So you want to cite a PDF (or a Portable Document Format) file, but don’t know what citation format to use.
Citing PDFs can be a seemingly tricky part of writing a paper. Once you understand the process behind it, however, it becomes a very simple task.
The key to understanding how to cite a PDF is:
Always cite the PDF based on what the source in the file actually is.
A PDF, after all, is not really a source itself, but rather a file type and a way for displaying that source.
For example, if the source you wish to cite is a PDF of a newspaper article, cite the source as you would a newspaper.
Then, depending on the citation style you are using, you can add a short note to the citation that indicates that the source was in PDF format. Here is how you would do this in the three most popular citation styles:
- In MLA formatting, you can change the medium description to “PDF file.”
- In an APA citation, you can add “[PDF file]” after the title (separated by only space)
- In Chicago style, after the title, you can add the same description without brackets (separated by a period).
Fox, Morgan. “The Underground Railroad.” 2006. PDF file.
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2008). Indiana income limits [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.huduser.org/Datasets/IL/IL08/in_fy2008.pdf
Reilly, Robert. Complicated Relationships. PDF file. September 20, 2017. www.complicatedrelationships.com/amazon.pdf.
MLA Works Cited: Other Common Sources
MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.
Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2018-03-07 01:12:03
Several sources have multiple means for citation, especially those that appear in varied formats: films, DVDs, T.V shows, music, published and unpublished interviews, interviews over e-mail; published and unpublished conference proceedings. The following section groups these sorts of citations as well as others not covered in the print, periodical, and electronic sources sections.
Use the following format for all sources:
Author. Title. Title of container (self contained if book), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI). 2nd container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if applicable).
Interviews typically fall into two categories: print or broadcast published and unpublished (personal) interviews, although interviews may also appear in other, similar formats such as in e-mail format or as a Web document.
Personal interviews refer to those interviews that you conduct yourself. List the interview by the name of the interviewee. Include the descriptor Personal interview and the date of the interview.
Smith, Jane. Personal interview. 19 May 2014.
Published Interviews (Print or Broadcast)
List the interview by the full name of the interviewee. If the name of the interview is part of a larger work like a book, a television program, or a film series, place the title of the interview in quotation marks. Place the title of the larger work in italics. If the interview appears as an independent title, italicize it. For books, include the author or editor name after the book title.
Note: If the interview from which you quote does not feature a title, add the descriptor, Interview by (unformatted) after the interviewee’s name and before the interviewer’s name.
Gaitskill, Mary. Interview with Charles Bock. Mississippi Review, vol. 27, no. 3, 1999, pp. 129-50.
Amis, Kingsley. “Mimic and Moralist.” Interviews with Britain’s Angry Young Men, By Dale Salwak, Borgo P, 1984.
Online-only Published Interviews
List the interview by the name of the interviewee. If the interview has a title, place it in quotation marks. Cite the remainder of the entry as you would other exclusive web content. Place the name of the website in italics, give the publisher name (or sponsor), the publication date, and the URL.
Note: If the interview from which you quote does not feature a title, add the descriptor Interview by (unformatted) after the interviewee’s name and before the interviewer’s name.
Zinkievich, Craig. Interview by Gareth Von Kallenbach. Skewed & Reviewed, 27 Apr. 2009, www.arcgames.com/en/games/star-trek-online/news/detail/1056940-skewed-%2526-reviewed-interviews-craig. Accessed 15 May. 2009.
Speeches, Lectures, or Other Oral Presentations (including Conference Presentations)
Provide the speaker’s name. Then, give the title of the speech (if any) in quotation marks. Follow with the title of the particular conference or meeting and then the name of the organization. Name the venue and its city (if the name of the city is not listed in the venue’s name). Use the descriptor that appropriately expresses the type of presentation (e.g., Address, Lecture, Reading, Keynote Speech, Guest Lecture, Conference Presentation).
Stein, Bob. “Reading and Writing in the Digital Era.” Discovering Digital Dimensions, Computers and Writing Conference, 23 May 2003, Union Club Hotel, West Lafayette, IN. Keynote Address.
Published Conference Proceedings
Cite published conference proceedings like a book. If the date and location of the conference are not part of the published title, add this information after the published proceedings title.
Last Name, First Name, editor. Conference Title that Includes Conference Date and Location, Publisher, Date of Publication.
Last Name, First Name, editor. Conference Title that Does Not Include Conference Date and Location, Conference Date, Conference Location, Publisher, Date of Publication.
To cite a presentation from a published conference proceedings, begin with the presenter’s name. Place the name of the presentation in quotation marks. Follow with publication information for the conference proceedings.
Last Name, First Name. “Conference Paper Title.” Conference Title that Includes Conference Date and Location, edited by Conference Editor(s), Publisher, Date of Publication.
A Painting, Sculpture, or Photograph
Provide the artist's name, the title of the artwork in italics, the date of composition, and the medium of the piece. Finally, provide the name of the institution that houses the artwork followed by the location of the institution (if the location is not listed in the name of the institution, e.g. The Art Institute of Chicago).
Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800, oil on canvas, Museo del Prado, Madrid.
For photographic reproductions of artwork (e.g. images of artwork in a book), treat the book or website as a container. Remember that for a second container, the title is listed first, before the contributors. Cite the bibliographic information as above followed by the information for the source in which the photograph appears, including page or reference numbers (plate, figure, etc.).
Goya, Francisco. The Family of Charles IV. 1800, Museo del Prado, Madrid. Gardener's Art Through the Ages, 10th ed., by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner, Harcourt Brace, p. 939.
A Song or Album
Music can be cited multiple ways. Mainly, this depends on the container that you accessed the music from. Generally, citations begin with the artist name. They might also be listed by composers or performers. Otherwise, list composer and performer information after the album title. Put individual song titles in quotation marks. Album names are italicized. Provide the name of the recording manufacturer followed by the publication date.
If information such as record label or name of album is unavailable from your source, do not list that information.
Rae Morris. “Skin.” Cold, Atlantic Records, 2014. Spotify, open.spotify.com/track/0OPES3Tw5r86O6fudK8gxi.
Beyoncé. “Pray You Catch Me.” Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/.
Nirvana. "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Nevermind, Geffen, 1991.
Films or Movies
List films by their title. Include the name of the director, the film studio or distributor, and the release year. If relevant, list performer names after the director's name.
The Usual Suspects. Directed by Bryan Singer, performances by Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, and Benecio del Toro, Polygram, 1995.
To emphasize specific performers or directors, begin the citation with the name of the desired performer or director, followed by the appropriate title for that person.
Lucas, George, director. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.
Recorded Television Episodes
Cite recorded television episodes like films (see above). Begin with the episode name in quotation marks. Follow with the series name in italics. When the title of the collection of recordings is different than the original series (e.g., the show Friends is in DVD release under the title Friends: The Complete Sixth Season), list the title that would help researchers to locate the recording. Give the distributor name followed by the date of distribution.
"The One Where Chandler Can't Cry." Friends: The Complete Sixth Season, written by Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen, directed by Kevin Bright, Warner Brothers, 2004.
Broadcast TV or Radio Program
Begin with the title of the episode in quotation marks. Provide the name of the series or program in italics. Also include the network name, call letters of the station followed by the date of broadcast and city.
"The Blessing Way." The X-Files. Fox, WXIA, Atlanta, 19 Jul. 1998.
Netflix, Hulu, Google Play
Generally, when citing a specific episode, follow the format below.
“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, season 2, episode 21, NBC, 29 Apr. 2010. Netflix, www.netflix.com/watch/70152031.
An Entire TV Series
When citing the entire series of a TV show, use the following format.
Daniels, Greg and Michael Schur, creators. Parks and Recreation. Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2015.
A Specific Performance or Aspect of a TV Show
If you want to emphasize a particular aspect of the show, include that particular information. For instance, if you are writing about a specific character during a certain episode, include the performer’s name as well as the creator’s.
“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.
If you wish to emphasize a particular character throughout the show’s run time, follow this format.
Poehler, Amy, performer. Parks and Recreation. Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2009-2015.
“Best of Not My Job Musicians.” Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! from NPR, 4 June 2016, http://www.npr.org/podcasts/344098539/wait-wait-don-t-tell-me.
Spoken-Word Albums such as Comedy Albums
Treat spoken-word albums the same as musical albums.
Hedberg, Mitch. Strategic Grill Locations. Comedy Central, 2003.
Digital Files (PDFs, MP3s, JPEGs)
Determine the type of work to cite (e.g., article, image, sound recording) and cite appropriately. End the entry with the name of the digital format (e.g., PDF, JPEG file, Microsoft Word file, MP3). If the work does not follow traditional parameters for citation, give the author’s name, the name of the work, the date of creation, and the location.
Beethoven, Ludwig van. Moonlight Sonata. Crownstar, 2006.
Smith, George. “Pax Americana: Strife in a Time of Peace.” 2005. Microsoft Word file.
Council of Writing Program Administrators, National Council of Teachers of English, and National Writing Project. Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing. CWPA, NCTE, and NWP, 2011, wpacouncil.org/files/framework-for-success-postsecondary-writing.pdf.
Bentley, Phyllis. “Yorkshire and the Novelist.” The Kenyon Review, vol. 30, no. 4, 1968, pp. 509-22. JSTOR, www.jstor.org.iii/stable/4334841.