51 posts categorized "Electronic references"

May 05, 2015

How to Cite an Article With an Article Number Instead of a Page Range

Several online-only journals publish articles that have article numbers rather than unique page ranges. That is, instead of the first article in the issue starting on page 1, the second on page 20, the third on page 47, and so on, every article starts on page 1. Why choose this approach? Because the online-only publisher does not have to worry about creating a print issue (where a continuous page range would assist the reader in locating a piece), this numbering system simplifies the publication process. So to still demarcate the order in which the articles in a volume or issue were published, the publisher assigns these works article numbers.

Many of our readers wonder what to do when citing these references in APA Style. No special treatment is required—simply include the page range as it is reported for the article in your APA Style reference. The page range may be listed on the DOI landing page for the article and/or on the PDF version of the article. Here is an example of an article with a page range, from the journal PLoS ONE:

Simon, S. L., Field, J., Miller, L. E., DiFrancesco, M., & Beebe, D. W. (2015). Sweet/dessert foods are more appealing to adolescents after sleep restriction. PLoS ONE, 10, 1–8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115434

If the article is published in a format without page numbers entirely, just leave off this part of the reference (i.e., end the reference with the volume/issue information for the article). Here is an example article without any page numbers, from the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Cheryan, S., Master, A., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2015). Cultural stereotypes as gatekeepers: Increasing girls’ interest in computer science and engineering by diversifying stereotypes. Frontiers in Psychology, 6. http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00049

In-Text Citations of Direct Quotations

In the text, citations of direct quotations should refer to the page number as shown on the article, if it has been assigned. If the article has not been assigned page numbers, you have three options to provide the reader with an alternate method of locating the quotation:

  • a paragraph number, if provided; alternatively, you can count paragraphs down from the beginning of the document;
  • an overarching heading plus a paragraph number within that section; or
  • an abbreviated heading (or the first few words of the heading) in quotation marks, in cases in which the heading is too unwieldy to cite in full, plus a paragraph number within that section.

Here is an example direct quotation from an article without page numbers that uses the abbreviated heading plus paragraph number method:

To increase the number of women in science and engineering, those in positions of power should strive to create "inclusive cultures so that those who are considering these fields do not necessarily have to embody the stereotypes to believe that they fit there" (Cheryan, Master, & Meltzoff, 2015, "Conclusion," para. 2).

You can read more about including page numbers in in-text citations here. Also see section 6.05 of the Publication Manual.

Do you have additional questions about citing articles with article numbers? Please leave us a comment. 

February 04, 2015

How to Cite a Hashtag in #APAStyle

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Note: To learn how to cite individual tweets or posts that include hashtags, see our post on citing social media. This post is about how to talk about the hashtags themselves.

The hashtag as an organizational tool wasn’t born on Twitter, but that's where I, and many others, first saw it used that way. And, as Chris Messina, who introduced the idea to Twitter, has said, "it's left nerd-dom and now it's out there in the world." Indeed, the hashtag is a common sight on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Google+, Flickr, Tumblr, Pinterest, Kickstarter, and other platforms. And its ubiquity makes the hashtag an incredibly useful search tool.

#APAStyle on Facebook
#APAStyle on Twitter
#APAStyle on Pinterest
#APAStyle on Google+

So how do you cite a hashtag? This may surprise you: You don’t!

That’s because, just like a search of a research database, finding and searching with the right hashtag is part of your research methodology. And just as with other aspects of your methodology, you can simply describe it the text of your paper.

That is, just as you might say “I searched the Public Affairs Information Service International database for Hong Kong, electoral system, and Umbrella Revolution,” you might also say “I searched Twitter, Vine, and Instragram for the hashtags #UmbrellaRevolution, #OccupyHK, and #HongKong that appeared between September 22, 2014 through October 22, 2014.” Interested readers and fellow researchers can then attempt to replicate the search if they are so inclined. If the reasoning behind the wording of the hashtag is not obvious, you might want to elaborate. In this example, you might want or need to explain the origin of the terms Umbrella Revolution and the Occupy movement, which led to the #UmbrellaRevolution and #OccupyHK hashtags.

