125 posts categorized "References"

March 17, 2015

How to Cite an Illustrated Book

David Becker

By David Becker

Dear APA Style Experts,

I want to cite an illustrated book and give proper credit to the illustrator, but I can’t find an example of how to do that in the Publication Manual. Can you give me some guidance?

Edward G.

Dear Edward,

Unfortunately, the Publication Manual doesn’t have the space to accommodate examples for every type of citation situation (cite-uation?). But, even though the manual doesn't specifically mention how to cite an illustrator, the basic book reference format described on pages 202–203 still applies to your cite-uation.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the goal of a reference is not necessarily to provide proper credit—it’s more about directing your readers to the right source. These two objectives generally go hand-in-hand, but not always. For instance, if you’re citing a book that includes illustrations that aren’t essential elements of the book, crediting the illustrator is probably not necessary—this information will likely not assist readers in finding the original source.

Take Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland for example. The illustrations by Sir John Tenniel are very well-known, but the book can function perfectly fine without them, and your readers won’t need to know his name to find the source. With that in mind, here’s what the reference would look like:

Carroll, L. (2006). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland & through the looking-glass. New York, NY: Bantam Dell. (Original work published 1865)

Even if you were writing specifically about these illustrations, you would still use the same reference information, as well as the standard author–date format for parenthetical citations. You could simply refer to the illustrator and his work in your narrative: “Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations are excellent examples of surreal art from the 1800s (Carroll, 1865/2006).”

Alice in Wonderland

However, when citing a book where the illustrations are essential to understanding the content—a children’s picture book or a graphic novel, for example—it would be appropriate to cite both the author and the illustrator, especially if they are both given cover credit. But, you don't need to worry about their roles. Keep it simple and cite the book as you would cite a non-illustrated book with more than one author. Take Goodnight Moon for example:

Brown, M. W., & Hurd, C. (2007). Goodnight moon. New York, NY: HarperCollins. (Original work published 1947)

Although Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd are clearly identified on the book's front cover as the author and the illustrator, respectively, there's no need to indicate this in your reference entry.

One benefit of sticking with this basic citation format is that you can easily apply it to books where the author and illustrator roles are not clearly designated on the cover, which is the case with the graphic novel Watchmen:

Moore, A., & Gibbons, D. (1986). Watchmen. New York, NY: DC Comics.

Note that although John Higgins is credited as the colorist inside the book, he's not named on the front cover. Therefore, it's not necessary to cite him for retrievability purposes—just cite what you see on the front cover.

This simple citation format also works for wordless picture books where there is no author, only an illustrator:

Becker, A. (2013). Journey. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.

If you’re trying to cite an illustrated book, I hope this information will help you resolve your cite-uation. If not, please leave a comment below or contact us.

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!

December 23, 2014

Making a List, Checking It Twice

Anne Breitenbach


By Anne Breitenbach

You know what I love? Assembly instructions.Recipes. Rules of engagement. Game plans. In essence, any tool that helps me clearly define what I need to have on hand to do a project properly and what steps I will need to take to complete it. So the first thing I do each morning when I arrive at my desk (well, after getting coffee) is jot down a checklist of what I hope to accomplish on this day. It gives me goals, focuses me, keeps tasks from getting lost, and—perhaps best of all—allows me to strike through each as it’s completed. (Microambition provides pretty constant self-congratulatory feedback.)   I’m not alone in my appreciation of checklists either.  Researchers, authors, and students ask us all the time if there is a roadmap to achieving a paper or a manuscript created correctly in APA Style.

So I’ve convinced you, right? You grab the Publication Manual and flip to the index looking for a handy “checklist” entry. I’m afraid it isn’t quite that clear cut. There are checklists of various kinds, but you have to know your manual or supporting APA resources well enough to know what and where they are and how to use them.  Let’s look at some examples. 

