How to cite a news report

by David Becker

Have you ever seen a news report that just happened to relate to the topic of a paper you were writing? Did you really want to cite that report but just didn’t know how? For example, say you were writing a paper on psychological disorders and their treatments throughout history. By sheer coincidence, you saw a report about historical DC scandals that covered the tragic tale of Henry Rathbone, who was sitting next to President Lincoln when he was assassinated. Rathbone was stabbed by John Wilkes Booth as he retreated and suffered psychological damage for the rest of his life because of this traumatic event. “This would be a perfect example for my paper!” you think. Unfortunately, a live news broadcast is not a retrievable source in and of itself. However, if you can track down a retrievable version of that report or another source containing the same information, you can cite it.

Many news organizations, whether they are large 24-hour networks or small local stations, have archives of their live news reports available for viewing on their websites. You would cite such reports as you would cite a YouTube video or any other kind of streaming video. Here’s how to cite the online version of the above-mentioned report:

A historical look back at DC scandals [Video file]. (2013, February 15). Retrieved from

In-text citation: (“A Historical Look,” 2013)

Notice that the title of the video has been moved to the author position. This is because the name of the person who uploaded the video is not specified (see Example 9 on p. 200 of the Publication Manual for more information). Also note that video titles should be italicized.

Hypothetically, let’s say you were not able to find the report you saw on TV. In this situation, it’s best not to worry so much about citing the report itself. You can instead use it as a springboard for further research. There may well be other sources that contain the same information, perhaps even better information, than the report you saw. For example, if you did a little digging for more information about Henry Rathbone, you might find the article cited below that provides much more detail than the TV news report:

Ruane, M. E. (2009, April 5). A tragedy’s second act. Washington Post Magazine. Retrieved from

In-text citation: (Ruane, 2009)

Source: APA Style Blog

How to cite a press release in APA Style

by Chelsea Lee

When you’re researching a cutting-edge topic, there are few sources of information more of the moment than press releases. Citing them in APA Style is very simple. As for any reference list entry, the four elements you’ll need are the author, the date, the title (with a description of form in square brackets, when the form is something different from the norm), and the source (e.g., a URL). Here are some example references for press releases:

American Psychological Association. (2010). Today’s superheroes send wrong image to boys, say researchers [Press release]. Retrieved from


The White House, Office of the Press Secretary. (2010). Administration officials continue travel across the country holding “Recovery Summer” events, project site visits [Press release]. Retrieved from


King Fish Media. (2010). The perfect marriage of content and technology: Is social media the new CRM? [Press release]. Retrieved from–is-social-media-the-new-crm-100760344.html


Determining Authorship for Press Releases

Determining authorship is probably the hardest part of writing the press release reference list entry. It helps to know that press releases are typically written by an organization about itself (their typical audience is journalists, who use them as a foundation for their own stories). So when you find press releases on an organization’s own website without a specific author attribution, you can assume the organization to be the author (this is true for the first example above). When a reference includes a larger organization as well as a department or office within that organization, the larger entity comes first in the entry (as in The White House example).

Indexed Press Releases

Press releases also may be indexed on commercial distribution services, such asPR Newswire, which is the source of the third example above. However, PR Newswire is not the author of the third release; it is just the publisher—the author is actually indicated at the bottom of the release (in this case, King Fish Media). For these indexed releases, be sure to identify the proper author of the release when writing your reference list entry.

Other Details

In the text, you would cite a press release just like any other source, by using the author and year. If you use more than one press release per author per year (say, two from APA in 2010), call them 2010a and 2010b (whichever title comes first alphabetically will be 2010a). The description Press release in square brackets aids the reader in understanding the reference type, and finally the retrieval URL is given. Because press releases are published documents (not, for example, wikis, which are updated constantly), a retrieval date is not necessary.

Now you should be ready to cite press releases in your APA Style paper.

Source: APA Style Blog

How to find the example you need in the APA manual

by Chelsea Lee

Consider the following questions that the APA Style team has received:

  • How do I cite a website?
  • How do I cite interlibrary loan?
  • How do I cite my Kindle?
  • How do I cite my iPhone?