Of course, in your paper you might also refer to individual tweets, Facebook posts, pictures, or other online items that include hashtags. For instance, you might want to quote the most popular Tweet that used the hashtag or just show some representative cases. You can (and should) create references and cite tweets or other online posts that you’ve quoted, paraphrased, or otherwise relied on in a paper.

January 13, 2015

How to Cite Software in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Can you cite computer software in APA Style? Yes! Here’s everything you need to know.

Q: Do I have to cite the computer software I mention in my paper?
A: The Publication Manual specifies that a reference is not necessary for “standard software.” What is “standard”? Examples are Microsoft Word, Java, and Adobe Photoshop. Even less ubiquitous software, like SPSS or SAS, does not need to be referenced.

Note: We don’t keep a comprehensive list of what programs are “standard.” You make the call.

In your text, if you mention a program, do include the version number of the software. For example, “We asked participants to type their responses in a Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2010, Version 14.0.7128.5000) file.”

However, you should provide a reference for specialized software. For example, let's say you used an open source software package to display items to the participants in your study. You should cite it. The reference format follows our usual who-when-what-where format.

  • Use an individual’s name in the reference if he or she has proprietary rights to the program. In all other cases, create a reference as you would for unauthored works.
  • After the title, in brackets, provide a descriptor for the item. This helps the reader immensely.
  • If the software is available online, provide the URL rather than the publisher name and location.

Example References

Esolang, A. N. (2014). Obscure Reference Generator [Computer software]. Washington, DC: E & K Press.
Customized Synergy [Computer software]. (2014). Retrieved from http://customizedsynergy.com

Example Text Citations

“We used the Obscure Reference Generator (Version 2.1; Esolang, 2014) and Version 1.0 of Customized Synergy (2014) to complete our work."

Q: Is the name of the program italicized?
A: No: not in the text and not in the reference.

Q: Is the name of the program capitalized?
A: Yes, the name of the software is a proper noun and should be capitalized, both in the text and in the reference list.

Q: What about programming languages?
A: You don’t need to include references for programming languages. But, feel free to discuss them in the text of your paper, if relevant.

Q: What about mobile apps?
A: Yes, you can cite those, too. If you need to cite an app, this blog post has everything you need to know.

Q: What about video games?
A: Yes, video games are software. Follow the templates above for the reference and in-text citation.

Q: What if I used an online application to have my participants complete a survey?
A: Like Survey Monkey? If you mention the use of a site, simply provide the URL in your text (e.g., “Participants were given a link to an online survey, which the authors created using Survey Monkey (http://www.surveymonkey.com).” However, if you’re citing a particular page from the cite (e.g., a help document or the “About” page), you should reference that page just as you would any other. See this eggcellent post for more details about citing websites.

Q: What if I wrote the software myself?

A: If the reader can retrieve it, you can include a reference, following the template above. If you’ve created and published/posted software, that certainly falls into the “specialized” area noted above.

But, if you’ve written software that is not retrievable, a reference is not possible.  If, for example, you’ve included the full code as an appendix, you will want to mention that appendix in the text, but a reference is not needed. You might also find these post about how to write about yourself and whether and how to cite one’s own experiences helpful.

I've tried to cover everything, but please let me know what I missed. I look forward to questions and comments!

August 21, 2014

When to Include Retrieval Dates for Online Sources

David Becker

By David Becker

We’ve all had that experience when a dog or a child walks up to you holding something dangerous, disgusting, or some other d-word that you absolutely do not want in the house. What’s the one question we’ve all asked in that situation? “Where did you get that?” If it’s something particularly strange, we might also ask, “What in the world is that?” But rarely do we ask, “When did you get that?” We don’t care. We know it’s in the room now. We just want it to go back where it came from.

