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.

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 works 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. 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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