What do they have in common? Well, in each case, the individual asking the question has been unable to find the appropriate reference example in the Publication Manual and has turned to the APA Style team for answers. However, don’t take the existence of these questions as evidence that the answers aren’t in the manual, because they usually are. But to find them, you have to understand how the manual is organized—that’s how you’ll get to the reference example you really need.

Document Type, Not Delivery Method or Format

Many readers may be surprised to realize that the reference examples in the Publication Manual are organized by document type (articles, books, reports, etc.), not by method of delivery (computers, interlibrary loan, e-readers, smartphones) or format (paper, HTML, DVD, etc.). So for every reader who writes to us to say, “I can’t believe out of 77 examples in the Publication Manual, not one is for a website,” we take this opportunity to point out that a full 47 examples—that’s 61%—refer to online resources you’d find on a website.

So, remember that for the purpose of citation (and of finding reference examples), it matters what’s on the website, not that the document is on a website in and of itself.

Using the Manual to Find What You Need

The Publication Manual provides a wonderful index of document types in Chapter 7 prior to the reference examples themselves (see pp. 193–198). In addition to variations on document type (96 of them!), subvariations on author, title, and publication information are also provided. This list is an essential reference for users of the Publication Manual, and we hope you’ll take advantage of it now if you haven’t before.

Clarifying the Distinctions Among Delivery Method, Format, and Type

Additionally, we give to you the table below, which lists examples of different document delivery methods, formats, and types. The third column, for document type, also links to other APA Style Blog posts on the topic and lists relevant reference examples in the Publication Manual.

So when you ask an APA Style question—say, “How do I cite ‘X’?”—first try to find your “X” in the table below or in the index of document types in the manual. If you find it listed only in one of the first two columns of the table below, then you haven’t figured out the document type yet (that’s the third column), and you’re not quite ready to write the reference. Note that there are as many possible document types out there as the day is long, so for brevity’s sake, this table includes only the most common. Many more are in the Chapter 7 index.

Document   delivery method  Finding - computer Document   format Finding - film
Document   type Finding - book
Computer Paper Journal article (ex: 1–6)
Internet browser HTML (as on a website) Magazine or newspaper article (ex: 7–11)
Mobile phone (e.g., iPhone, Android phone) PDF (as on a website) Special section in a journal (ex: 12)
Tablet computer (e.g., iPad) Digital audio file (e.g., mp3, mp4) Monograph (ex: 13)
E-reader (e.g., Kindle, Nook) Digital video file (e.g., flash video, streaming video, wmv, mp4) Editorial (ex: 14)
Interlibrary loan (e.g., ILLiad) DVD or Blu-ray Abstract (ex: 16, 17)
Visit to a library in person Film Book or book   chapter (ex: 18–26)
Photocopy CD, cassette, or record Report (technical, government, etc.) (ex: 31–35)
Movie projector Art materials (paint, clay, etc.) Dictionary or encyclopedia, whole book or entry (ex: 27–30)
Stereo or other audio player Wikipedia or   wiki entry
Paper Proceedings from a meeting or symposium (ex: 38, 39)
Museum Dissertation or thesis (ex: 40–44)
Archival collection Review (ex: 45–48)
Physical object (e.g., book) Video (e.g., YouTube   video, movie, TV show) (ex: 49, 51)
Podcast (ex: 50)
Music recording (ex: 52)
Software (ex: 56)
Unpublished, informally published, or self-published work (ex:   58–62)
Letter (ex: 63–65)
Interview (recorded or transcribed) (ex: 69, 70)
Pamphlet   or brochure
Artwork   or images
Photograph (ex: 73)
Blog post (ex: 76)
Press   release
Facebook   update
Information on a   webpage
Personal   communication (e-mail, phone call, unrecorded interview, etc.) (see   section 6.20)

Trouble Finding “X”

If you have trouble nailing down exactly what “X” is, other than perhaps you know it is on a website, then read our blog post on discerning different kinds of website material for more help. If you know what “X” is but you can’t find an exact example in the manual, read our blog post on what to do when you can’t find the exact document type in the Publication Manual

We hope this post will help you to find the APA Style reference example that you’re looking for.

