How to Cite References in APA Format

American Psychological Association, or APA, style is a citation format widely used in the field of the humanities. APA style uses both a reference page that collects all the sources used in your research and in-text citations for any information in your paper that draws from your sources. Learning APA style is simple once you grasp the basic formatting rules used by the style.


The basic APA reference page formatting style is to give the name of the author, the date of publication, the title of the book or article cited and the publisher's information. This basic information is used in all citations. When citing a book, this information is formatted as follows:

Author Lastname, First Initial(s). (Date of Publication). Title of book: Subtitle if applicable. Publisher Location: Publisher Name.

For example: Douglas, M. (2002). Purity and danger. New York, NY: Routledge.

When citing a work with multiple authors, the last two authors are separated by an ampersand:

Pratchett, T., & Gaiman, N. (2006). Good Omens. New York, NY: HarperTorch.


If you are doing scholarly research, you may have to reference sources from academic journals. A reference page citation for a journal notes the journal issue and page numbers of the article, using the following format:

Author Lastname, First Initial(s). (Date of Publication). Article title: And subtitle. Title of journal, Volume number(Issue number), Page numbers.

For example: Vargas, L.S., Karsten, F., & Mihara, M. (2004). Advantage and disadvantage: An overview. Five shards monthly, 45(2), 32-41.

If the article you are citing is in an edited book instead, the editors are noted after the article title:

Author Lastname, First Initial(s). (Date of Publication). Article title. In Editor First Initial(s) Lastname (Ed.), Title of book (pp. pages of chapter). Publisher location: Publisher.

For instance: Stoller, P. (1998). Rationality. In M.C. Taylor (Ed.), Critical terms for religious studies (pp. 239-255). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.


When citing a Web page or article published on a website, include the date you accessed the website and the website's URL. Month and date are included in the date of publication if they're available. If it's not an article, use the latest update of the Web page for the publication date:

Author Lastname, First Initial(s). (Year of Publication, Month Day). Title of Web page or Article. Retrieved Access Date, from URL.

For example:

Dilawar, A. (2015, February 26). Robots will soon be making you a custom-fitted sweater. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from

If the page you are citing does not have an author, cite the organization or title of the website instead:

Rutgers Office of Information Technology. (2015). OIT Structure. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from

If you are citing a journal article that you retrieved online, simply add the article's URL to the end of your article citation. The "retrieved from" date is not required.

For example:

Bancroft, A. (1984). The luminous vision: Six medieval mystics and their teachings. The sixteenth century journal, 15(2), 249-250. Retrieved from

In-Text Citations

When you reference one of your sources in the text of your paper, insert an in-text citation noting the source. This is a parenthetical that includes the author's last name and year of publication.

For example:

(Douglas, 2002) (Pratchett, & Gaiman, 2006)

When using an in-text citation for a source with more than two authors, list all authors in the first instance of the citation and replace all but the first with "et al." in all further citations.

For example:

(Vargas, Karsten, Mihara, 2004) (Vargas et al., 2004)

If a source has more than five authors, replace all authors after the first with "et al." in all in-text citations.

If an organization is the author of a reference, use the organization's name in place of the author's last name:

(Rutgers Office of Information Technology, 2015)

Abbreviate this in all further citations:

(ROoIT, 2015)

Missing Information

If you are citing a source with no author, use the title of the work in place of the author's name:

The book of common prayer. (1979). New York, NY: The Church Hymnal Corporation.

For an in-text citation, use the work title in quotes in place of the author's name.

("The book of common prayer", 1979)

If you can't locate the publication date for a source, replace it with "n.d." in both your reference page and in-text citations.

If you can't find the location of a publisher, replace the location with "n.p." If you can't find the name of a publisher, replace the publisher name with "n.p." If both publisher location and name are missing, replace the entire publisher section with "n.p."

Certain less-cited documents -- maps and dictionaries, movies, TV shows and music -- require citing unusual information in APA style. If you are unsure how to cite a specific type of source in APA format, ask your teacher or refer to an APA style guide.

Need help with a citation? Try our citation generator.

Cite this Article