« December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »

4 posts from January 2010

January 28, 2010

The Generic Reference: Where

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

This post is part of an ongoing series about how references work. It began with an introduction to the generic APA Style reference and posts on the author or “who” element, the date or “when” element, and the title or “what” element. Upcoming posts will cover adding supplementary information in brackets and mixing and matching elements of example references.

The last generic element in an APA reference is where a reader should go to locate the reference you used. (An alternate label for this element might be how—as in, “How can I locate that source?”)


For journals, newsletters, and magazines, the primary locator element is the volume number. It goes after the periodical’s title, in italics, and the article’s page range follows:

Elk, A. (1972a). My theory on brontosauruses. Journal of the

 All-England Summarize Proust Competition, 31, 12–27.

If (and only if) the journal is one that restarts the page numbering at 1 for each issue, include the issue number in parentheses after the volume number:

Elk, A. (1972b). The other theory on brontosauruses. Journal of the 

 All-England Summarize Proust Competition, 31(4), 47–50.

Note that if the issue number is used, it is in roman (i.e., not italic) type, as is the comma following it.

Books, Reports, and So Forth

Give the name and location of the publisher (city and state or, outside the United States, city and country) for books, reports, brochures, and other nonperiodical publications.

Gumby, T. F. (1972). The brain specialist. Cambridge, England: 


Note that the name of the publisher is given in as brief a form as possible. Eliminate words such as Publishers, Co., and Inc., and use only the surname for publishing houses that are named after persons (e.g., Erlbaum, not Lawrence Erlbaum; Wiley, not John Wiley). The names of universities, associations, and so forth are given in full.

The “well-known city rule” is no longer in effect, so the state (or country, for non-U.S. publishers) is included for all publishers. However, there is one exception to this rule: If the publisher is a university whose name includes the name of the state, don’t repeat the state in the publisher location.

Clark, D. T., & Schoomaker, P. J. How not to be seen. Tampa:

 University of Florida.

Electronic Sources

The digital object identifier (DOI) is the new gold standard for locating electronic publications. Through the magic of international concordats and computer programming, it will get you to the online version of the article every time, even if the publisher has changed Web addresses. Over the past few months we have devoted considerable space on the blog to the use (and the pros and cons) of DOIs, so I’ll simply point you to Chelsea's DOI primer and handy flowchart for guidance on when to use DOI versus URL. You may also want to check out Tim's video on how to find those pesky DOIs, and Paige's discussion of document URL versus homepage URL.

Odd Cases

Do you have a locator problem that stumps you? Post it here and we’ll try to figure it out!

January 21, 2010

The Generic Reference: What?

Photo1-21-10 by Sarah Wiederkehr

This post is part of an ongoing series about how references work. Check out an introduction to the generic APA Style reference and posts on the author or "who" element and the date or "when" element. Upcoming posts will discuss the "where" question, as well as give advice on adding supplementary information in brackets and on mixing and matching elements of example references.

To continue on this virtual journey of how to form a reference when the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association does not have an example that matches your situation, I am going to discuss the "what" of the generic reference, otherwise known as the title of the work. First, let’s look at a "skeleton" reference to better illustrate from whence we have come (and where we are going) in learning how to form a generic reference:

Who. (When). What. Where.

What Is a Title, and What if There Isn’t One?

The "what" of the reference, namely, the title of the work, is arguably the least troublesome element of a reference. Most works have a title. For journal articles, the title is simply the title of the article. For book chapters, the title is the title of the chapter. For books, the title of the book is what is needed, and so on. If no title is present, you need merely describe the work, and to indicate that what you are providing is a description and not a formal title, you would enclose this information within brackets. For an example of this type of reference, see Example 60 on p. 212 of the Publication Manual.

When Do I Italicize a Title?

"So," you may be asking, "how do I know whether to italicize the title?" As a general rule of thumb, italicize the parent element of a publication only. What is contained in the title element of a reference is sometimes considered the parent element of a publication, but sometimes this is not the case. For example, when forming a reference for a journal article, the article (the child element) is contained within the journal (the parent element), so the article title would not be italicized, but the journal title would be. For book chapters, follow the same pattern—italicize the title of the book but not the title of the chapter. For books, reports, dissertations, motion pictures, and other works that are not published as part of a larger entity, however—that is, they are not part of a series, a film series, or any other kind of compilation—italicize the title of the work, which will appear in the title element spot (a.k.a. the "what" placeholder shown above). In a reference that contains both a child and a parent publication element, the parent element is considered to be part of the "where" element, which will be explained in a later post.

Unusual Titles

Two slightly unusual occurrences that can affect the title element are worth mentioning here. The first, which will be explained in further detail in a forthcoming post, concerns the inclusion of nonroutine information, within brackets, after the title. There are many examples of this throughout Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual, and the practice is described on p. 186. The second unusual occurrence worth mentioning is what happens when the author element is empty. As you may remember from Chelsea’s earlier post on the author element of the generic reference, in such cases, the title is simply moved into the author position. Using our skeleton reference from the beginning of this post, the end result would be as follows:

What. (When). Where.

In such cases, all of the information contained in the title element, including any nonroutine information in brackets, would appear as the first element and would be followed by a period. In the reference list, alphabetize such entries by the first significant word in the title.

Coming Soon

Stay tuned for two forthcoming posts on (a) the fourth and final element of the generic reference, otherwise known as the "where" element, and (b) the inclusion of nonroutine information in references.

January 14, 2010

The Generic Reference: When?

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

This post is part of an ongoing series about how references work. It began with an introduction to the generic APA Style reference and the author or “who” element. Upcoming posts will discuss “what” and “where,” as well as adding supplementary information in brackets and mixing and matching elements of example references.