Source: APA Style Blog: Reference Example Organization: How to Find the Example You Need in the Manual.

The Generic Reference

by Chuck

Whether you’re proofreading a finished reference list or trying to cobble together a citation for a new or nonroutine communications format, understanding what information any reference should contain will help you in your task. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is intended to be both explanatory and fairly comprehensive. Nonetheless, there is no way on earth it could set out examples for every possible type of reference. It does, however, offer an approach for the construction of new sorts of references beyond the various types it catalogues. That approach has been specifically illustrated in this blog already, by earlier postings about manufacturing reference entries for Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia. Now I’d like to teach you how to fish, as it were, by taking a more general look.

What is that approach? You just need to know the basic building blocks—namely, the generic elements that nearly all references in APA style contain—and then you can adapt them to your particular needs.

The sixth edition of the Publication Manual lays the requirements out pretty bluntly. “Each entry usually contains the following elements: author, year of publication, title, and publishing data—all the information necessary for unique identification and library search” (p. 180). Another way to think of these building blocks, a mnemonic to use in your own construction and review of references, is to remember four interrogatories: Who? When? What? Where?

To be less cryptic and more lengthy, the quartet of queries can be expanded thus: Who created this reference? When was this reference created? What is this reference called? Where does this reference come from (or, Where can my reader find this reference)? Let’s look at these four questions one at a time.

Who created this reference?

The author component is pretty straightforward: the writer(s) of the article, anthology chapter, or book entire; the editor of a compilation; the producer and director of a motion picture; the writer of a letter, an e-mail, or a blog posting; and so on. On the rare occasion when no authorship is attributed and, per APA style, you revert to a title entry (e.g., Publication Manual, p. 200, example 9; p. 205, example 30), this initial whodunnit is still answered. The title entry implicitly tells your reader, “Authorship was checked for but despite the best efforts of the citer, no such information was either given or obtainable.”

When was this reference created?

In most cases, a year will suffice to answer this question. A few reference types require more: for instance, year followed by month for papers and poster sessions presented at conferences (Publication Manual, pp. 206–207), or year followed by month and day for newspaper articles (pp. 200–201) and e-mails and blog posts (pp. 214–215). When no year is available or can be ascertained by hook or by crook, this element is maintained by using the abbreviation n.d., for “no date” (p. 185; p. 203, example 20; p. 205, example 30).

What is this reference called?

Note that here I am referring to the title of the thing referenced itself, not to any larger “container” in which the specific thing referenced may reside. (Information about that container will be part of the fourth generic-reference element, discussed further on.) For instance, as regards a journal article, all of the “what” element is the title of the article, not the name of the journal in which that article appears. (As said above, that journal name will be used later on.) So, too, with a chapter in an edited book: The “what” is the title of the chapter only. The name of the edited book in which the chapter resides is not the “what” described here.

If the item you are referencing does not have a formal title, APA style requires you to provide something to fill out this part of the reference. If no title exists, you must fill in the blank yourself. To indicate that this is your invention, not a formal title, your coined title should be enclosed in square brackets (Publication Manual, p. 209, example 47; p. 212, example 60).

Where does this reference come from (or, Where can my reader find this reference)?

Once you’ve given the author name(s), the year, and the name of the thing being referred to, anything and everything else in the reference entry constitutes the answer to this final question of “where.” References come in more varieties than Baskin-Robbins has ice creams, though, so this portion of a reference has the most permutations. It ranges from the basic journal name, volume, and page span for journal articles to the online versions where that information is supplemented with a DOI or URL. A book chapter’s “where” can be quite involved, what with listing editor name(s), the book’s overall title, a page span, and publisher location and name. References to books available online may dispense with the publisher information, replacing it with a DOI or URL. And books and journals are just the tip of the reference iceberg. There’s a host of new formats (podcasts, tweets, etc.) and a world of nonroutine formats that aren’t necessarily bleeding-edge new (e.g., cuneiform tablets in the British Museum).

All this may sound like a fair amount of ground to cover. Still, it’s worth remembering that nearly always, regardless of what sort of reference you’re trying to cite, or create, it will rest sturdily on the four-legged framework of who, when, what, and where.

