By Jeff Hume-Pratuch
Dear APA Style Experts,
I’m doing a paper for a psychology class that requires our opinion on “the most powerful influences on your view of the world.” I want to cite a conversation I had with my grandmother, but I don't know how to put this information on the reference page. Please advise.
All in the Family
We devote a lot of time on the APA Style blog to different ways of formatting references, both in text and in the reference list, but have you ever thought about what qualifies as a reference?
The purpose of the reference list is to “acknowledge the work of previous scholars and provide a reliable way to locate it” (APA Publication Manual, 6th ed., p. 37). Let’s break this statement down and apply it to the question at hand.
Acknowledge the Work of Others
If someone else’s ideas, theories, or research have directly influenced your work, you need to credit the source in text and in the reference list. This applies whether you are directly quoting or paraphrasing the work in question. If you are building on work that you yourself have previously published, you need to cite that as well. This enables your readers to follow the idea back to its source.
Placing a source in your reference list also implies that you have personally read it. If you read Smith & Hawkshaw’s (2008) opinion of The Hound of the Baskervilles, but not Conan Doyle’s work itself, don’t put the latter in the list. What you have there is a secondary source (p. 178).
In addition, you should consider the context in which you are writing. In most cases, your source should have some scholarly relevance. For a personal reflection paper, it is appropriate to quote one’s grandmother; for a dissertation on child development, not so much (unless one’s grandmother happens to be Anna Freud).
Provide a Reliable Path to the Source
Part of the purpose of a reference is to lead your reader back to the sources you used. For a book or journal article, this path is pretty straightforward, but for some sources we need to dig deeper. Ask yourself, “How would someone else get here?”
In some cases—like a private conversation—the answer is, “They can’t.” No one else is privy to that conversation with your grandmother. The wisdom she passed on to you is not recoverable by other researchers, so it does not go in the reference list.
This kind of source (private letters and e-mail, personal conversations, phone calls, etc.) is called a personal communication (p. 179). Cite it in text only, give initials as well as the surname of the person involved, and give as precise a date as possible:
My grandmother’s advice was, “Never pass up a chance to eat, sit down, or use a clean restroom” (S. Dean, personal communication, May 14, 1980).
The same approach would apply to notes you took during a lecture, or class handouts that are not posted elsewhere (e.g., the instructor’s website), or a spontaneous piece of street theater.
What About Research Interviews?
One exception to this guideline applies to participants that you interview in your own research. These interviews are qualitative data; they’re part of the research on which you are reporting and do not constitute the work of others. They should never be individually cited or treated as personal communications in APA Style, because this could compromise confidentiality. Researchers are prohibited by the APA Ethics Code from disclosing personally identifying information about research participants (pp. 17—18). Depending on the circumstances, such information could include the date of the interview as well as surname and initials.
How then should you handle the need to quote from participant interviews? Some authors quote participants without distinguishing them at all, like this: “Indeed, a comment by one of our participants illustrates some of these complex issues: [quote follows without other attribution].”
Others identify participants by demographic or other data: “At my age I think we know who we are and what we are. (Female participant, 69 years of age).” You can also identify participants with letters (Participant A, Participant B), nicknames (Sonny, Tracey), or by role (Doctor, Patient).
As you write your paper, remember to cite previously published work that influenced you, that you have actually read, and that other researchers can recover. That will make your reference list both useful and complete.
Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications)
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2017-11-15 10:40:43
Please note: There are no spaces used with brackets in APA. When possible, include the year, month, and date in references. If the month and date are not available, use the year of publication. Please note, too, that the OWL still includes information about print sources and databases for those still working with these sources.
