50 posts categorized "Electronic references"

February 24, 2011

Books and Book Chapters: What to Cite

 Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

After slogging through a 500-page tome, you may find but one or two shiny little facts relevant to your research. It might seem like going overboard to cite the entire book when you used just a paragraph or a chapter . . . so what to cite, then, the chapter or the book? 

The type of reference needed depends on who wrote what. Essentially, you should cite the largest entity that the author in question is responsible for.

Book References

If the author wrote the entire book, then provide a reference for the whole book. Here are templates for print books, electronic books, and books with DOIs (print or electronic), respectively:

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of work. Location: Publisher.
Author, A. A. (Year). Title of work [E-reader version, if applicable]. Retrieved from http://xxxxx
Author, A. A. (Year). Title of work [E-reader version, if applicable]. doi:xxxxx

Book Chapter References

On the other hand, if the chapter comes from a book where each chapter is written by different authors (and the whole thing is put together by an editor), then provide a separate reference for each chapter that you used. The templates for chapters in edited books are shown below, for print books, electronic books, and books with DOIs (either print or electronic), respectively:

Author, A. A. (Year). Title of chapter. In B. B. Editor (Ed.), Title of book (pp. xxx–xxx). Location: Publisher.
Author, A. A. (Year). Title of chapter. In B. B. Editor (Ed.), Title of book [E-reader version, if applicable] (pp. xxx–xxx). Retrieved from http://xxxxx
Author, A. A. (Year). Title of chapter. In B. B. Editor (Ed.), Title of book [E-reader version, if applicable] (pp. xxx–xxx). doi:xxxxx

Here information on both the whole book and the chapter is provided. This allows the reader to retrieve the book and to know who is responsible for both the whole book and the chapter in question. If there are no page numbers in the electronic book, omit that portion of the reference. 

Other Notes

If you read an e-book on an e-reader, such as a Kindle, Sony Reader, or Nook, provide the version that you read (e.g., Kindle DX version) in square brackets following the title, not italicized, as shown in the examples above. 

To help your reader find the cited material, you can provide additional detail (page numbers, chapter numbers, etc.) in the text reference. Always give specific location information (generally, page numbers; here's what to do when there are no page numbers) for direct quotations; it is optional for paraphrasing and other mentions. 

More information and real-life examples are provided in the sixth edition APA Publication Manual, section 7.02 (pp. 202–205).

November 18, 2010

How to Cite Something You Found on a Website in APA Style

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

Perhaps the most common question we get about APA Style is “How do I cite a website?” or “How do I cite something I found on a website?”

First, to cite a website in general, but not a specific document on that website, see this FAQ.

Once you’re at the level of citing a particular page or document, the key to writing the reference list entry is to determine what kind of content the page has. The Publication Manual reference examples in Chapter 7 are sorted by the type of content (e.g., journal article, e-book, newspaper story, blog post), not by the location of that content in a library or on the Internet. The Manual shows both print- and web-based references for the different types of content.

What seems to flummox our readers is what to do when the content doesn’t fall into an easily defined area. Sometimes the most you can say is that you're looking at information on a page—some kind of article, but not a journal article. To explore this idea, imagine the Internet as a fried egg. The yolk contains easier to categorize content like journal articles and e-books. In that runny, nebulous white you’ll find the harder to define content, like blog posts, lecture notes, or maps. To wit, the egg:

The Internet as an egg (free egg image from www.clker.com, modified by APA)
Content in that egg white area may seem confusing to cite, but the template for references from this area is actually very simple, with only four pieces (author, date, title, and source):

Author, A. (date). Title of document [Format description]. Retrieved from http://URL

That format description in brackets is used only when the format is something out of the ordinary, such as a blog post or lecture notes; otherwise, it's not necessary. Some other example format descriptions are listed on page 186 of the Publication Manual.


Examples of Online References

Here’s an example (a blog post) in which we have all four necessary pieces of information (also see Manual example #76):

Freakonomics. (2010, October 29). E-ZPass is a life-saver (literally) [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/29/e-zpass-is-a-life-saver-literally/

Sometimes, however, one or more of these four pieces is missing, such as when there is no identifiable author or no date. You can download a pdf chart here that lists all the permutations of information that might occur with an online reference and shows how to adapt the reference.

