How to Format an APA Reference Page

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In APA, the “Works Cited” page is referred to as a “Reference List” or “Reference Page.” “Bibliography” also may be used interchangeably, even though there are some differences between the two.

If you are at the point in your article or research paper where you are looking up APA bibliography format, then congratulations! That means you’re almost done.

In this guide, you will learn how to successfully finish a paper by creating a properly formatted APA bibliography. More specifically, you will learn how to create a reference page. The guidelines presented here come from the 7th edition of the APA’s Publication Manual.

A note on APA reference page style: In this guide, “bibliography” and “references” may be used interchangeably, even though there are some differences between the two. The most important thing is to use the label “References” when writing your paper since APA style recommends including a reference page.

Here’s a run-through of everything this page includes:

Difference between an APA bibliography and a reference page

The difference between a bibliography and a reference page is a matter of scope. A bibliography usually includes all materials and sources that were used to write the paper. A reference page, on the other hand, only includes entries for works that were specifically cited in the text of the paper.

What about annotated bibliographies?

There are some cases in which a professor or journal might request an annotated bibliography. An annotated bibliography is basically a reference page that includes your comments and insights on each source.

An annotated bibliography can be a document all on its own, or part of a bigger document. That means creating an annotated bibliography by itself could be an assignment, or you may have to include one as part of your research paper, journal submission, or other project.

If you do need to add an APA annotated bibliography, it goes after the reference page on its own page, inside the appendices.

Understanding APA reference page format

A properly formatted APA reference page begins on a new page, after the end of the text. It comes before any figures, tables, maps, or appendices. It’s double-spaced and features what’s called a hanging indent, where the first line of each reference is not indented, and the second line of each reference is indented 0.5 inches. The reference page is also labeled with a bold, center-justified, and capitalized “References.”

APA reference page formatting: Alphabetizing by surname

All APA citations included in the reference page should be ordered alphabetically, using the first word of the reference entry. In most cases, this is the author’s surname (or the surname of the author listed first, when dealing with citations for sources with multiple authors). However, there are times when a reference entry might begin with a different element.

Creating an alphabetized reference page or bibliography might seem like a simple task. But when you start dealing with multiple authors and similar last names, it can actually get a little tricky. Fortunately, there are a few basic rules that can keep you on track.

Published October 28, 2020.

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When should I include a DOI or URL in an APA reference list?

The following rules will help you identify when to use DOIs and when to use URLs in references:

  1. Use a DOI wherever available, be it a print version or online version.
  2. For a print publication that does not have a DOI, do not add a DOI or URL (even if a URL is available).
  3. For an online publication, if both a DOI and URL are given, include only the DOI.
  4. For online publications that only have a URL (and no DOI), follow the below recommendations:
    • Add a URL in the reference list entry for publications from websites (other than databases). Double check that the URL will work for readers.
    • For publications from most academic research databases, which are easily accessible, do not include a URL or database information in the reference. In this case, the reference will be the same as the print version.
    • For publications from databases that publish limited/proprietary work that would only be available in that database, include the database name and the URL. If the URL would require a login, include the URL for the database home page or login page instead of the URL for the work.
    • If a URL will not work for the reader or is no longer accessible, follow the guidance for citing works with no source.
How do I format my references list?

To format your APA references list, follow these recommendations:

  1. Begin the references on a new page. This page should be placed at the end of the paper.
  2. All sides of the paper should have a 1-inch margin.
  3. Set the heading as “References” in bold text and center it.
  4. Arrange the reference entries alphabetically according to the first item within the entries (usually the author surname or title).
  5.  Add a hanging indent of 0.5 inches (i.e., indent any line after the first line of a reference list entry).

See above for a visual example of a reference page and additional examples.

Special Cases

Multiple entries with the same author(s) are arranged by publication year. Entries with no dates first, then in chronological order. If the year published is also the same, a letter is added to the year and the entries are arranged alphabetically (after arrangement by year).

  • Robin, M. T. (n.d.)
  • Robin, M. T. (1987)
  • Robin, M. T. (1989a)
  • Robin, M. T. (1989b)

Single-author source and multi-author source that share one author. One-author entries are listed first even if the multi-author entries were published earlier.

  • Dave, S. P., Jr. (2006)
  • Dave, S. P., Jr., & Glyn, T. L. (2005)

For references with multiple authors that have the same first author but different subsequent authors, alphabetize the entries by the last name of the second author (or third if the first two authors are the same).