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Ready, Set, Cite (APA, 7th)

Become an expert using the 7th edition of the APA manual


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Elements of a Reference

Elements of Reference List Entries: (Chapter 9)

Where to find reference information for a journal article

References generally have four elements, each of which has a corresponding question for you to answer:

  • Author: Who is responsible for this work? (9.7-9.12)
  • Date: When was this work published? (9.13-9.17)
  • Title: What is this work called? (9.18-9.22)
  • Source: Where can I retrieve this work? (9.23-9.37)

By using these four elements and answering these four questions, you should be able to create a citation for any type of source.

For complete information on all of these elements, checkout the APA Style website.

This infographic shows the first page of a journal article. The locations of the reference elements are highlighted with different colors and callouts, and the same colors are used in the reference list entry to show how the entry corresponds to the source.

To create your references, you'll simple look for these elements in your source and put them together in your reference list entry.


American Psychological Association. Example of where to find reference information for a journal article [Infographic]. APA Style Center.

What to Cite and Where (Chapter 9)

What Do You Cite:

The purpose of your reference list is to provide a reliable way for readers to identify and locate the works you cited in your paper. 

In general, each work you cite in the text must appear in the reference list, and each work in the reference list must be cited in your text. Check your work carefully before submitting your manuscript or course assignment to ensure no works cited in the text are missing from the reference list and vice versa, with only the following exceptions.

Cite all outside sources whose ideas, theories, or research influenced your research paper. Specifically you site those sources that you:

  • Quote word-for-word
  • Paraphrase  - rewrite using your own words
  • Summarize  - restate the main idea of the source in your own words

What Don't You Cite:

There are a few kinds of works that are not included in a reference list. Usually a work is not included because readers cannot recover it or because the mention is so broad that readers do not need a reference list entry to understand the use.  

  • Your original ideas and conclusions.
  • Personal communications such as emails, phone calls, or text messages are cited in the text only, not in the reference list, because readers cannot retrieve personal communications.
  • General mentions of whole websites, whole periodicals, and common software and apps in the text do not require in-text citations or reference list entries because the use is broad and the source is familiar.
  • The source of an epigraph does not usually appear in the reference list unless the work is a scholarly book or journal. For example, if you open the paper with an inspirational quotation by a famous person, the source of the quotation does not appear in the reference list because the quotation is meant to set the stage for the work, not substantiate a key point.
  • Quotations from research participants in a study you conducted can be presented and discussed in the text but do not need citations or reference list entries. Citations and reference list entries are not necessary because the quotations are part of your original research. They could also compromise participants’ confidentiality, which is an ethical violation.
  • References included in a statistical meta-analysis, which are marked with an asterisk in the reference list, may be cited in the text (or not) at the author’s discretion. This exception is relevant only to authors who are conducting a meta-analysis.

Where to Cite:

You need to cite your sources in two places:

  • Within your work at the place where you are incorporating the information, and 
  • In a comprehensive list of all sources you’ve cited throughout the paper. This list is called References.

Reference List Format (9.43)

Placement: The reference list  appears at the end of the paper, on its own page(s). If your research paper ends on page 8, your References begin on page 9.

Heading: Place the section label References in bold at the top of the page, centered.

Arrangement: Alphabetize entries by author's last name. If source has no named author, alphabetize by the title, ignoring A, An, or The. (9.44-9.48)

Spacing: Like the rest of the APA paper, the reference list is double-spaced throughout. Be sure NOT to add extra spaces between citations.

Indentation: To make citations easier to scan, add a hanging indent of 0.5 in. to any citation that runs more than one line. Use the paragraph-formatting function of your word processing program to create your hanging indent.

See Sample References Page (from APA Sample Student Paper):

Sample References page

Reference Examples (Chapter 10)

Below you'll find two printable handouts showing APA citation examples. The first is an abbreviated list created by MJC Librarians. The second, which is more comprehensive, is from the APA Style website. Feel free to print these for your convenience or use the links to reference examples below:

You can view the entire Reference Examples website below and view a helpful guide to finding useful APA style topics easily:

Missing Reference Information

Sometimes you won't be able to find all the elements required for your reference. In that case, see the  instructions in Table 9.1 of the APA style manual in section 9.4 or the APA Style website below:

DOIs and URLs (9.34-9.36)

The DOI or URL is the final component of a reference list entry. Because so much scholarship is available and/or retrieved online, most reference list entries end with either a DOI or a URL.

  • DOI is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies content and provides a persistent link to its location on the internet. DOIs can be found in database records and the reference lists of published works.
  • URL specifies the location of digital information on the internet and can be found in the address bar of your internet browser. URLs in references should link directly to the cited work when possible.

When to Include DOIs and URLs:

  • Include a DOI for all works that have a DOI, regardless of whether you used the online version or the print version.
  • If an online work has both a DOI and a URL, include only the DOI.
  • If an online work has a URL but no DOI, include the URL in the reference as follows:
    • For works without DOIs from websites (not including academic research databases), provide a URL in the reference (as long as the URL will work for readers).
    • For works without DOIs from most academic research databases, do not include a URL or database information in the reference because these works are widely available. The reference should be the same as the reference for a print version of the work.
    • For works from databases that publish original, proprietary material available only in that database (such as the UpToDate database) or for works of limited circulation in databases (such as monographs in the ERIC database), include the name of the database or archive and the URL of the work. If the URL requires a login or is session-specific (meaning it will not resolve for readers), provide the URL of the database or archive home page or login page instead of the URL for the work. (See APA Section 9.30 for more information). 
  • If the URL is no longer working or no longer provides readers access to the content you intend to cite, try to find an archived version using the Internet Archive, then use the archived URL. If there is no archived URL, do not use that resource.

Format of DOIs and URLs:

Your DOI should look like this:

Follow these guidelines from the APA Style website.