Here’s an example where no author is identified in this online news article:

All 33 Chile miners freed in flawless rescue. (2010, October 13). Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39625809/ns/world_news-americas/

And here’s an example for a webpage where no date is identified:

The College of William and Mary. (n.d.). College mission statement. Retrieved from http://www.wm.edu/about/administration/provost/mission/index.php

We have also covered example references for tweets and Facebook updates, press releases, interviews, wikipedia articles, and artwork in other blog posts. Thanks for reading!

October 15, 2010

Translations of the Publication Manual


Anne Woodworth Gasque

This month the latest edition of the Publication Manual will be released in Spanish! Que bueno!  This event marks a long partnership with Manual Moderno, the distinguished Mexico City publisher whose first translation of the Publication Manual began with the fourth edition.  In addition to the Publication Manual, Spanish-speaking readers will find translated versions of the Concise Rules of APA Style and of Mastering APA Style.

If Spanish is not your native language, don’t despair.  We’re currently working with international publishing partners who are translating the manual into Arabic, Simple Chinese, Italian, Nepalese, Polish, Romanian, and Portugese, for starters.  We’ll let you know when those translations are available.  It’s hard to believe that what started as a six-page article in an APA journal (Psychological Bulletin) in 1929 that outlined simple style rules (including instructions for submitting drawings wrapped flat against stiff cardboard or rolled on tubes) has evolved into the current 272-page Publication Manual that offers guidance on bias-free language, writing style, and electronic references and is used around the world. 

How would you cite a translation of the Publication Manual? The sixth edition of the Publication Manual includes an example of a non-English reference book translated into English on page 205 (Example 28). Here is what the Spanish translation of the sixth edition would look like:

American Psychological Association. (2010). Manual de publicaciones de la American 
   Psychological Association [Publication manual of the American Psychological
   Association] (3rd ed.). Mexico City, Mexico: Manual Moderno.

The translation of the title appears in brackets immediately after the non-English title.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to contact us with questions about other types of translated sources.




September 09, 2010

How to Cite a Press Release in APA Style

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

When you’re researching a cutting-edge topic, there are few sources of information more of the moment than press releases. Citing them in APA Style is very simple. As for any reference list entry, the four elements you’ll need are the author, the date, the title (with a description of form in square brackets, when the form is something different from the norm), and the source (e.g., a URL). Here are some example references for press releases:

American Psychological Association. (2010). Today’s superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2010/08/macho-stereotype-unhealthy.aspx


The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2010). Administration officials continue travel across the country holding “Recovery Summer” events, project site visits [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/administration-officials-continue-travel-across-country-holding-recovery-summer-eve


King Fish Media. (2010). The perfect marriage of content and technology: Is social media the new CRM? [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-perfect-marriage-of-content-and-technology--is-social-media-the-new-crm-100760344.html

Determining Authorship for Press Releases

Determining authorship is probably the hardest part of writing the press release reference list entry. It helps to know that press releases are typically written by an organization about itself (their typical audience is journalists, who use them as a foundation for their own stories). So when you find press releases on an organization’s own website without a specific author attribution, you can assume the organization to be the author (this is true for the first example above). When a reference includes a larger organization as well as a department or office within that organization, the larger entity comes first in the entry (as in The White House example).

Indexed Press Releases

Press releases also may be indexed on commercial distribution services, such as PR Newswire, which is the source of the third example above. However, PR Newswire is not the author of the third release; it is just the publisher—the author is actually indicated at the bottom of the release (in this case, King Fish Media). For these indexed releases, be sure to identify the proper author of the release when writing your reference list entry.

Other Details

In the text, you would cite a press release just like any other source, by using the author and year. If you use more than one press release per author per year (say, two from APA in 2010), call them 2010a and 2010b (whichever title comes first alphabetically will be 2010a). The description Press release in square brackets aids the reader in understanding the reference type, and finally the retrieval URL is given. Because press releases are published documents (not, for example, wikis, which are updated constantly), a retrieval date is not necessary.

Now you should be ready to cite press releases in your APA Style paper.

