How to Cite a PDF in APA
Published October 21, 2013. Updated September 3, 2021.
Welcome to your guide to citing articles in the American Psychological Association style. On this page, you will learn about the correct way to make references and citations for various types of articles, including pieces published in newspapers, magazines, online journals, and more.
We’ll review the different methods for making in-text citations as well as the standard way to construct your references list. The information below is given according to the style guidelines published in the 7th edition of the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (this guide is not connected to the association).
You probably come across articles every day. Articles on websites, articles your teacher assigns to read, news pieces, etc. They’re pretty much a part of our daily lives.
When it comes to citing them, things can get a bit tricky. Not all APA format articles are cited the same way. You must:
- First determine the type of article
- Then find the structure that matches it
Knowing the type is important because there is a different APA citation article structure for newspaper stories, journal pieces, PDF documents, and more.
If creating an article APA citation seems confusing, fear not! We’ve included tons of examples and source types towards the bottom of this guide. Scroll down to the second half of this page to locate the source type you’re attempting to cite.
Itching for a quick fix to your citations? Try the EasyBib reference generator. In just a few clicks, your APA citation articles can be added to your paper with ease. If your teacher requests a different style, we have many more styles to choose from.
If you need more information than what’s included in the examples at the bottom of the page, we have thorough explanations in the next section of this guide. Citing can be confusing and there are many rules to follow. So, sit back, keep reading, and let’s ride the APA article citation wave.
What is an Article?
An article is a nonfiction piece of writing. They’re generally created to inform the reader about something. They differ from nonfiction books in that they’re much shorter in length.
- Newspaper columns
- Magazine stories
- Journal pieces
- Written pieces on websites
The next section of this guide focuses on references. We’ll show you how to structure references on the Reference Page and also in the text of your paper.
Before we continue, let’s be clear that this style is much different than MLA format. If your teacher requests your references in that style, check out our page on how to cite websites in MLA and our MLA works cited page. You may even find our MLA in-text & parenthetical citations page helpful.
General In-text Citation Structure
To get started, let’s take a look at the basic elements that come together to make an accurate and informative reference.
The Author-Date Citation System
While some of the referencing specifics may change depending on your article type, all citations in the APA style are based off of the simplistic yet effective Author-Date System (as defined by Section 8.10 of the Publication manual).
This system summarizes your reference into two parts, the Reference List Entry and the In-Text Citation. To summarize:
- Reference List Entry is what comes at the end of your work. It includes author, date, title, and the source of the work.
- In-Text Citations require only the author and the year of publication. This allows readers to easily determine the corresponding entry in your reference list.
Since this section is focused on in-text citations, let’s have a look at the two different types:
A Parenthetical Citation can appear within a sentence or at the end of a sentence. It consists of the author’s name and the year of publication, separated by a comma and enclosed within parentheses.
(Author’s Last Name, Year).
The dark web is “as messy and chaotic as you would expect” (Guccione, 2019).
When the parenthetical citation is at the end of the sentence, as it is in this example, the period (or closing punctuation) is placed on the outside of the closing parenthesis.
A Narrative Citation is preferred when the author’s name already appears in the sentence. In this case, the date is the only information that is placed inside the parentheses at the end of the sentence.
Author’s Last Name (Year)
Guccione (2019) shares that the dark web “is as messy and chaotic as you would expect.”
*Note: In sentences where both the author and the publication date already appear within the running text, no parenthetical citation is required (See Section 8.11 of the Publication manual).
Things to Keep in Mind
Before we head right into a bunch of examples, here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to each section of the references.
Authors are written differently depending on how many there are and if you’re listing the authors in the in-text citation or reference page.
Here’s author formatting for in-text citations (Section 8.17 of the Publication manual):
- One author = Last Name
- Two authors = 1st Last Name & 2nd Last Name
- Three or more authors = 1st Last Name et al.
- Group or Organization = Full Group Name
Here’s author formatting for the reference page (Section 9.8 of the Publication manual):
- One author = 1st Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial.
- Two authors = 1st Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial., & 2nd Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial.
- Three to twenty authors = 1st Last Name, Initials., 2nd Last Name, Initials., 3rd Last Name, Initials., & Final Last Name, Initials.
- List up the 20 author names. The final name has an ampersand (&) before it.
- Full group or organization = Full Group Name
- Two groups or organizations = 1st Group Name & 2nd Group Name
If it does not have an author listed, place the title in the author’s position.
If it is written by a group or organization, write it out in full in the author’s position.
The above information shows how authors are structured in ALL source types, even in an APA books citation.