Dog Doing Research

APA Style generally asks the same thing: “What are you citing, and where did you get it?” We also ask, “Who created it, and when?” But we usually don’t ask, “When did you consult that source?” One exception to this rule would be for material that is subject to frequent change, such as Wikipedia entries. Because this information is designed to be constantly updated, it’s important to let readers know when you retrieved it.

So the next time you ask your dog to fetch sources for your research paper, make sure he tells you what they are, where he got them, who created them, and when they were created. You probably won’t need to ask when he got them, unless he’s a lazy dog who does all his research in Wikipedia. And if he comes back with a stick, don’t cite that.

July 25, 2014

How to Use the New DOI Format in APA Style

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Have you noticed that references in most recently published journal articles end with a string of numbers and letters? That odd-looking item is the article’s digital object identifier (DOI), and it may just be the most important part of the reference. The DOI is like a digital fingerprint: Each article receives a unique one at birth, and it can be used to identify the article throughout its lifespan, no matter where it goes.

Fingerprint_WhorlDeveloped by a group of international publishers, the DOI System  provides a way to guarantee that digital copies of articles can remain accessible even if a journal changes its domain name or ceases publishing. DOIs are assigned and maintained by registration agencies such as CrossRef, which provides citation-linking services for scientific publishers.

In the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual, DOIs are formatted according to the initial recommendations from CrossRef:

Herbst, D. M., Griffith, N. R.,  & Slama, K. M. (2014). Rodeo 
cowboys: Conforming to masculine norms and help-
seeking behaviors for depression. Journal of Rural
Mental Health, 38,
20–35. doi:10.1037/rmh0000008

The DOI prefix (10.1037, in the case of APA journals) is a unique number of four or more digits assigned to organizations; the suffix (rmh0000008) is assigned by the publisher and identifies the journal and individual article.
Recently, however, CrossRef changed the format of the DOI to a more user-friendly one in the form of a URL:

Herbst, D. M., Griffith, N. R.,  & Slama, K. M. (2014). Rodeo 
cowboys: Conforming to masculine norms and help-
seeking behaviors for depression. Journal of Rural
Mental Health, 38,
20–35. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037

As you can see, the DOI itself is the same (10.1037/rmh0000008), but it is preceded by  http://dx.doi.org/ to insure that it resolves into a working link. Because this change is recent and many publishers are still implementing the new CrossRef guidelines, either the old or the new DOI format is acceptable. But be sure not to mush them together! Here are some examples.


  • doi:10.1037/rmh0000008
  • http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rmh0000008


  • http://doi:10.1037/rmh0000008
  • doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rmh0000008
  • Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/rmh0000008

Need more help with using DOIs? Try these posts from our blog:

February 20, 2014

How to Cite a Psychological Test in APA Style

Timothy McAdoo
by Timothy McAdoo

A reference to a psychological test (also called a measure, scale, survey, quiz, or instrument) follows the usual who-when-what-where format.


Here’s an example of a test you might have retrieved directly from a website:

Purring, A. (2012). Charisma and Tenacity Survey [Measurement instrument].
     Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/tests/measures/instruments/surveys

A test's name is a proper noun, so be sure to capitalize it in the reference.

In other cases, you may actually be citing the database record rather than the test. If you found a record for the test in a database, you can cite it, whether or not the record contains a link to the test itself:

Barks, H., & Howls, I. (2013). Directions of Generosity [Database record].
     Retrieved from The McAdoo Database of Fictional Titles. http://dx.doi.org

how to cite psychological tests in APA Style: http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2014/02/how-to-cite-a-psychological-test-in-apa-style.htmlOr, perhaps you’ve used a test that is not available online. Not to worry, the format varies only in the "where" element. Use the first example above as your template, but replace “Retrieved from http://...” with the location and publisher (e.g., Petland, MD: E & K Press).