September 02, 2010

Computer Editing Tip: Paste Special

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

If you have ever cut and pasted information from a webpage into a word-processing document, you know what a mess you can get of font face, size, color, and spacing. It takes one click to paste and then five more steps to get the format to match your default settings—very aggravating. Paste Special is a feature of Microsoft Word (the program I use—please share solutions for other software in the comments) that can make your work easier and more accurate. It allows you to skip the format wrangling and to paste just the text you selected using the same settings as in your document.

What Paste Special Is Good For

Paste Special is helpful when you want to copy and paste from your Internet browser window or PDF into your Word document. You can use Paste Special to help construct your reference list, and in doing so you can reduce transcription errors and save time. For example, you can use it to copy and paste 

  • DOIs,
  • URLs, and
  • text from PDFs or any webpage.

How to Use Paste Special

To use Paste Special, first copy the text you want from your webpage. Second, put your cursor where you want to paste in your Word document. Then select Paste Special from the Edit menu (Word 2003) or from the Paste button on the Home Tab (Word 2007, 2010). A dialog box like the one below will pop up.


Select “Unformatted text” or “Unformatted Unicode Text” (the latter seems to work better when copying from a PDF), and click OK. Your copied text will paste in the same format as the text that surrounds it in your document.  


If you prefer to use keyboard shortcuts, the combination for Paste Special is either ALT+V (Word 2003) or CTRL+ALT+V (Word 2007, 2010). Finally, if you really know your way around the computer, this DIY lesson will show you how to make a one-key shortcut for Paste Special (it uses a Word macro to skip the dialog box and paste unformatted text directly).

Stay tuned for more editing tips! And please share your own tips in the comments.

March 19, 2010

How to Cite Facebook: Fan Pages, Group Pages, and Profile Information

[Note 10/18/2013: Please view an updated and expanded version of this post at http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2013/10/how-to-cite-social-media-in-apa-style.html]

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

Although Facebook citations may not be in the Publication Manual, this blog has addressed how to cite Facebook in general (just mention the URL in text) and how to cite particular Facebook status updates (make a reference list entry) in APA Style. That advice still holds true.

Now to discuss how to cite specific information from Facebook other than status updates, such as anything on a publically viewable page (e.g., a fan page, group page, info tab, boxes tab, etc.). Here are two templates, based on the APA Style FAQ for how to cite information from a website with no author, year, or page numbers:

Username or Group Name. (n.d.). In Facebook [Page type]. Retrieved Month 
Day, Year, from http://www.facebook.com/specificpageURL
  • When the date is unknown, use n.d. for “no date.”

  • Describe the source type inside square brackets.

Username or Group Name. [ca. 2010]. In Facebook [Page type]. Retrieved 
Month Day, Year, from http://www.facebook.com/specificpageURL
  • When the date can be reasonably certain but isn’t stated on the document, use a bracketed date and “ca.” (see also Example 67, p. 214).


Example Citations

Because examples make everything more fun, let’s say I am writing about the cognition skills of the great apes and I discuss Nonja, an orangutan armed with a digital camera who lives in the Vienna Tiergarten Zoo (read more about her in this Daily Mail article). Here’s a citation for her Facebook fan page:

Nonja. (n.d.). In Facebook [Fan page]. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from 

In my next paper about the power of nostalgia and viral marketing, I refer to the Facebook group page for When I was your age, Pluto was a planet. As of this writing it had more than 1.8 million members (and its founder has even been interviewed by NASA). Here’s a citation for the group page:

When I was your age, Pluto was a planet. [ca. 2009]. In Facebook [Group 
page]. Retrieved December 16, 2009,
from http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2207893888

For all these citations, whether to use "n.d." or "[ca. 2010]" is a judgment call and up to you, depending on the situation. And remember to double check your URLs—many pages can share the same name, so you need the right URL to tell them apart.


Private Page Citation

Because content from private or friends-only Facebook pages or profiles is not retrievable by everyone, if you cite it, it should be treated as personal communication (see section 6.20, p. 179).

What other social media citation conundrums do you have?

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 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....

