brain and Language, 7(3), 277-306.

In this example, the italicized volume number is followed, with no spaces between, the issue number, which is not italicized, in parentheses. Also notice the journal title follows traditional capitalization, where the first letter of all important words are capitalized. While you might not find many case studies in them, newspaper and magazine articles use the year, month day format for the date in parentheses.

Citations for Web Sources

You might find case studies online. If the study is an online version of a journal article, you could reference the original print source, or you could add the URL of the website. The rest of the citation would look like one for a journal article, with the addition “Retrieved from” followed by the URL. If your source is from an online journal with a digital object identifier, or DOI, you should use that number in place of the URL, as in this example:

Jacobsen, K. H., et al. (2015). Ebola in Freetown area, Sierra Leone: A case study of 581 patients. The New England Journal of Medicine, 372, 587-588. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1413685

DOIs provide long-lasting links to articles, whereas URLs can change frequently. DOIs are most often found on the first page of the case study, usually near the article title and the online journal’s title and volume number.

Business School Case Studies

APA style is also sometimes used in business, and case studies from Harvard or Ivey Business school have a slightly different citation format. As you will see in this example, the format is similar to that for a book:

Elberse, A. & Ferguson, A. (2013). Ferguson’s Formula. HBS No. R1310G-PDF-ENG. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.

The citation for an Ivey Business School case study is the same, except you will write “Ivey ID” without quotation marks in place of “HBS No.”, and the location and publisher is “London, Canada: Ivey Publishing.”

In-Text Citations

Reference list entries are only part of citing case studies in your work. You also need to provide in-text citations; APA style uses the author-date format, as follows: (Lecourt, 1991). There is a comma between the author and the date. These citations go at the end of the sentence or sentences referring to the case study material, and the sentence's period goes after the final parentheses. If you mention the author’s name in your sentence, you need put only the date in parentheses directly after the author’s name.

About the Author

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.

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