Using Acronyms

Although some tests are better known by their acronyms than by their full titles, the acronym is not included in the reference.* Rather, introduce the acronym at the first use in the body of the paper, as shown in the examples below.

In-Text Citations

In the body of your paper, be careful to write the name exactly as it appears in your reference. And here again, capitalize the test name, because it is a proper noun. However, capitalize the word survey (or instrument, quiz, etc.) only if it’s part of the test’s name:

“In this study, we used Purring’s (2012) Charisma and Tenacity Survey (CATS) rather than Barks and Howls’s (2013) Directions of Generosity survey.”

The abbreviation need not be introduced if the test name is mentioned only once. However, if the test name appears frequently in the paper (i.e., generally three or more times), define it the first time, and use the abbreviation consistently thereafter. Note also that the test names are not italicized when used in the text. 

Finally, although you don’t need to include the author and date every time you mention the test by name, do include the author–date citation if you quote directly from the test or paraphrase it in any way.

If you’ve read this far, you’ve passed my test! Give yourself an A+.


*The exception is the rare case where the acronym is the only official name of the test (i.e., an official spelled-out title no longer exists, which is an uncommon occurrence; the most famous example is the SAT, which no longer has a spelled-out name).

February 07, 2014

How to Cite an Annual Report in APA Style

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

Annual reports are usually easy to find on a company's website. The APA Style Guide to Electronic References says to "format references to technical and research reports and other gray literature as you would a book retrieved online." Thus, a reference to an annual report follows the usual who-when-what-where format.

For example,

American Psychological Association. (2013). 2012 annual report of the American
    Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs

If you used a print version of the report, replace the URL with the location and name of the publisher, like a reference to a book. And, note that when the author is the publisher, the word Author is used.

For example,

National Association of Social Workers. (2012). 2011–2012 annual report.
    Washington, DC: Author.

In both cases, the in-text citation follows the author–date format (e.g., American Psychological Association, 2013; National Association of Social Workers, 2012).

January 17, 2014

Timestamps for Audiovisual Materials in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2by Chelsea Lee

Audiovisual materials like videos, podcasts, movies, and television shows can make excellent sources for academic papers. To point the reader of a paper to a specific spot in an audiovisual source—such as when you cite a direct quotation—include a timestamp in the APA Style in-text citation, just as you would include a page number under analogous circumstances for a print source like a book or journal article. This post will show you how.


Use a Timestamp to Cite a Direct Quotation

To cite a direct quotation from an audiovisual source, include a timestamp in the in-text citation alongside the author and date indicating the point at which the quotation begins.

Here are two examples from a YouTube video about cognitive behavioral therapy that features interviews with both practitioners and clients. The first citation is for a block quotation, and the second is for a shorter quotation (<40 words).



The treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy may seem extreme to a person who does not experience the difficulties associated with a diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Professor Paul Salkovskis addresses this concern:

That’s rather like saying, if someone’s got a broken leg . . . “Why should you have a plaster cast on? That’s extremely unnatural. No one else has a plaster cast.” And the idea is you often have to do things in a very different way in order to put them right. (OCD-UK, 2009, 4:03)

One patient who experienced the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy stated that it was so remarkable for her that “I began to think impossible things, like I could even invite people home” (OCD-UK, 2009, 4:50).

 The timestamp reflects the format shown on the source—here, the video is counted in minutes and seconds. To cite a quotation appearing before the 1-minute mark, or from a video less than 1 minute long, include a zero in the minutes column (e.g., 0:32).

 This example also demonstrates how to incorporate details into the narrative to provide context. Neither of the individuals quoted above are the author of the video (which for retrieval in the reference is the name of the user who posted the video to YouTube, OCD-UK). Thus the quoted individuals’ names or descriptions appear in the narrative, and the citation appears parenthetically.