Some sources only show (Year), others show (Year, Month or Season), and some are the full date, displayed as (Year, Month Day). Look at the APA citation article examples on the bottom section of this guide to determine how to style dates.
Titles for APA citation articles are written with a capital letter in three places only:
- The first letter in the title
- The first letter in the subtitle
- The first letter of any proper nouns
New members block vote for Congress: No change in legislation.
Titles of sources (Names of newspapers, journals, and magazines) are written with a capital letter at the beginning of all important words on a reference page and also in an annotated bibliography, and are usually italicized.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Some APA citation articles include extra information about the medium. Scroll down to the APA PDF citation section at the very bottom to see how extra information is styled.
APA 7 handles page numbers in a couple of ways that differ based on the source material:
- Websites usually do not have page numbers, so they can be omitted.
- Periodicals like journals, newspapers, magazines, and newsletters ask for the page range in the reference entry. They are presented after the periodical title alongside the volume number, issue number, and article number.
- Direct Quotations require page number citation when they are presented in the text. Use the “p.” abbreviation for a single page and “pp.” for multiple pages. Separate the page numbers with a dash and place them next to the author name within the citation, e.g., (Jacobs, 2010, pp.231-234).
- Newspaper Stories include a page number and the section. Example: B2-B3.
- If the newspaper story is continued on a different page, add a comma between the pages. Example: B2, B14.
Volume & Issue Numbers:
- The volume number and issue number should be included in the reference entry only if this information is presented in a clear manner in the source material. If no volume or issue numbers can be found, then the page range is the only thing that needs to be included.
Website Addresses and DOIs:
- If the source is on a website, include the URL at the end of the reference with no period.
- If the source has a DOI number, use it instead of the website address. DOI numbers are created by publishers and are permanently linked to a source. A journal article APA citation often includes a DOI number. Look at the examples below to see how DOIs are styled.
Quick reminder to try out the automatic generator on EasyBib.com and scan through the grammar pages while you’re at it. Brush up on your pronoun, adjective, and interjection skills and easily generate your APA article citation! If it sounds like a win-win, it is! Try it out!
How to Cite Various Types of Articles
Citing a PDF Document
PDF stands for “portal document format.” It’s a document that opens up a separate window or tab, and usually has “pdf” shown somewhere in the website address or file name.
PDFs can be referenced and cited similarly to printed articles and books. This means that the reference entry will include the author, publication date, title, publisher name, and a source URL or DOI.
With PDF files it is also helpful to add a bracketed note signifying the nature of the material, e.g., [PDF] directly following the title.
Author’s Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of PDF [PDF]. Name of Publisher. URL
It is quite common for PDF files to have no listed publisher. If the name of the publisher cannot be reasonably discerned from the material, or if the publisher and the author are the same entity, then it can be dropped from the reference structure altogether.
American Public Health Association. (2016). Zubik v. Burwell and public health at a glance [PDF]. https://www.apha.org/-/media/files/pdf/factsheets/zubik_fact_sheet.ashx?la=en&hash=957086293FE0F6E7A05E1CCA2222E9018D867B99
Parenthetical citation: (American Public Health Association, 2016)
Narrative citation: American Public Health Association (2016)
Citing a Web Page in APA
Author Last Name, First Initial, Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of webpage. Title of Website. URL
Medcalf, C. (2019, July 10). Remember that time Deadmau5 livestreamed himself painstakingly recreating the Stranger Things theme? MusicFeeds. https://musicfeeds.com.au/news/remember-that-time-deadmau5-livestreamed-himself-painstakingly-recreating-the-stranger-things-theme/
Parenthetical citation: (Medcalf, 2019)
Narrative citation: Medcalf (2019)
Need more information on web APA citation articles? Take a peek at our full APA website citation guide.
How to Cite a Print Journal Article in APA
Author Last Name, First Initial, Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of article in sentence case. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), page range.
Jeffers, O., & Roberts, A. D. (2019). Most common injuries in adult men’s softball. Sports and Rehabilitation Journal, 4(12).