Source: APA Style Blog: The Generic Reference.

How to cite a class in APA style

by Timothy McAdoo

Have you ever learned so much in a class that you wanted to cite the whole thing? If so, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, because a class is not a retrievable source, when you try to put together a reference, you won’t have a “where” there. There, there: Don’t worry, you do have other options!

Citing a Course Pack or Custom Textbook

Sometimes people who ask about citing a course are really trying to cite the textbook, course pack, custom textbook, or other published materials used in the class. Our recent post on that topic provides a number of options.

Citing the Teacher’s PowerPoint File or Other Materials

In some cases, you might want to cite materials presented by the instructor that were not included in a course pack or a custom textbook (e.g., the instructor’s lecture itself or a PowerPoint presentation designed by the instructor).

If the instructor has posted the materials somewhere online, you can cite them directly. But, it’s more likely that he or she is the only source for the materials. In that case, cite as a personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Source section of our post on what belongs in a reference list).

Citing Your Own Class Notes

In other cases, you might want to cite your own notes from the class. Again, because these notes will not be a retrievable source for most readers, cite them as a personal communication (see the Provide a Reliable Path to the Sourcesection of our post on what belongs in a reference list).

Citing the Course Itself

Your experience of attending the class simply cannot be replicated or retrieved. But, although the course itself is not retrievable, you may be able to find a description of the course on your school’s website. If you can find it online, you can cite it!

Source: APA Style Blog

Secondary sources (aka How to cite a source you found in another source)

by Timothy McAdoo

You’ve probably heard that you should avoid secondary sources when possible. It’s true—if you find great information being quoted or paraphrased somewhere, it’s well worth your effort to track down the original source so you can read it for yourself and therefore cite it directly.

But why track down the original when you already have the quotes?

First, by reading the full text of the original source, you can verify that the context of the quote supports the point you want to make. You don’t want to be surprised by an informed reader who tells you that the original source actually contradicts your points—especially if that informed reader is your professor!  

Second, by finding and reading the original source, you will become better informed about your research topic. To a reader familiar with the research in your topic area, the citations in your paper are one indication of whether you have a firm understanding of the subject and of the relevant research. By contrast, if you’ve cited secondary sources for ideas or quotations that you could have obtained easily (or relatively so), you may give the impression that your research was hasty or superficial.

If your primary source is an archival document (e.g., a diary, limited-circulation brochure or pamphlet, unpublished manuscript), see Section 7.10 of the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) for citation and reference guidelines and examples.  

So when are secondary sources appropriate?

It’s okay to cite a secondary source when you’ve exhausted the options for finding the original work.

For example, an out-of-print work may be impossible for you to find but could still be quoted in recent work by other authors. Or perhaps the paper you’re reading has cited a personal correspondence. You obviously can’t cite the original source directly in that case, so the secondary source is appropriate.

And of course there are those cases when an author takes a complex topic and puts it in layman’s terms. Citing this type of secondary source, where the extra level of analysis is much the point, may also be appropriate.

How is it done?

In your reference list, provide a reference for the source you read. This is known as the secondary source because it is one step removed from the original source of the idea or quotation. In your text, name the original work and provide the citation for the secondary source.

Let’s look at an example:

In his e-mails, Smith argued that asynchronous line dancing would be the next Internet meme (as cited in Jones, 2010).

Jones (2010) would be the reference you include in your reference list. Also, note that by mentioning the original format of the information (in this case a series of e-mail messages), you not only specify that this is a secondary source but also give the reader an indication of why that’s the case. Although it’s not a requirement, mentioning the original format answers this potential question for the reader so he or she can focus on the content!

Source: APA Style Blog

Group authors

by Timothy McAdoo

In 2010, the estimated number of websites was 255 million. That translates to a staggering number of individual webpages. Who’s writing all those pages? And, how should you cite them in APA Style?

In this post, I’ll focus on just one possibility: group authors.  Although the “who” element for many references is an individual author or authors, “who” can also be a group author. This is often the case for white papers, press releases, and information pages (e.g., “About Us”) on company websites.