Article From an Online Periodical
Online articles follow the same guidelines for printed articles. Include all information the online host makes available, including an issue number in parentheses.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number(issue number if available). Retrieved from
Bernstein, M. (2002). 10 tips on writing the living Web. A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 149. Retrieved from http://www.alistapart.com/articles/writeliving
Online Scholarly Journal Article: Citing DOIs
Please note: In August of 2011 the formatting recommendations for DOIs changed. DOIs are now rendered as an alpha-numeric string which acts as an active link. According to The APA Style Guide to Electronic References, 6th edition, you should use the DOI format which the article appears with. So, if it is using the older numeric string, use that as the DOI. If, however, it is presented as the newer alpha-numeric string, use that as the DOI. The Purdue OWL maintains examples of citations using both DOI styles.
Because online materials can potentially change URLs, APA recommends providing a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), when it is available, as opposed to the URL. DOIs are an attempt to provide stable, long-lasting links for online articles. They are unique to their documents and consist of a long alphanumeric code. Many-but not all-publishers will provide an article's DOI on the first page of the document.
Note that some online bibliographies provide an article's DOI but may "hide" the code under a button which may read "Article" or may be an abbreviation of a vendor's name like "CrossRef" or "PubMed." This button will usually lead the user to the full article which will include the DOI. Find DOI's from print publications or ones that go to dead links with CrossRef.org's "DOI Resolver," which is displayed in a central location on their home page.
Article From an Online Periodical with DOI Assigned
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or http://doi.org/10.0000/0000
Brownlie, D. (2007). Toward effective poster presentations: An annotated bibliography. European Journal of Marketing, 41, 1245-1283. doi:10.1108/03090560710821161
Wooldridge, M.B., & Shapka, J. (2012). Playing with technology: Mother-toddler interaction scores lower during play with electronic toys. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 211-218. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2012.05.005
Article From an Online Periodical with no DOI Assigned
Online scholarly journal articles without a DOI require the URL of the journal home page. Remember that one goal of citations is to provide your readers with enough information to find the article; providing the journal home page aids readers in this process.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number. Retrieved from http://www.journalhomepage.com/full/url/
Kenneth, I. A. (2000). A Buddhist response to the nature of human rights. Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 8. Retrieved from http://www.cac.psu.edu/jbe/twocont.html
Article from a Database
Please note: APA states that including database information in citations is not necessary because databases change over time (p. 192). However, the OWL still includes information about databases for those users who need database information.
When referencing a print article obtained from an online database (such as a database in the library), provide appropriate print citation information (formatted just like a "normal" print citation would be for that type of work). By providing this information, you allow people to retrieve the print version if they do not have access to the database from which you retrieved the article. You can also include the item number or accession number or database URL at the end, but the APA manual says that this is not required.
If you are citing a database article that is available in other places, such as a journal or magazine, include the homepage's URL. You may have to do a web search of the article's title, author, etc. to find the URL.
For articles that are easily located, do not provide database information. If the article is difficult to locate, then you can provide database information. Only use retrieval dates if the source could change, such as Wikis. For more about citing articles retrieved from electronic databases, see pages 187-192 of the Publication Manual.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Smyth, A. M., Parker, A. L., & Pease, D. L. (2002). A study of enjoyment of peas. Journal of Abnormal Eating, 8(3), 120-125. Retrieved from
If you only cite an abstract but the full text of the article is also available, cite the online abstract as any other online citations, adding "[Abstract]" after the article or source name. However, if the full text is not available, you may use an abstract that is available through an abstracts database as a secondary source.
Paterson, P. (2008). How well do young offenders with Asperger Syndrome cope in custody?: Two prison case studies [Abstract]. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(1), 54-58.
Hendricks, J., Applebaum, R., & Kunkel, S. (2010). A world apart? Bridging the gap between theory and applied social gerontology. Gerontologist, 50(3), 284-293. Abstract retrieved from Abstracts in Social Gerontology database. (Accession No. 50360869)
Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from
Parker-Pope, T. (2008, May 6). Psychiatry handbook linked to drug industry. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/06/psychiatry-handbook-linked-to-drug-industry/?_r=0
Electronic books may include books found on personal websites, databases, or even in audio form. Use the following format if the book you are using is only provided in a digital format or is difficult to find in print. If the work is not directly available online or must be purchased, use "Available from," rather than "Retrieved from," and point readers to where they can find it. For books available in print form and electronic form, include the publish date in parentheses after the author's name. For references to e-book editions, be sure to include the type and version of e-book you are referencing (e.g., "[Kindle DX version]"). If DOIs are available, provide them at the end of the reference.