At the end of Chapter 8, “The Publication Process,” in section 8.07, you’ll find a précis of what a “good” manuscript looks like, with sections on format, title page and abstract, paragraphs and headings, abbreviations, mathematics and statistics, units of measurement, references, notes and footnotes, tables and figures, and copyright and quotations. This Checklist for Manuscript Submission is also available online in the Authors and Reviewers Resource Center on our website. Although designed for authors, it is just as handy as a cheat sheet for students. A bonus is that it provides you with the relevant section numbers in the Publication Manual

In fact, at the end of several sections you’ll also find a checklist. For example, section 5.19 summarizes the information about tables and reminds you, among other elements, to use tables only when necessary, review for consistency of presentation, keep your title brief, ensure all columns have a column head, define abbreviations, construct notes appropriately, and provide suggested statistics. It’s a very useful way to check that you’ve complied with all the recommendations. 

And the checklists don’t stop there. There’s one for figures in section 5.30 at the close of the figures section to gently remind you to use simple and clear figures that are clearly labeled. It reminds you to ensure the figures appear in order and are discussed in the text. It also reminded me of several other steps that I just had to go back to the checklist and check.

Of course, not all checklists may be so benign. You know who else loves checklists? That’s right. Santa’s making his list and checking it twice. Things might go better for you if he knows you're a checklist user too.

Bad santa


November 20, 2014

How to Cite Multiple Pages From the Same Website

Timothy McAdoo

by Timothy McAdoo

Sometimes one's research relies on a very narrow thread of the World Wide Web.

What do I mean? We are sometimes asked how to cite multiple web pages from the same website. “Can’t I just cite the entire website?” our efficiency-minded readers ask. If you merely mention a website, yes.

But, if you quote or paraphrase information from individual pages on a website, create a unique reference for each one. This allows your reader to find your exact source. This may mean your reference list contains a number of references with similar, but distinct, URLs. That’s okay!

Laptop-filesLet’s look at an example:

Say you are writing a paper about Division 47 (Exercise and Sport Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (APA). In your paper, you begin by providing some background information about APA and about APA’s divisions, and then you provide more detailed information about Division 47 itself. In the process, you might quote or paraphrase from a number of pages on the APA website, and your reference list would include a unique reference for each.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.-a). Divisions. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-b). Exercise and Sport Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/div47.aspx
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-c). For division leaders. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/officers/index.aspx
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-d). For division members. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/about/division/activities/index.aspx
American Psychological Association. (n.d.-e). Sample articles. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/spy/sample.aspx

It may seems a little unusual to have so many similar references, but in the context of this research topic, it makes perfect sense.

In-Text Citations

When you quote directly from a web page, be sure to include the paragraph number, in lieu of a page number, with the in-text citation. You may also include a paragraph number when paraphrasing. This will help readers locate the part of the page you are relying on.

Related Readings

October 08, 2014

What a Tangled Web: Website Versus Web Page

Daisiesby Stefanie

Sitting here in the offices of APA, we APA Style experts find it easy to forget that not everyone uses or chats about APA Style every day of the week. Therefore, it is not surprising that sometimes we plunge into discussions without fully defining all of the terms we use. Today, I’d like to address what has become a recurring question from APA Style users: What constitutes a web page, and what is a website? That is, are these two different things or two names for the same thing?

These are two different things, although one is made up of the other. A web page is a computer file on World-wide-web-600 the web, displayed on a monitor or mobile device, which could provide text, pictures, or other forms of data. A website consists of a collection of web pages provided by one person or organization; all of the pages trace back to a common Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and usually are hyperlinked to each other.

Let’s use APA’s website as our example. The home page of the site, http://www.apa.org, is the gateway to the rest of the pages of the website. It’s also an excellent starting place from which to search for those individual web pages.

Let’s say I do a search from the home page on the term autism. This results in a whole list of web pages on the APA website that are related to autism. There is a page on which the term autism is defined. There’s a page about a video about autism spectrum disorders. There is a page for a children’s book that explains autism to kids. There’s a page on autism treatment options, and so forth. So, if I were writing about autism and wanted to refer people to APA’s website because I think it’s a good source of information that is always adding new pages on that topic, I would say, “APA’s website is a good source of information on autism (http://www.apa.org/).” But if I wanted to talk about something specific from one page, I would create a reference for that page and make sure to include a citation; for example, “Behavioral interventions are an important part of helping children with autism (American Psychological Association, n.d.).” The reference for the web page from which I got that information would look like this:

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Autism treatment options. 
Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/autism/treatment.aspx

Photo credit: Photodisc/Thinkstock.

