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September 20, 2012

Citing a Whole Periodical

Dear Style Experts,

I consulted a newspaper, a magazine, and a journal for my research. How can I create a citation for the whole issue of each of these periodicals?


Nancy in Newcastle    

Dear Nancy,

Actually, you don’t usually need to cite a whole issue of a periodical. For readers unfamiliar with the term, a periodical is any publication that is released at regular intervals, or “periods”—typically, journals, magazines, and newspapers.  Rather than make a citation for the whole periodical, you can just mention its name and the relevant volume and issue information in the text, for example, “I surveyed an issue of The Washington Post from September 15, 2012.” Then, for each individual article that you use as a source in the paper, create individual citations. Formats for periodical article citations can be found in the Publication Manual (§7.01).

You can find examples of this technique in a meta-analysis. In a meta-analysis, authors typically survey various databases and journals for articles relevant to their research question. In the text they might state something like, “We searched the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology for articles on major depression published between 1991 and 2011.” The reference list would not contain a citation for each issue of the journal that the authors examined. Instead, it would contain citations only for the articles that the authors actually used in their research.

The only exception to this pattern is that you can create a citation for a whole special issue of a periodical (click the link for example citations)—precisely by virtue of its specialness. A special issue has a narrow focus to which all the articles pertain (say, the self and social identity), unlike a typical issue, which has a broader focus (personality and social psychology in general). In that way, a special issue functions sort of like an edited book, and the reader can be referred to the issue as a whole in a citation. Thanks for this interesting question.

Best regards,

Chelsea Lee 




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