De Huff, E. W. (n.d.). Taytay’s tales: Traditional Pueblo Indian tales. Retrieved from http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/dehuff/taytay/taytay.html
Davis, J. (n.d.). Familiar birdsongs of the Northwest. Available from http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=1-9780931686108-0
To cite Kindle (or other e-book formats) you must include the following information: The author, date of publication, title, e-book version, and either the Digital Object Identifer (DOI) number, or the place where you downloaded the book. Please note that the DOI/place of download is used in-place of publisher information.
Here’s an example:
Stoker, B. (1897). Dracula [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Chapter/Section of a Web Document or Online Book Chapter
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. In Title of book or larger document (chapter or section number). Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Engelshcall, R. S. (1997). Module mod_rewrite: URL Rewriting Engine. In Apache HTTP Server version 1.3 documentation (Apache modules). Retrieved from http://httpd.apache.org/docs/1.3/mod/mod_rewrite.html
Peckinpaugh, J. (2003). Change in the Nineties. In J. S. Bough and G. B. DuBois (Eds.), A century of growth in America. Retrieved from GoldStar database.
NOTE: Use a chapter or section identifier and provide a URL that links directly to the chapter section, not the home page of the Web site.
Online Book Reviews
Cite the information as you normally would for the work you are quoting. (The first example below is from a newspaper article; the second is from a scholarly journal.) In brackets, write "Review of the book" and give the title of the reviewed work. Provide the web address after the words "Retrieved from," if the review is freely available to anyone. If the review comes from a subscription service or database, write "Available from" and provide the information where the review can be purchased.
Zacharek, S. (2008, April 27). Natural women [Review of the book Girls like us]. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/books/review/Zachareck
Castle, G. (2007). New millennial Joyce [Review of the books Twenty-first Joyce, Joyce's critics: Transitions in reading and culture, and Joyce's messianism: Dante, negative existence, and the messianic self]. Modern Fiction Studies, 50(1), 163-173. Available from Project MUSE Web site: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/modern_fiction_studies/toc/mfs52.1.html
Dissertation/Thesis from a Database
Biswas, S. (2008). Dopamine D3 receptor: A neuroprotective treatment target in Parkinson's disease. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3295214)
Online Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Often encyclopedias and dictionaries do not provide bylines (authors' names). When no byline is present, move the entry name to the front of the citation. Provide publication dates if present or specify (n.d.) if no date is present in the entry.
Feminism. (n.d.). In Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/724633/feminism
Online Bibliographies and Annotated Bibliographies
Jürgens, R. (2005). HIV/AIDS and HCV in Prisons: A Select Annotated Bibliography. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/alt_formats/hpb-dgps/pdf/intactiv/hiv-vih-aids-sida-prison-carceral_e.pdf
Point readers to raw data by providing a Web address (use "Retrieved from") or a general place that houses data sets on the site (use "Available from").
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2008). Indiana income limits [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.huduser.org/Datasets/IL/IL08/in_fy2008.pdf
Graphic Data (e.g. Interactive Maps and Other Graphic Representations of Data)
Give the name of the researching organization followed by the date. In brackets, provide a brief explanation of what type of data is there and in what form it appears. Finally, provide the project name and retrieval information.
Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment. (2007). [Graph illustration the SORCE Spectral Plot May 8, 2008]. Solar Spectral Data Access from the SIM, SOLSTICE, and XPS Instruments. Retrieved from http://lasp.colorado.edu/cgi-bin/ion-p?page=input_data_for_ spectra.ion
Qualitative Data and Online Interviews
If an interview is not retrievable in audio or print form, cite the interview only in the text (not in the reference list) and provide the month, day, and year in the text. If an audio file or transcript is available online, use the following model, specifying the medium in brackets (e.g. [Interview transcript, Interview audio file]):
Butler, C. (Interviewer) & Stevenson, R. (Interviewee). (1999). Oral History 2 [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Johnson Space Center Oral Histories Project Web site: http:// www11.jsc.nasa.gov/history/oral_histories/oral_histories.htm
Online Lecture Notes and Presentation Slides
When citing online lecture notes, be sure to provide the file format in brackets after the lecture title (e.g. PowerPoint slides, Word document).
Hallam, A. Duality in consumer theory [PDF document]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ501/Hallam/
Roberts, K. F. (1998). Federal regulations of chemicals in the environment [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://siri.uvm.edu/ppt/40hrenv/index.html
Nonperiodical Web Document or Report
List as much of the following information as possible (you sometimes have to hunt around to find the information; don't be lazy. If there is a page like http://www.somesite.com/somepage.htm, and somepage.htm doesn't have the information you're looking for, move up the URL to http://www.somesite.com/):
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of document. Retrieved from http://Web address
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderland, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
NOTE: When an Internet document is more than one Web page, provide a URL that links to the home page or entry page for the document. Also, if there isn't a date available for the document use (n.d.) for no date.
To cite a YouTube video, the APA recommends following the above format.
Computer Software/Downloaded Software
Do not cite standard office software (e.g. Word, Excel) or programming languages. Provide references only for specialized software.
Ludwig, T. (2002). PsychInquiry [computer software]. New York: Worth.
Software that is downloaded from a Web site should provide the software’s version and year when available.
Hayes, B., Tesar, B., & Zuraw, K. (2003). OTSoft: Optimality Theory Software (Version 2.1) [Software]. Available from http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/otsoft/
E-mails are not included in the list of references, though you parenthetically cite them in your main text: (E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).
Online Forum or Discussion Board Posting
Include the title of the message, and the URL of the newsgroup or discussion board. Please note that titles for items in online communities (e.g. blogs, newsgroups, forums) are not italicized. If the author's name is not available, provide the screen name. Place identifiers like post or message numbers, if available, in brackets. If available, provide the URL where the message is archived (e.g. "Message posted to..., archived at...").
Frook, B. D. (1999, July 23). New inventions in the cyberworld of toylandia [Msg 25]. Message posted to http://groups.earthlink.com/forum/messages/00025.html
Blog (Weblog) and Video Blog Post
Include the title of the message and the URL. Please note that titles for items in online communities (e.g. blogs, newsgroups, forums) are not italicized. If the author’s name is not available, provide the screen name.
J Dean. (2008, May 7). When the self emerges: Is that me in the mirror? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.spring.org.uk/the1sttransport
Psychology Video Blog #3 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqM90eQi5-M
Please note that the APA Style Guide to Electronic References warns writers that wikis (like Wikipedia, for example) are collaborative projects that cannot guarantee the verifiability or expertise of their entries.
OLPC Peru/Arahuay. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2011 from the OLPC Wiki: http://wiki.laptop. org/go/OLPC_Peru/Arahuay
For all podcasts, provide as much information as possible; not all of the following information will be available. Possible addition identifiers may include Producer, Director, etc.
Bell, T., & Phillips, T. (2008, May 6). A solar flare. Science @ NASA Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://science.nasa.gov/podcast.htm
For all podcasts, provide as much information as possible; not all of the following information will be available. Possible addition identifiers may include Producer, Director, etc.
Scott, D. (Producer). (2007, January 5). The community college classroom [Episode 7]. Adventures in Education. Podcast retrieved from http://www.adveeducation.com
For more help with citing electronic sources, please use these links: