When you list your sources in an APA paper, the third part of an entry is usually the title. Here we review the basic rules for citing titles in your reference list.

Rules for Titles


Typically, only the first word of a title is capitalized:

Postprandial mood swings in adults who eat their lunch before 11 o’clock.

Exceptions are proper names and the first word of a subtitle:

Studies in obsessive compulsive disorder: The case of the Oxford comma.

As you can tell, you don’t need to use quotation marks for titles.


Use italics for titles of standalone works (e.g., books, websites) and for the names of periodicals:

Social hierarchy and towel whipping during the middle school years. (book)

Journal of Interracial Dating (periodical)

Don’t use italics when a work is part of a longer work (as with an article published in a periodical).

Additional Information

If your source contains extra information that relates to your title (edition, number, etc.), you can add it in parentheses:

Famous Freudian slips: The complete anals (Vols. 1-11).

Frank conversations with Frank (3rd ed., Vol. 2).

Frequency of calf muscle spasms in left handed adolescent swimmers (Publication No. Gr8-WRK-U2).

No Title

If your source lacks a title, you can substitute a description in square brackets:

[Photograph of latrinalia at Leicester train station].

For comments and social media posts that lack a title, it is customary to provide the first 20 words of the text.

Description of the Source

Sometimes it may be helpful to add a brief description of the source. This is especially the case for unusual sources:

Colonel Brandon’s flannel waistcoat [DVD]

Capitalize only the first word in square brackets. Here are some sample descriptions:




[Conference session]


[Data set]

[Database record]

[Unpublished doctoral dissertation]


[TV series]


[Audio podcast]

[Mobile App]

[Comment on the article, “Five ways to rejuvenate your relationship”]

For more information about citing titles, please see pp. 291-93 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Edition (7th ed.).