 Reference list entry: 

OCD-UK. (2009, February 26). A guide to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ds3wHkwiuCo


Use a Timestamp to Help the Reader Locate Paraphrased Information

 You can also include a timestamp for a citation of paraphrased information if you decide the timestamp would help the reader find the information—for example, if you’ve used information from only a part of a long video. Again, this same principle governs when you should include page numbers (or section names, or any other part of a source [link to post]) in paraphrased citations to print materials.

 Here is an example from a video interview with Aaron Beck, a pioneer of cognitive behavioral therapy. The video is more than 2 hours long, so the timestamp will help the reader find the part we’ve referenced, even though the information is only paraphrased.



Beck has stated that the future of cognitive behavioral therapy should be founded in evidence-based treatment (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2012, 1:30:40). He hypothesized that scientists may even be able to learn which therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy, pharmacotherapy, or even gene therapy or psychogenomics) will be most effective for a given individual, allowing therapists to personalize treatment for best results.


Reference list entry: 

Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy. (2012, March 30). Aaron T. Beck, M.D. interviewed by Judith S. Beck, Ph.D. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BZp7ZiAE3c


 Timestamp Ranges

 Although it’s sufficient as far as APA Style is concerned to provide the timestamp at which the cited information begins, you can also include a timestamp range if you think it would help the reader. To refer to a range of time in an audiovisual source, use an en dash between the two timestamps, just as you would use an en dash in a page range. Present both timestamps in full, just as you would present two page numbers in a range in full (e.g., pp. 219–227, not pp. 219–27). 

 Here is an example:

Beck provided several examples of how evidence-based treatments should form the foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy (Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy, 2012, 1:30:40–1:33:35).



 We hope this post has helped you understand how to use timestamps when citing audiovisual materials in an APA Style paper. You may also be interested in our posts on citing YouTube videos, videos from the PsycTHERAPY streaming video database, podcasts, and speeches. See Publication Manual§ 7.07 and the APA Style Guide to Electronic References for more example reference formats.  

January 09, 2014

Intranet Intrigue

Daisiesby Stefanie

Dear Style Expert,

I’m writing a paper for class, and I’m using some obscure sources my professor posted on the class website (but aren’t available elsewhere—I checked!). But this website is on my school’s intranet, so only students and faculty at my university can access these sources. How do I include them in my reference list?

—Serious Student


Dear Serious,

That’s an excellent question! You’ve noted that the reference list is provided to help readers find the sources you used in preparing your paper, and thus it doesn’t make sense to include sources that your readers cannot retrieve. My question for you is, Who is your intended audience? If this paper is for class only, then provide a complete reference for your electronic source. But if class is only the first step for this paper—for example, you may plan on submitting it for publication, or it may be posted on your school’s Internet website, where anyone could read it—then you can treat the source as an irretrievable personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Source section of the What Belongs in the Reference List? blog post).


Thank you for your question, and good luck with your paper!


October 24, 2013

How Do I Cite a Search in APA Style?




by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Q: In my paper I am writing about a Google search that I performed and the resulting number of websites on a specific topic. Do I need to cite this source in my reference list?

A: No, but thanks for stopping by!

Slightly Longer A: A search is not a source of information; it’s part of your research methodology. Describe it in the Method section of your paper and acknowledge the tools that you used (e.g., Google, Web of Science, PsycINFO). Don’t cite it in text or in the reference list. 

Here’s an example from a recently published article. It shows one way to describe a search for studies that met the criteria of the authors’ research project. Notice that the authors included

• where they searched (PsycINFO, Web of Science),
• the criteria for the search,
• how they used the search, and
• what they did with the results.

Although you may not be writing a meta-analysis article for publication, this is a good model of how to describe a search in your paper.


Search Strategy

From “Marital Quality and Health: A Meta-Analytic Review,” by T. F. Robles, R. B. Slatcher, J. M. Trombello, and M. M. McGinn, 2013, Psychological Bulletin. Advance online publication. doi:10.1037/a0031859. Copyright 2013 by the American Psychological Association.


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