How to cite in APA when there are no authors

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This article covers how to cite in APA Style (7th ed.) when there are no known authors for a reference or when the author is unknown or cannot be reasonably determined. Before treating a reference as though it has no author, consider whether a group or organization (such as a government agency, association, nonprofit organization, business, hospital, task force, or study group) could be the author by checking the cover or title page.

Citing in-text when there are no authors

APA 7th ed. uses the author-date citation system for citing references in-text. In parenthetical citations, this structure includes the author’s last name and the publication year (with a comma separating them) in parentheses. In narrative citations, the author’s last name is incorporated into the sentence.

Parenthetical citation for source with author:

(Author Last Name, Year Published)

(Cheung, 2013)

Narrative citation for source with author:

Author Last Name (Year Published)

Cheung (2013)

If a reference has an unknown author, the title of the work substitutes as the author name in the in-text citation.

  • The title should have each significant word capitalized (basically sentence case).
  • If the source is not italicized in the reference list entry, place the title in quotation marks (“”) in the in-text citation.
    • This means it is part of a larger work (like a magazine article within a magazine).
  • If the source title is italicized in the reference list entry, italicize the title in the in-text citation (example: books).

No author, source title italicized:

(Source title, Year Published)

(Park Avenue Summer, 2019)

No author, source title in quotes:

(“Source title,” Year Published)

(“22 New apple varieties,” 1997)

Author designated as “Anonymous”

Only use the capitalized word “Anonymous” in place of the author’s name when it’s overtly designated, not as a general substitute for a reference with an unknown author.

“Anonymous” as author name:

(Anonymous, Year Published)

(Anonymous, 2020)

Citing in the reference list when there are no authors

To add a reference with no author to the reference list, first move the title of the reference to the author position. For further information on creating reference list citations, see this guide on APA citations.

Reference list examples:

Park avenue summer. (2019). Penguin Random House.

“22 New apple varieties.” (1997). Food Magazine. https://foodmag.com/article/1997/22-new-apple-varietites

Author designated as “Anonymous”

If the reference is overtly signed “Anonymous,” then you can add the entry to the reference list as if “Anonymous” were the author’s last name.

Anonymous. (2020). Navigating the high seas. Sea Life. https://sealife.gov

Alphabetizing the reference list for sources with no known author

Reference list entries without an author are alphabetized by the first significant word of the title.

  • Ignore the words “A,” “An,” and “The” when putting your reference list in order.
  • Begin the entry with the word “Anonymous” only if the work is signed “Anonymous.”
  • If the reference has no author and is not signed “Anonymous,” then you can alphabetize it in the reference list based on the work’s title.
  • If the title begins with a number, alphabetize the reference as though the number were spelled out. For example, you would alphabetize the number 22 as though it were written as the word “twenty-two.”

Alphabetical order of reference list example:

Anonymous. (2020). Navigating the high seas. Sea Life. https://sealife.gov

Park avenue summer. (2019). Penguin Random House.

“22 New Apple Varieties.” (1997). Food Magazine. https://foodmag.com/article/1997/11/new-apple-varietites


Published October 28, 2020.


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