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.

May 15, 2014

Comparing MLA and APA: The Reference List

David Becker

By David Becker

Today, we continue with our series of posts highlighting some differences between APA and MLA reference styles. Last week, I outlined how the two styles handle in-text citations. Today’s post focuses on the reference list (or the “Works Cited” list as it is called in MLA Style). Below are examples of how each style would handle two common sources—a print book and a journal article from a research database. I have color coded the text to help you better visualize the differences in the basic elements of a generic reference. The who is in red, the when is in blue, the what is in yellow, and the where is in purple, all of which can be mixed and matched to form the Frankenreference.

Let’s begin with a print book, one of the simplest sources to cite:


Gordin, Michael D. The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe. Chicago: U Chicago P, 2012. Print.


Gordin, M. D. (2012). The pseudoscience wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the birth of the modern fringe. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

The two styles vary in a number of ways, including punctuation, capitalization, and placement of the date. Also, unlike APA Style, MLA Style includes the format of the source—either “Print” or “Web”—as an extra piece of “where” information, and it often requires writers to abbreviate publisher names.

Now let’s take a look at something a bit more complicated, a journal article from a research database:


Shafron, Gavin Ryan, and Mitchell P. Karno. “Heavy Metal Music and Emotional Dysphoria Among Listeners.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 2.2 (2013): 74-85. PsycNET. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.


Shafron, G. R., & Karno, M. P. (2013). Heavy metal music and emotional dysphoria among listeners. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 2, 74–85. doi:10.1037/a0031722

The most substantive difference is that MLA Style requires the name of the database from which you retrieved the article and the date of retrieval as well; it does not use the DOI. In contrast, APA Style requires a DOI (when there is one), but doesn’t require the date of access (see p. 198 of the Publication Manual for more detail). In most cases, the name of the database is not used in an APA Style reference, although a few exceptions are outlined in Chapter 7.

Understanding Style

I hope this comparison of MLA and APA styles is helpful to those of you who find yourself transitioning from one to the other. If you are a student switching from MLA to APA, your most important resources will be the Publication Manual and this blog. I also recommend that you try our free tutorial on the basics of APA Style and visit our FAQ page, in addition to our pages on quick answers for citing sources and formatting your research paper. If you have any questions after checking those resources, you can contact APA Style directly or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

May 09, 2014

Comparing MLA and APA: Citing Resources


By David Becker

Last week, we touched on the general differences between MLA and APA styles. Today, I talk about what is probably the biggest difference between the two styles: how to cite resources. These divergent rules can make transitioning from one style to the other a frustrating process, particularly for students. A few style errors can mean the difference between an A and a B on a paper. As an English major who only used MLA Style in school, learned APA Style for my job, and then relearned MLA Style for a few online courses, I can personally attest to the difficulty of mentally juggling two sets of style rules.

Style Frustration

Despite their differences, the APA and MLA citation systems have the same overall function in a research paper—sources are acknowledged via in-text citations, each of which corresponds to an entry in an alphabetical list of works at the end of the paper, referred to as “Works Cited” in MLA Style and “References” in APA Style. However, the MLA Handbook also mentions some variations, such as a “Works Consulted” list, which contains sources not cited within the body of the paper, and an annotated bibliography, which includes a brief description or evaluation of each source. APA Style does not use these alternate methods (see our posts about reference lists vs. bibliographies and some topics the Publication Manual doesn’t cover).

