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APA 7th Edition Citations Guide - Maple Woods

Need help with APA style? MCC librarians are here to help!

Reference List Overview

When creating a Reference list in APA style, you need to format your sources in a specific way. Click on the tabs on the lefthand side to learn how to cite specific sources in your References list. Continue reading below for an overview of rules when creating a Reference list. 

Reference List General Rules

Below are a few guidelines for the reference list page format: 

  • Start the reference list on a new page and include the word References centered and in bold at the top.
  • The reference list should be double-spaced. Each entry should be formatted with a hanging indent.
  • If the reference list includes 2 or more entries by the same author(s), list them in chronological order with the earliest first.
  • Arrange reference entries in one alphabetical sequence by the surname of the first author or by title or first word if there is no author.
  • Ignore the words A, An, and The when alphabetizing by title.
  • Numbers are alphabetized as they are said. (i.e. "30 days.." is placed in order as if it is spelled "Thirty days".

Reference List Citation Elements

Basic format for reference list citations: 

Author. (Date). Title. Source. 

The following are guidelines for the reference list citations themselves, broken down by each part of the citation: 

  • 1. Author.
    • Use ONLY the initial(s) of the author’s first name, NOT the full name.  For example: Smith, A. J. Also include the middle initial if it is known.
    •  If the author’s name is unavailable, use the first few words of the title of the article, book or web source, including the appropriate capitalization and italics formatting. e.g. (Scientists say, 2000).
    • List up to 20 authors on the reference list. Include an & before the last author.
    • If more than 20 authors are included, list the first 19 authors as usual. Then use an ellipsis (...) before the final author's last name.
    • If citing a username, include the @ symbol if it is part of the name. If both the real name and user name are known, put the username in square brackets after the person's inverted real name. For example: James, L. [@KingJames].
    • For a group author in the reference list, provide the full name of the group. Do not use an abbreviation. For example:  American Psychological Association.
    • If an author has a special role such as editor, writer, director, etc, include the description in parentheses after the name. For example:  Adams, J. E. (Ed.).  For more information consult section 9.10 in the APA Style Guide.
    • Note: Author names may be documented differently in the in-text citation formatting style.
  • 2. (Date).

    • The format for each type of date is as follows:

      • Daily/weekly--(2020, April 18).

      • Monthly--(2020, April).

      • Seasonally--(2020, Winter).

      • Yearly--(2020).

      • No date is published--(n.d.).

  • 3. Title of the work.

    • In titles and subtitles of articles, chapters, and books, capitalize only the first letter of the first word and any proper nouns. If there is a colon or a semi-colon, capitalize the first word after that, too. 

    • Italicize book titles, journal titles, and volume numbers. Do NOT italicize issue numbers.

  • 4. Source of the work.

    • The source of a work can be a number of things (book, periodical, online source, etc.).

    • If a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is listed on either a print or an electronic source it is included in the reference.  A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string that is used to identify a certain source (typically journal articles).  It is often found on the first page of an article.  Example:

    • When the References entry includes a URL that must be divided between two lines, break it BEFORE a slash or dash or at another logical division point. Do NOT insert a hyphen if you need to break a URL or a period at the end of the URL. 

    • Do NOT include retrieval dates unless the source of the material may change over time, such as a blog entry or wikis.

Auto-Generated Reference List Citations

If you are using databases to retrieve your sources, you are usually able to generate an automatic citation from the research you would like to cite. Ask your librarians if you need help learning how to do this!

  • Most database platforms have a "cite" button, and you are able to choose the citation style you are using (APA, MLA, etc.). Once you choose APA and generate the citation, most of the information needed should appear. However, citation generators sometimes make mistakes. When using APA style, a few citation mistakes to look out for and correct are: 
    • Correct capitalization of the title (sometimes databases generate ALL CAPS TITLES. Correct this.)
    • Delete the "accessed date" unless it is a webpage/news article that could change over time. 
    • If there is no DOI listed for the article (see more information on DOIs in the box below), and the article requires logging into a certain database to find it, you can simply put "Retrieved from (list specific site) database," in place of the URL. If a source can be found in many databases, you do not need to reference the database. 

**Note: If the citation cannot be auto generated from the database website, you can use other resources such as Easybib to generate the citation. Remember, these auto generated reference list citations are not perfect! But they will get you off to a running start with your citation/ provide the needed information.