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April 26, 2012

Reference Example Organization: How to Find the Example You Need in the Manual

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Consider the following questions that the APA Style team has received:

  • How do I cite a website?
  • How do I cite interlibrary loan?
  • How do I cite my Kindle?
  • How do I cite my iPhone?

What do they have in common? Well, in each case, the individual asking the question has been unable to find the appropriate reference example in the Publication Manual and has turned to the APA Style team for answers. However, don’t take the existence of these questions as evidence that the answers aren’t in the manual, because they usually are. But to find them, you have to understand how the manual is organized—that’s how you’ll get to the reference example you really need.

Document Type, Not Delivery Method or Format

Many readers may be surprised to realize that the reference examples in the Publication Manual are organized by document type (articles, books, reports, etc.), not by method of delivery (computers, interlibrary loan, e-readers, smartphones) or format (paper, HTML, DVD, etc.). So for every reader who writes to us to say, “I can’t believe out of 77 examples in the Publication Manual, not one is for a website,” we take this opportunity to point out that a full 47 examples—that’s 61%—refer to online resources you’d find on a website.

So, remember that for the purpose of citation (and of finding reference examples), it matters what's on the website, not that the document is on a website in and of itself. 

Using the Manual to Find What You Need

The Publication Manual provides a wonderful index of document types in Chapter 7 prior to the reference examples themselves (see pp. 193–198). In addition to variations on document type (96 of them!), subvariations on author, title, and publication information are also provided. This list is an essential reference for users of the Publication Manual, and we hope you’ll take advantage of it now if you haven’t before.

Clarifying the Distinctions Among Delivery Method, Format, and Type

Additionally, we give to you the table below, which lists examples of different document delivery methods, formats, and types. The third column, for document type, also links to other APA Style Blog posts on the topic and lists relevant reference examples in the Publication Manual.

So when you ask an APA Style question—say, “How do I cite ‘X’?”—first try to find your “X” in the table below or in the index of document types in the manual. If you find it listed only in one of the first two columns of the table below, then you haven’t figured out the document type yet (that’s the third column), and you’re not quite ready to write the reference. Note that there are as many possible document types out there as the day is long, so for brevity’s sake, this table includes only the most common. Many more are in the Chapter 7 index.  

Document delivery method

 Finding - computer

Document format

Finding - film

Document type


Finding - book

Computer

Paper

Journal article (ex: 1–6)

Internet browser

HTML (as on a website)

Magazine or newspaper article (ex: 7–11)

Mobile phone (e.g., iPhone, Android phone)

PDF (as on a website)

Special section in a journal (ex: 12)

Tablet computer (e.g., iPad)

Digital audio file (e.g., mp3, mp4)

Monograph (ex: 13)

E-reader (e.g., Kindle, Nook)

Digital video file (e.g., flash video, streaming video, wmv, mp4)

Editorial (ex: 14)

Interlibrary loan (e.g., ILLiad)

DVD or Blu-ray

Abstract (ex: 16, 17)

Visit to a library in person

Film

Book or book chapter (ex: 18–26)

Photocopy

CD, cassette, or record

Report (technical, government, etc.) (ex: 31–35)

Movie projector

Art materials (paint, clay, etc.)

Dictionary or encyclopedia, whole book or entry (ex: 27–30)

Stereo or other audio player

 

Wikipedia or wiki entry

Paper

 

Proceedings from a meeting or symposium (ex: 38, 39)

Museum

 

Dissertation or thesis (ex: 40–44)

Archival collection

 

Review (ex: 45–48)

Physical object (e.g., book)

 

Video (e.g., YouTube video, movie, TV show) (ex: 49, 51)

 

 

Podcast (ex: 50)

 

 

Music recording (ex: 52)

 

 

Software (ex: 56)

 

 

Unpublished, informally published, or self-published work (ex: 58–62)

 

 

Letter (ex: 63–65)

 

 

Interview (recorded or transcribed) (ex: 69, 70)

 

 

Pamphlet or brochure

 

 

Artwork or images

 

 

Photograph (ex: 73)

 

 

Blog post (ex: 76)

 

 

Press release

 

 

Tweet

 

 

Facebook update

 

 

Information on a webpage

 

 

Personal communication (e-mail, phone call, unrecorded interview, etc.) (see section 6.20)

Trouble Finding “X”

If you have trouble nailing down exactly what “X” is, other than perhaps you know it is on a website, then read our blog post on discerning different kinds of website material for more help. If you know what “X” is but you can’t find an exact example in the manual, read our blog post on what to do when you can’t find the exact document type in the Publication Manual

We hope this post will help you to find the APA Style reference example that you’re looking for. 

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