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October 19, 2009

How to Cite a Speech in APA Style

Timothy mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. made this famous declaration on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It may be the most famous American speech ever given, and it’s certainly oft-quoted. 

But how do you properly cite a speech in APA Style?  The answer may surprise you. You don’t reference the speech itself!

Even for a speech you may know by heart, you should find an authoritative source for the text. Then you simply reference the book, video documentary, website, or other source for the quotation. The reference format you need will depend on the type of document you’ve used. 

For example, if you’ve found Dr. King’s speech in a book of great speeches, your reference might be as follows. 

Smith, J. (Ed.). (2009). Well said! Great speeches in American history. 
  Washington, DC: E & K Publishing.


The in-text citation would include the surname of the author or editor of the source document and the year of publication.  For example, your sentence might look like this: 

Dr. King declared, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” (Smith, 2009).


Of course, you can find speeches in a wide variety of sources. Consider two ends of the spectrum: You might find an embedded video in a blog post and use Example 76 (“Blog post,” p.  215 of the Publication Manual), or you might find a lone, dusty copy of an audiotape in an archive and use Example 69 (“Interview recorded and available in an archive,” p. 214). 

What’s your favorite source for great speeches?

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