Formatting the Reference List


The final bibliography in an APA paper is called a reference list. The reference list includes only those sources that have been cited in the text and that support the argument. Background studies and works of general interest are not included.

In addition, sources cited in the reference list should be recoverable. The reader should be able to locate and access them. For that reason, personal documents (e.g., emails, letters) that are not publicly accessible should be cited only in the body of your essay, and not in the reference list.

On this page we cover basic formatting rules, how to alphabetize entries, and some common abbreviations you can use when citing your sources.

Basic Formatting

Start your reference list on a separate page.

Write “References” (centered and bold) and then list your sources in alphabetical order. Double space all text and use hanging indentation to organize entries:

An image showing a sample APA reference list with two entries

Alphabetizing Entries

Entries are generally organized alphabetically, by surname:

Allworth, A.

Basketcase, B.

Clause, S.

However, here are some special cases to watch out for …

Nothing Precedes Something

The APA manual explains that in alphabetizing, “nothing precedes something” (303). Take the following names:

Crutch, X. A.

Crutchfield, B. P.

Crutchy, C. N.

In this example, all three surnames start with “Crutch,” but after that the first surname has “nothing” (ignoring the initials) and so it comes first.

Same Author

1. If you’re citing multiple works by the same author, organize them by year of publication:

Duncecap, C. V. (n.d.)

Duncecap, C. V. (2015).

Duncecap, C. V. (2017).

The same rule applies for citing multiple authors:

Billups, C., & Barkley, C. (2014).

Billups, C., & Barkley, C. (2016).

2. If the author and the year are both the same, alphabetize by title and add a letter behind each date:

Whitecraft, B. (2017a). A brief history of briefs.

Whitecraft, B. (2017b). The sociology of underwear.

Articles (a, an, the) are ignored for the purpose of alphabetizing.

3. If the same author has published individually and with others, always place the individual publication first:

Bittern, S. (2012).

Bittern, S., & Scotch, T. (2002).

This assumes, of course, that both entries start with the same surname.

No Author

Use the name “Anonymous” only if that’s how the work is signed. Otherwise, if the author’s name is missing, alphabetize by title (ignoring The, An, A).

Group Names

Spell out group names, and alphabetize accordingly:

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mafia Research Division. (2015).

Sicilian Mob Studies Association. (2014).

Society for the Study of Godfathers. (2011).

Notice that a subdivision (e.g., Mafia Research Division) is mentioned after its parent body. However, you can often leave out the parent body (here the Federal Bureau of Investigation) and cite it later in the entry as the publisher.

If the title page of your source lists both individual authors and a group name, then provide the individual names for the author and save the group name for later in the entry.


Finally, here are some abbreviations you can use in your reference list:

ed. (edition)

Rev. ed. (revised edition)

2nd ed. (second edition, etc.)

Ed. (Editor)

Eds. (Editors)

p. (page)

pp. (pages)

Vol. (Volume)

Vols. (Volumes)

No. (Number)

n.d. (no date)

Pt. (Part)

Suppl. (Supplement)

Trans. (Translator or Translators)

For more information about how to format and organize your reference list, please see chapter 9 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).