The differences between the two styles become even more apparent when one is creating text citations. MLA Style includes the author’s last name and the page number, whether citing a direct quotation or not. However, APA Style text citations also include the publication date, because the timeliness of research is important in science writing, and the page number is required only for direct quotations. Below are some hypothetical examples of parenthetical citations in both styles:


(Adams 42)
(Lennon and McCartney 999)
(Hexum, Martinez, and Sexton 123)


(Adams, 1979) or (Adams, 1979, p. 42)
(Lennon & McCartney, 1968) or (Lennon & McCartney, 1968, p. 999)
(Hexum, Martinez, & Sexton, 1994) or (Hexum, Martinez, & Sexton, 1994, p. 123)

These citations lead readers to the reference list, which is where the differences between the two styles are most apparent, a topic I cover in my next post. In the meantime, I hope this overview has been helpful to those of you transitioning from MLA Style to APA Style. If you’re new to APA Style, the Publication Manual and this blog are your go-to resources. I also recommend that you try our free tutorial on the basics of APA Style and visit our FAQ page, as well as our pages that provide quick answers for citing sources and formatting your research paper. If you can’t find what you’re looking for after checking those resources, feel free to contact APA Style directly via e-mail or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

May 02, 2014

But I Already Learned MLA! Why Do I Need APA Style?

Anne breitenbach



by Anne Breitenbach

We know. It’s true: Most high schools teach MLA Style. You labored over it, you learned to tolerate if not love it—and now, bam, you get to college, and as soon as you begin to take psychology, or education, or business, or nursing, or whatever classes, you need to learn APA Style. Why? Why can’t all disciplines just convene a convention and hammer out one style that fits all needs?

It’s an attractive idea, but can you imagine representatives from all different studies gathering, United Nations like, to reach a consensus agreement? "Spell out the first name in the reference!," cries the MLA advocate. "No, use initials with a period after each initial," answers the ambassador from APA. "Initials are good, but no period, no space between!," counters the distinguished diplomat from AMA. The fight would rage into the night; heck, those fights would rage into the next 1,001 (spelled out?, comma?) nights on that and many another question. Use "and" or "&" and in what context? How shall we indicate pagination? What should the capitalization of a title in a reference be?

Yes, learning a style is a complicated and confusing process. Even within a given style, as times change, styles must adapt and its users must adapt with it. Needing different styles for different disciplines compounds that labor. All those picayune guideline differences aside, is there value to a specific style that makes it worth the pain?

One factor, of course, is that using a given style marks its user as a member of a specific culture. The corollary to that is how adept users are at using this "language" signals their expertise within that field (e.g., if you walk like a duck, quack like a duck, and swim like a duck, a fortiori, you’re a duck ). In addition, there are historical reasons at the heart of a style that can help you understand why it was created and that give shape and reason to its evolution. That’s certainly true of APA Style. Read the original 1929 Psychological Bulletin journal article (Bentley et al., 1929) in which it was introduced—it won’t take you long, it’s only seven pages—and you’ll see what I mean. Reading the suggested guidelines makes clear they were developed to address specific problems of exasperated journal editors: Too many authors were submitting wordy, messy, subjective, logically unpersuasive manuscripts and not adequately addressing the research that already existed on the issue they were writing about. Review and revision were expensive in editorial time, and overlong and wordy manuscripts wasted precious journal space.

Time passed, and what began as a guide specifically for authors seeking to publish their manuscripts in APA’s own journals became more widely used at the college level in the social sciences because it addressed equally important needs there. Using APA Style marks you as a member of a scientific community that uses and values concise expression, clarity of thought, and the value of attribution as an information ethic. In short, it marks you as a duck of the social sciences sort. Welcome to the pond!


Bentley, M., Peerenboom, C. A., Hodge, F. W., Passano, E. B., Warren, H. C., & Washburn, M. F. (1929). Instructions in regard to preparation of manuscript. Psychological Bulletin, 26, 57–63. doi:10.1037/h0071487
Graduate duck

April 01, 2014

How to Cite a Smartwatch

Timothy McAdoo

by Timothy McAdoo

Happy April Fools' Day, everyone!Smartwatch

No, sorry, we haven't developed a format for citing a smartwatch. No matter how many we see on your collective wrists in the coming years, we're unlikely to need a new reference format. (Notice how I hedged on that?)
That's because references should point readers to retrievable sources. See the following posts for more detailed explanations from my colleagues:

  • Being (APA) Stylish (a post about what is and is not addressed in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association)

But, because you've clicked on a post about smart watches, I think you might be interested in this post on how to cite Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and other social media sites.

Photo: lucadp/iStock/Thinkstock

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