For example, the “about” page on the American Psychological Association site ( was surely written by one or more real people. But, because no individual byline is listed and because this resides on the organization’s webpage, you would reference it as a group author. That is, the “who” in your reference is a group author.

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). About APA. Retrieved from

Notice that the author portion still ends with a period.

In the reference, spell out the full group author name.  Though you may choose to abbreviate the author name in text, spell it out in the reference list.

In your text, use the author–date format for citations. In this example, the author is “American Psychological Association” and the date is “n.d.”

According to the American Psychological Association (n.d.), “psychology is a diverse discipline, grounded in science, but with nearly boundless applications in everyday life” (Definition of “Psychology,” para. 1). 

If you include the citation many times in your paper, you might want to abbreviate the group author name. If so, this introduction should be included with the first use in text:

According to the American Psychological Association (APA, n.d., Definition of “Psychology,” para. 1), “psychology is a diverse discipline, grounded in science, but with nearly boundless applications in everyday life.”

If you decide to abbreviate, do so consistently throughout the paper. Spelling out the name in some sections and abbreviating in others can confuse the reader.

Note that you are not required to abbreviate, even if the group author name appears frequently in your text. The Publication Manual (p. 176) recommends writing out the name of group authors, even if used many times in your text, if the group author name is short or “if the abbreviation would not be readily understandable.”

Source: APA Style Blog

Cite what you see, cite what you use

by David Becker

Cite What You See is the motto I used in my previous post about citing pseudonyms to explain that you should cite whatever author name you noted in the source you used, whether it’s a pseudonym or a real name. This motto can be applied to all the essential elements of a reference list entry. The information you need to properly cite a source should be found within the source itself.

Extend the Cite What You See motto to Cite What You Use, and you’ll find answers to some other common questions about creating reference list entries. Use only the information provided by the source you are citing—don’t include information from other sources or variants of your source.

Here are two common APA Style questions about citing sources and ways that the Cite What You See, Cite What You Use motto can address them.

“The book I’m citing has multiple editions. Which one do I cite?”

Cite whichever edition you used. For instance, even though there’s a more recent edition, if you consulted the fifth edition of the Publication Manual, then refer to the fifth edition in your reference list entry:

American Psychological Association. (2005). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

“I’m citing a video that’s located at multiple places on the Internet. Which source should I cite?”

Cite whichever source you used. If you’re citing a video podcast that you downloaded from iTunes, format your reference entry as in Example 50 from page 210, section 7.07, of the Publication Manual. But if you found the video on YouTube, cite it as you would any other YouTube video (see our post on how to create a reference for a YouTube video). Here’s an example of how to cite one video from two different sources:

Dunning, B. (Producer). (2011, January 12). inFact: Conspiracy theories [Video podcast]. Retrieved from

Dunning, B. [volleybrian]. (2011, January 12). inFact: Conspiracy theories [Video file]. Retrieved from plcp

The bottom line is don’t be concerned that other versions of your source exist or that your source can be found in places other than where you found it. Just remember to Cite What You See, Cite What You Use!

Source: APA Style Blog

How to cite course packs, custom textbooks, and other classroom compendiums

by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

If you’ve taken a college course in the last 20 years, you’ve probably used a course pack—a collection of information put together specifically for your class. Course packs can be as simple as a stapled packet or as fancy as a hardbound book with a four-color cover. They’re usually compiled by the instructor from relevant articles, chapters, and original material; they may be printed by the college print shop, outsourced to a local copy shop, or ordered through a custom textbook manufacturer. It’s increasingly common to provide all or part of the book in electronic form as well.

Course packs are seldom cited in journal articles, but students are often given the assignment of writing on a specific extract from the textbook. The plethora of sources in a course pack often creates a conundrum for students: Who’s the author? Who’s the publisher? Below I suggest a technique for handling the types of sources most commonly encountered in course packs.

Previously Published Articles or Chapters

Let’s say you’re working from a course pack for a neuropsychology class, and you need to cite a journal article included in it. The source should be clearly identified as part of the copyright/permissions statement, which is required by law.  In this case, you can eliminate the middleman—just cite it as if you found it in the original source:

Wenner,  A. M. (1962). Sound production during the waggle dance of the honey bee.  Animal Behaviour, 10, 79–95.

