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).