130 posts categorized "References"

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.

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

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 13, 2014

Footnotes for Source Citations in APA Style?

Jeffby Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Dear Style Experts,

I am writing a paper in APA Style. I have the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, but I’ve been unable to find instructions for how to format my citations in footnote form. All I see in the manual is examples of references. Can you help me? 
                                                                               —J. D. Scotus, Paris, TX

Dear J. D.,

There are a number of very good style manuals that use the footnote–bibliography method of citation, but the APA Publication Manual is not among them. APA Style uses text citations, not footnotes or endnotes, to direct the reader to a source in the reference list. This differs from other source documentation styles that use a combination of footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography for that purpose.

The only use for footnotes in APA Style is to provide additional content that supplements the text (e.g., to briefly acknowledge a tangential idea that is nevertheless important to the discussion or to note copyright permission for reprinting a lengthy quote). Endnotes are never used in APA Style, but you’ll find more about content footnotes in section 2.12 of the APA Publication Manual.

Dear Style Experts,

Author–date citations don’t give the reader enough information—I really prefer to give the source up front. What if I formatted the footnotes exactly like APA Style references, but put them at the bottom of the page? That would still be in APA Style, right? 
                                                                                         —J. D.

Dear J. D.,

The use of author–date text citations, rather than footnotes, is part of the essence of APA Style. It’s not optional.

Blueberry_heart_pancakesSuppose you asked me to make your favorite blueberry pancakes for Valentine’s Day. The store was out of blueberries, due to the latest snowpocalypse, so I used bananas; and the cat had gotten into the skillet, so I had to bake the batter in a muffin tin. The result might be delicious, but it wouldn’t be blueberry pancakes, would it? (Not even if we put maple syrup on them.)

Don’t put syrup on your muffins, and don’t use footnote citations in APA Style.

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 30, 2014

How to Cite References Containing Lead Authors With the Same Surname and Publication Date




by Tyler Krupa

In a previous post, I provided guidelines on how to properly cite different groups of authors with the same lead author and publication date. As shown in that post, when you have two or more references of more than three surnames with the same year and they shorten to the same form (e.g., both Smith, Jones, Young, Brown, & Stanley, 2001, and Smith, Jones, Ward, Lee, & Stanley, 2001, shorten to Smith et al., 2001), you need to clarify which one you are citing each time. To do this, on the second and all subsequent citations, you should cite the surnames of the first two authors and of as many of the next authors as necessary to distinguish the two references, followed by a comma and et al. (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 175).

Smith, Jones, Young, et al., 2001

Smith, Jones, Ward, et al., 2001

Now let’s add a twist and use references that contain different lead authors with the same surname and year of publication. Do you know what you should do differently? Let’s find out by looking at the following references:

Jones, B. T., Corbin, W., & Fromme, K. (2001). A review of expectancy theory and alcohol consumption. Addiction, 96, 57–72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1360-0443.2001.961575.x

Jones, S. E., Oeltmann, J., Wilson, T. W., Brener, N. D., & Hill, C. V. (2001). Binge drinking among undergraduate college students in the United States: Implications for other substance use. Journal of American College Health, 50, 33–38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07448480109595709

On the second and all subsequent citations, are you tempted to add the names of the additional authors to distinguish the two references? Although this seems like a logical way to proceed, because the lead authors are not the same person, you should instead include the lead author’s initials in all the text citations (for more information about when to use author initials for text citations, see my recent post). Therefore, the text cites for these two references would be as follows:


First citation: Previous studies (e.g., B. T. Jones, Corbin, & Fromme, 2001; S. E. Jones, Oeltmann, Wilson, Brener, & Hill, 2001) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: Both B. T. Jones et al. (2001) and S. E. Jones et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .


First citation: Previous studies (e.g., Jones, Corbin, & Fromme, 2001; Jones, Oeltmann, Wilson, Brener, & Hill, 2001) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: Both Jones, Corbin, and Fromme (2001) and Jones, Oeltmann, et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .


Subsequent citations: Both B. T. Jones, Corbin, and Fromme (2001) and S. E. Jones, Oeltmann, et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .

In these citations, because the lead authors are different, the lead author’s initials should be included in all text citations, regardless of how often they appear. In addition, there is no need to add the names of the additional authors to distinguish the two references on the second and subsequent citations because the initials before the surnames of the lead authors already accomplish that.

Questions? Leave us a comment.

January 23, 2014

When to Use Author Initials for Text Citations




by Tyler Krupa

You probably already know that references in APA Style are cited in text with an author–date system (e.g., Adams, 2012). But do you know how to proceed when a reference list includes publications by two or more different primary authors with the same surname? When this occurs, include the lead author’s initials in all text citations, even if the year of publication differs (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 176). Including the initials helps the reader avoid confusion within the text and locate the entry in the reference list. For example, let’s look at the following two references and their corresponding text citations.


Campbell, A., Muncer, M., & Gorman, B. (1993). Sex and social representations of aggression: A communal-agentic analysis. Aggressive Behavior, 19, 125–135. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/1098-2337(1993)19:2<125::AID-AB2480190205>3.0.CO;2-1

Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., & Brunell, A. B. (2005). Understanding the social costs of narcissism: The case of the tragedy of the commons. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1358–1368. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167205274855

Text Citations

First citation: Many studies (A. Campbell, Muncer, & Gorman, 1993; W. K. Campbell, Bush, & Brunell, 2005) have shown . . . .

Subsequent citations: Both A. Campbell et al. (1993) and W. K. Campbell et al. (2005) provided participants with . . . .

As you can see from the examples above, even though the year of publication differs in the two Campbell references, the lead author’s initials should be included in all text citations, regardless of how often they appear.

Although this rule seems straightforward, one thing that trips up some writers is how to proceed when different lead authors with the same surname are also listed in other references in which they are not the lead author. To help illustrate what should you do, let’s look at the earlier Campbell examples again, but now let’s add some additional references.


Brown, Y., & Campbell, W. K. (2004).

Campbell, A., Muncer, M., & Gorman, B. (1993).

Campbell, W. K., Bush, C. P., & Brunell, A. B. (2005).

Smith, L. N., Campbell, A., & Adams, K. (1992).

Although you may be tempted to include the initials every time the surname Campbell appears in the text citations, note that per APA Style, the initials should be included only when Campbell is the lead author. Therefore, initials should be used for only two of the above four references in the text citations.

Text Citations

First citation: Many studies (Brown & Campbell, 2004; A. Campbell, Muncer, & Gorman, 1993; W. K. Campbell, Bush, & Brunell, 2005; Smith, Campbell, & Adams, 1992) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: . . . as was done in previous studies (Brown & Campbell, 2004; A. Campbell et al., 1993; W. K. Campbell et al., 2005; Smith et al., 1992).

Another related item to note is that if the reference list includes different lead authors who share the same surname and first initial, you should provide the authors’ full first names in brackets (see the Publication Manual, p. 184).


Janet, P. [Paul]. (1876).

Janet, P. [Pierre]. (1906).

Text Citations

(Paul Janet, 1876; Pierre Janet, 1906)

We hope these examples clear up any points of possible uncertainty. Still have questions? Leave us a comment.

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