Original or Unattributed Material

Instructors frequently include unpublished material in their course packs, particularly in rapidly developing areas of research. Since the only source for this material is the course pack itself, treat it as part of an anthology compiled by the instructor and published by the university. If authorship is not stated, treat it as an unauthored work. The title of the compilation is whatever is on the cover or title page—often (but not always) this consists of the course name and number, as in the first example below:

 Diagram of the tibia–basitarsis joint in Apis melifera. (2011). In B. Haave (Comp.), NEU 451: Movement and
(pp. 44–45). Davenport, IA: St. Ambrose University.

MacGyver, A. (1990). Five steps to repelling an attack by killer bees. In R. D. Anderson (Comp.), Selected readings in
             survival, escape, and evasion
(pp. 31-34). 
Davenport, IA: St. Ambrose University.

Supplemental Material

Many custom textbook publishers offer supplemental materials such as CDs, DVDs, or online materials that are accessible only with the purchase of the text. Since these are essentially extensions of the course pack or text itself, it makes sense to cite them as supplemental materials:

“Varroa mite blues” and other songs of the honey bee [Supplemental material]. (2012). In B. Haave (Comp.),
              NEU 451: Movement and perception (pp. 44–45). Davenport, 
IA: St. Ambrose University.

If you find other challenges in citing materials from course packs, please let us know in the comments below.

Source: APA style blog

You can quote me on this

by Timothy McAdoo

A good quote can make your paper more interesting, lend credence to your arguments, and add variety to the tone and style of your paper.  

But before you simply copy and paste, consider these four key points:

1. Be purposeful.

In researching your topic, you’ll read and absorb much more information than you could ever hope to restate verbatim in your paper. Most of this you’ll paraphrase (and cite accordingly!) or combine to form original ideas. But sometimes you’ll want to quote an original source.

Why quote rather than paraphrase an idea? A direct quote can be much more powerful. Maybe the original author is preeminent in the field, thus his or her quote lends instant gravitas to your argument. Maybe he or she coined a phrase that’s now ubiquitous in the research, and you’re quoting the earliest original use. Or maybe the original author just captured an idea so clearly and succinctly that you want to share the exact wording with your readers. Consider the impact you want the quote to have on your reader.

2. Be precise.

Once you’ve included the quotation, check and recheck the source material against what you’ve keyed in your paper. It’s easy to drop a word, insert a typo, or omit punctuation. We all know that one misplaced comma can make a world of difference (just ask that panda who eats, shoots and leaves)!

Also, be sure the author’s intent is not misrepresented. A sentence removed from the original context can sometimes be misunderstood. Read your quote with an objective eye and decide whether (a) more context is needed or (b) paraphrasing might be called for.

3. Cite your source.

Proper citation is essential. Always cite the author, date, and page or page range for direct quotes. For online sources where page numbers are not applicable, use paragraph numbers if they are visible or cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following that heading so your reader can find the quote in context.

4. Use the proper format.

Formatting the quotation is more than just an arbitrary means of ensuring consistency. It serves as a flag to the readers, telling them that something about the quote is significant or that you’ve altered or omitted some of the text. APA’s formatting recommendations are meant to provide a means of easily indicating how and why you’ve made alterations to a quote.

The quotation needs to be true to the original, but you also want it to work for you, to support your argument.

Let’s look at an example:

Smith (2009) also dabbles in hyperbole, saying, “Random Explosions 2: Revenge of the Dialogue is the worst movie in the history of time [emphasis added]. . . . it’s [sic] promise of dialogue is a misnomer of explosive proportions” (p. 13).

As you can see, even though I’ve made three separate formatting notations (added emphasis, ellipses points to indicate omitted text, and “sic” to indicate the typo), the original quote remains clear. With this formatting I’ve also clarified what aspect of the quotation I want the reader to focus on.

Finally, quotes of 40 or more words should be in block form, sans quotation marks.

I’ve simply touched on the APA formatting possibilities here. The APA Publication Manual includes detailed instructions on pp. 170–174. What are your thoughts on APA’s quotation guidelines?

Source: APA Style Blog