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How to Cite a User Manual in a Paper


If you are conducting research on a product or service, you may reference a user manual or instructional guide in your paper. Whenever you reference a source in your work, cite it properly so your reader knows where you found your information. In American Psychological Association, APA, style, user manuals are cited as part of a product's information.

Reference List

When you cite any information that is packaged with a product, the company is listed as the author, along with the year the product was made and the location of the company. APA formats this information like this:

Company name. (Year). Product name: Type of product info. Publisher location: Publisher.

Because the publisher is the company, the company's location will be listed as the publisher's location, and the publisher will simply be listed as "Author". For example:

Staples. (2014). Screen cleaning set: Instruction manual. Framingham, MA: Author.

User Manuals With Authors or Outside Publishers

When a product's user manual lists an author, list the author of the manual in place of the company name in your reference list citation:

Gates, B. (1995). Windows '95: User Guide. Redmond, WA: Microsoft.

If a user manual is published by an outside publisher, that publisher information is listed in place of the company information under "publisher":

General Mills. (2002). Cheerios chess: Instructions. Seattle, WA: Wizards Games.

Citing a User Manual Found Online

If you are citing a user manual that you found online, include a link to the site from which it was retrieved:

Company name. (Year). Product title: Type of product information. Retrieved from URL.

For example:

Blizzard Entertainment. (1998). Starcraft: User manual. Retrieved from http://ftp.blizzard.com/pub/misc/StarCraft.PDF.

In-Text Citations

When you reference or quote a user manual in the text of your paper, include an in-text citation to show where the information comes from. The in-text citation will include the author name of a source -- in this case, the company name -- the year of publication and the page number, if applicable. For example:

The product kit includes a screen cleaning solution, microfiber cloths, and a "stain light" to check for scratches (Staples, 2014).

Windows users were instructed to troubleshoot and only reboot their computer as a last resort (Gates, 1995, p. 12).

If the author name or date of publication is included in the leading sentence of a reference, you do not need to include that information in your in-text citation. For example:

Blizzard describes Starcraft as being open to multiplayer formats such as "Melee, Free for All, Greed, Slaughter, and Capture the Flag" (1998, p. 11).

About the Author

Jon Zamboni began writing professionally in 2010. He has previously written for The Spiritual Herald, an urban health care and religious issues newspaper based in New York City, and online music magazine eBurban. Zamboni has a Bachelor of Arts in religious studies from Wesleyan University.

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