December 10, 2009

How to Find a DOI

Timothy.mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

Ever had trouble finding a DOI? In the video below, we demonstrate how to find a DOI in a variety of ways: from an article’s record in APA PsycINFO (on a number of vendor platforms), from an article itself (hard copy version or electronic), or from CrossRef’s Simple Text Query form.

We hope this visual demonstration is helpful. Are there other tutorials about APA Style that you’d like to see? Let us know!

P.S. For more detailed background information on DOIs, see Chelsea’s recent DOI primer. And for information about using DOIs and URLs in your references, don’t miss the DOI and URL flowchart!

A larger version of this tutorial, with a navigation menu option, is available here.

October 26, 2009

How to Cite Twitter and Facebook, Part II: Reference List Entries and In-Text Citations

[Note 10/18/2013: Please view an updated and expanded version of this post at http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2013/10/how-to-cite-social-media-in-apa-style.html]

Chelsea blogby Chelsea Lee

Previously I talked about how to cite Twitter and Facebook posts or feeds in general, which you can do quite easily by mentioning the URLs in text (with no reference list entries required).

Today I address some of the issues pertaining to citing particular posts, which require both reference list entries and in-text citations. As you may have noticed, the Publication Manual does not give specific guidance on how to do this. This is an evolving area, and blog discussions will be considered as we create guidelines related to these new references sources for future APA Style products.

What to do in the meantime? Below are examples of one approach to citing tweets and Facebook updates. Until more definitive guidance is available, feel free to use this approach or another that is also clear and gives the reader enough information about the source to be able to locate it.

First, here are screenshots of my examples from Twitter and Facebook (click to enlarge): 

 Baracktweet  Barackfb

The suggested reference list entries below generally follow the format for citation of online sources (see pp. 214–215):

BarackObama. (2009a, July 15). Launched American Graduation Initiative 
to help additional 5 mill. Americans graduate college by 2020:
http://bit.ly/gcTX7 [Twitter post]. Retrieved from
Barack Obama. (2009b, October 9). Humbled. 
 [Facebook update]. Retrieved from http://www.facebook.com/posted.php? 

Here’s the rationale I used for presenting each element in the reference: 

  • I included the author name as written (not changing BarackObama or Barack Obama to Obama, B.; see Example 76, p. 215). For simplicity’s sake and to ensure accuracy, it’s best to include names as written for Facebook and Twitter citations. 

  • Alphabetize under B, not O, ignoring the space (i.e., BarackObama and Barack Obama are treated the same, so you would next arrange them chronologically; see also section 6.25 of the manual, pp. 181–182). 

  • The date includes the year and day, but not the time. The date gives ample specificity without adding an element of how to format times, which isn’t done anywhere else in APA Style. 

  • To differentiate among posts from the same person in the same year (or even the same day), you can include ”a” or “b” after the year, in chronological order. If you have only one post from the writer in a year, then it is not necessary to include “a” or “b.” 

  • I included the whole post in the title position (mine included a URL, so I included that too). Facebook updates, however, might be quite long—if that is the case, you might use a truncated version of the post in the title position. 

  • It’s helpful to provide a description of form inside brackets, such as Twitter post or Facebook update. 

  • The URL leads directly to the post rather than to the feed in general, in order to be as direct and specific as possible about what is being cited. Click the date and time stamp beneath the post in question (seen in the screenshots) and you will be taken to the individual status update page with its own URL.

For in-text citations, parenthetical citation may be easiest:

President Obama announced the launch of the American Graduation Initiative 
(BarackObama, 2009a). He also stated that he was “humbled” to have 
received the Nobel Peace Prize (Barack Obama, 2009b).

One last issue is retrievability. Because online social media are more about live updates than archiving, we don’t know if these status update pages will still be here in a year, or 5, or 20 years. So if you are writing for publication, it may be prudent to self-archive any social media updates you include in your articles (check out this post by Gunther Eysenbach on some ways to do this).


What’s Next

I hope to bring you more in the future on citing social media posts, for example, citing hash-tagged conversationsalthough first we must figure out how to securely archive them (the adorably named Twapper Keeper might meet this need).

How have you addressed citing, archiving, and retrieving tweets and other social media posts in your field of expertise?

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