How do you determine what to do with the date element of your reference list entry? For most references, it’s pretty straightforward: The date element is the year of publication, found on the copyright page (for books) or the first page of the article (for journals); put it in parentheses and follow with a period.

However, as we’ve seen in previous posts, the basic reference pattern can sometimes have a few unexpected twists.

Online Documents

Online material can be tricky to date properly. If the date is not apparent at the beginning of the document you’re citing, look at the end (e.g., APA Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic, Linguistic, and Culturally Diverse Populations was finalized in 1990, so that’s the date to use).

But look out for a footer that says, “This page was last modified on [date].” This is not the date to use! It could be the date that the document was published, but it’s more likely to be the date it was put online or the date when the webmaster added code for a dancing Freud to the page.

Some sites place a copyright date for the website at the bottom of every page. Check a few pages on the site; if the identical statement appears on every page, it’s a site-wide footer, so that’s not the date you’re looking for either. (See "Zip, Zero, Zilch," below, for the best solution.)


Dates for magazines, newsletters, and newspapers should include “the year and the exact date of the publication (month or month and day),” according to the APA Publication Manual (6th ed., 6.28, p. 185). This means that the month should be given for monthlies, and the month and day for weeklies. If the periodical uses a season with the year, put the year, a comma, and the season in parentheses (2008, Early Spring).

Some journals seem to straddle the line between journal and magazine (e.g., Nature, Science, and The Lancet contain peer-reviewed scientific research but are published weekly). Which date format should you follow for articles from these publications? The determining factor is not whether they're called "journal" or "magazine" but how often they're published. In the case of these and other weeklies, use month, day, and year.

Unpublished Documents

An unpublished document is one that has not yet appeared in its final form. If the final version has been accepted by a publisher but has not yet been released, use “in press” as the date. If the document has been submitted but not accepted, or it is under review, give the year the work was produced. Do not list the journal name, but include the sentence "Manuscript submitted for publication" immediately after the title. If the document is still in draft form, use the year in which the draft you read was produced and include "Manuscript in preparation" as the final sentence (e.g., Example 59, pp. 211–212 of the Publication Manual).

The Double-Date Problem

If you are citing something that has been republished or reprinted, the entry in the reference list should use the date of the version you read. At the end, append the date of the original work or the source of the reprint (see Examples 21 and 26, pp. 203–204, for details on how to format the reference). In text, cite both dates: first the original version, then the version you read, separated by a slash (Freud, 1900/1953).

Sometimes publication of a multivolume work takes place over several years. In that case, use the span of years as the publication date both in the reference list and in text (Koch, 1953–1964).

The Odd Bunch

The sixth edition of the Publication Manual contains a new category for archival materials, such as letters, rare publications, manuscripts, photographs, cuneiform tablets, and apparatus (see 7.10, pp. 212–213). If they are dated, provide the date in parentheses (1935, February 4); if the date does not appear on the item but is known from other sources, put it in square brackets [1934]; if the date is not known but can be reliably estimated, use “ca.” (the abbreviation for circa) before the date in square brackets [ca. 2307 B.C.].

Zip, Zero, Zilch

What if, after reasonably exhaustive efforts, there’s no date to be found? Tell your readers that by entering “n.d.” (for “no date”) in parentheses where the date would otherwise go, and call it a day.

Do you have a thorny dating problem? (No, not that kind . . .) Post it in the comments section and we’ll kick it around.

January 07, 2010

The Generic Reference: Who?

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

This post is part of an ongoing series about how references work.

When you need a reference citation but nothing in the Publication Manual seems to fit, it helps to understand the generic template that all APA Style references follow. As discussed previously, the generic reference answers four interrogative questions: Who? When? What? and Where?

This post addresses the “who” or author element. Upcoming posts discuss the "when," "what," and "where" questions, as well as give advice on adding supplementary information in brackets and on mixing and matching elements of example references when what you need isn’t in the manual.

Who Is Responsible for This Content?

To determine authorship, ask yourself, “who is responsible for this content?” Most often, the “who” will be one person, or several people, who have served as authors or editors. But keep in mind that entities (governments, associations, agencies, companies, etc.) can also function as authors or editors. See pp. 196–197 of the Publication Manual for an index of the author variation examples available.
“No Author”: Are You Sure?

Oftentimes when it appears there is no author, a company or organization of some sort is actually responsible for the content. For example, if you are reporting on H1N1/swine flu pandemic of 2009, one of your sources might be a CDC brief like the one cited below, which was authored by an entity (the CDC) rather than a specific person:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009). CDC recommendations 
for the amount of time persons with influenza-like illness should
be away from others.
Retrieved from

In other cases, there might be no author explicitly stated but you can be reasonably certain who it is. Example 67 in the manual shows an author name in square brackets to show that the author is “reasonably certain but not stated on the document” (p. 214). This is a new style guideline for APA, so we don’t have much practice in using it, but it’s available to you. 

“No Author”: For Sure

In some cases, there truly is no way to pin down who the author is. We treat this as “no author.” In reference citations, we handle this by moving the content’s title into the author position (with no quotation marks around it). This most commonly occurs for wiki entries, dictionary entries, and unattributed website content. In the in-text citation, the title (put inside double quotation marks) likewise takes the place of the author’s name.

Other Resources on Authorship in References

Pages 196–197 in the 6th ed. of the Publication Manual list the author variations in the reference examples.

These FAQs and blogs address how to cite when there is no author:

How to cite....

Search the APA Style Blog


My Photo

About Us

Blog Guidelines

APA Style FAQs


rss Follow us on Twitter

American Psychological Association APA Style Blog

Twitter Updates