How to Cite a Database in APA 

Share to Google Classroom

APA style does not require research database information in its citations. Instead, you would cite the source found within the database. Below we’ll cover the basics of why an entire database should not be cited, when a database name is mentioned, and how to cite a journal article (a commonly cited database source type) found in a database. Click here to automatically cite a Database source.

Guide overview

Why can’t I cite an entire database?

In general citation styles like APA, MLA, and others instruct writers to cite the specific source (e.g., article, book, image, etc.) you use from a database and NOT to cite an entire database. The purpose of the citation is to identify the source (book, article, document, webpage, etc.) that was used and not how the source was found. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Databases often have restricted access where logins are needed. The reader may not have access to the specific database you used, but they could access the cited source through other means (e.g., another database, physically, etc.) if they have the source’s information.
  • Databases often contain numerous (hundreds, thousands) of different sources. So citing the database itself doesn’t make the source you’re discussing easily identifiable for the reader.
  • Some databases contain different source formats (e.g., PDF, video, image, etc.). A database citation would not effectively communicate to your reader what format was used.
  • Usually, sources in a database are all authored by different authors. So citing a database as an author is misleading.

What should I cite?

Cite the individual source you found in the database and use the APA format designed for that source. Usually, the database will label the source and tell you what the source type is. Examples of common APA source types include (but are not limited to):

When is a database mentioned?

Most mainstream academic databases do not need to be mentioned in the citation. However, there are a few instances when the database name is mentioned. Note that you still cite the individual source and note the entire database.

Mention the database in your reference list citation for the following:

  • Sources that are only found in one particular database or are in limited circulation
    • Examples: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a university archive, a government repository, etc.
    • Sources published by a database
  • Dissertations and theses from a database

For more guidance, see Section 9.30 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition.

How to cite sources published by a database

This applies to sources that are found only in one database, are in limited circulation, or were published by the database.

Include a retrieval date if the information will likely change over time. Otherwise, it is not needed.

Reference list entry structure & examples:

Author Last name, F. M. (Year Published). Source title. Database Name. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from DOI or URL

Evans, A. M., Rome, K., Carroll, M., & Hawke, F. (2022). Foot orthoses for treating paediatric flat feet. Cochrane Database of Sustemic Reviews.

Griffith, D. (2020). Microbiology of nontuberculous mycobacteria. UpToDate. Retrieved January 2, 2022, from

In-text citation structure & examples:

(Author Last Name, Year published)

(Evans et al., 2022)

(Griffith, 2020)

How to cite a thesis or dissertation from a database

Reference list entry structure & example:

Last name, F. M. (Year Published). Thesis or dissertation title (Publication Number) [Doctoral dissertation, Academic Institution]. Database Name. URL if applicable

Hoffman, M. K. (2022). Cardiac and systemic effects of stress signaling (Dissertation No. 27994368) [Doctoral dissertation, Temple University]. Proquest Dissertations and Theses.

In-text citation structure & example:

(Last Name, Year published)

(Hoffman, 2022)

How to cite a regular journal article from a database

In most cases, a journal article citation does NOT need to mention the database you found it in. Use the structures below.

Reference list entry structure & example:

Last name, F. M. (Year Published). Article title. Journal Name, Volume (Issue), Page(s). DOI or URL

Ahn, H., & Kim, K. (2008). Using genetic algorithms to optimize nearest neighbors for data mining. Annals of Operations Research, 263(1), 5-18.

In-text citation structure & example:

(Author Last Name, Year published)

(Ahn & Kim, 2008)


Solution #1: How to determine if you should include database information or not

  • Does the source name the database as its publisher? If you’re unsure, look for the publisher data in the record.
  • Is the source something that is likely only found on the database?

If you answered YES to either question, the database name should be included as the source publisher.

If you answered NO to either question, use the normal APA citation format specified for the source type. See the links at the bottom of this page to find guides on additional source types.


Solution #2: Citing work from the ERIC database

Because ERIC assigns document numbers to their works, you must include this number after the title.

Reference list entry structure & examples:

Last name, F. M. (Year published). Title in sentence case (ERIC number). ERIC. URL

Apolonio, J. A. (2021). Needs analysis, challenges, and teaching strategies in English grammar learning (ED613630). ERIC.

Jenkins. K. T. (2008). Teacher education for students planning on teaching abroad (ED1347898). ERIC.

In-text citation structure & examples:

(Author Last Name, Year published)

(Apolonio, 2021)

(Jenkins, 2008)


Updated November 3, 2020.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

How do I cite a database in APA

You do not need to cite a database in APA style, but to cite a source within a database, it is important that you know some basic information including the author, publication year, title of the work, name of the database, and URL (uniform resource locator). The templates for an in-text citation and reference list entry of a database, along with examples, are given below:

In-text citation template and example:

Use the author’s surname and the publication year in in-text citations.


Author Surname (Publication Year)

Lin (2019)


(Author Surname, Publication Year)

(Lin, 2019)

Reference list entry template and example:

The title of the work is given in sentence case and italicized. Include the document number in parenthesis after the title. Then, add the name of the database followed by the URL.

Author Surname, F. M. (Publication Year). Title of the work (Document Number). Name of the Database. URL

Lin, C. (2019). Politics in history education in Hong Kong: Towards critical political education (EJ1221601). ERIC.

Do I need to include the full URL when citing a subscription database?

You need not include the full URL when citing a subscription database, as the URL will not be accessible to readers who have not subscribed to the database. It is sufficient to include only the homepage URL of the subscription database.