Parenthetical citation: (Jeffers & Roberts, 2019)
Narrative citation: Jeffers & Roberts (2019)
Online Journal Article with a Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Author Last Name, First Initial, Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of article in sentence case. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), page range. DOI
Galea, S., & Vaughn, R. D. (2019). When population health science intersects with pressing cultural issues: A public health of consequence. American Journal of Public Health, 109(3), 358-359. https://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304932
Parenthetical citation: (Galea & Vaughn, 2019)
Narrative citation: Gales & Vaughn (2019)
Online Journal Article Without a DOI
If you used a journal piece found online but could not locate a DOI, then you can provide the article’s URL in its place. Here is an example:
Author Last Name, First Initial, Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of article in sentence case. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), page range. URL
Desai, M. J., Jonely, H., Blackburn, M., Wanasinghage, S., Sheikh, S., & Taylor, R. S. (2019). The back pain and movement (B-PAM) registry: A study protocol. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20, 24-36. https://bmcmusculoskeletdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12891-019-2625-x
Parenthetical citation: (Desai et al., 2019)
Narrative citation: Desai et al. (2019)
Cite a Newspaper Column
If you used a newspaper story found in a print issue, structure it as follows:
Author Last Name, First Initial, Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of article in sentence case. Title of Newspaper, Section Number.
Fry, H. (2019, June 27). Wildfires, rains add to beach pollution. Los Angeles Times, A1, A12.
Parenthetical citation: (Fry, 2019)
Narrative citation: Fry (2019)
- When the story continues on multiple sections, separate the sections with a comma, as shown in the above example.
For more information on the difference kinds of periodicals that are defined by the APA, you can check out Section 10.1 of the Publication Journal.
Newspaper Article Sourced Online
If you used a newspaper story found online, the only thing that you need to complete the source element is the URL. Simply add it to the reference entry after the newspaper name. See Section 10.1, example 16 of the official Publication manual for more examples.
Author’s Last Name, F. M. (Year, Month Day). Title of newspaper story in sentence case. Title of Newspaper. URL
Example of an APA citation newspaper article online:
Ormseth, M. (2019, June 27). Bookkeeper, former USC coach plead guilty in admissions scandal, promise to help investigators. The Los Angeles Times. www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-college-admissions-scandal-masera-khosroshahin-plea-20190627-story.html
Parenthetical citation: (Ornseth, 2019)
Narrative citation: Ornseth (2019)
Note that a newspaper article sourced online is different from an online news website. Sources like CNN, Bloomberg, Vox, and BBC News are all examples of online-only news websites and as such their citation structure is going to be slightly different. Section 10.16 of the Publication Manual goes into more detail about how to cite from news websites.
If you’re feeling confident that your APA citation articles are structured properly, then you may want to draw your attention to your writing and grammar. Check out our various grammar pages on EasyBib.com. We have full guides on how to structure every conjunction, verb, and noun in your paper!
Magazine Stories & Articles
Here are the reference examples for stories and articles sourced from a printed magazine:
Author’s Last Name, F. M. (Year, Month Day). Title of newspaper story in sentence case. Title of Newspaper. URL
Nelson, X. (2019, August). Teaching moments: How developers build the tutorials you skip. PC Gamer, 320, 16-17.
Parenthetical citation: (Nelson, 2019)
Narrative citation: Nelson (2019)
Magazine Stories Found Online
If you are citing a magazine article that you sourced online, then you need only to include the DOI or URL at the end of the reference.
Volume number, issue number, and page number should be included only if you are reading an online version of a printed magazine that shares the same index.
Author’s Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Year, Month Published). Title of the magazine story. Title of Magazine, Issue number, page range.
Christensen, B. K. (2019, July 1). Highly trained cells spot brain cancer. Science Illustrated, 68, 46-51. https://www-pressreader-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/australia/science-illustrated/20190701
If the magazine article in question has a DOI, then insert that into the end of the reference in place of the URL.
Parenthetical citation: (Christensen, 2019)
Narrative citation: Christensen (2019)
APA Blog Post Citation
Blog posts are defined as periodicals under the 7th edition. Because of this, your reference entry will be almost identical to the structure of an online article citation. The most significant difference is that blogs are published with a year, month, and day.
Remember: whatever level of specificity is offered regarding the publication date should be reflected in the reference entry.
Author’s Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Year, Month Day Published). Title of Blog Post. Title of Blog. URL
Hin, K. (2016, March 13). Transport on the French Riviera: A practical guide to getting around by train, bus and car. French Riviera Blog. https://french-riviera-blog.com/2016/03/13/transport-on-the-french-riviera-a-practical-guide-to-getting-around-by-train-bus-and-car/
Parenthetical citation: (Hin, 2016)
Narrative citation: Hin (2016)
Prior to submitting your paper, try out our plagiarism checker. It scans for any instances of accidental plagiarism and checks for grammar too! Stop questioning if every adverb, determiner, or preposition is placed where it belongs and give our super helpful checker a whirl!
Discover more writing and citing tips by visiting our EasyBib Twitter feed.
American Psychological Association. (2020a). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000
American Psychological Association. (2020b). Style-Grammar-Guidelines. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/citations/basic-principles/parenthetical-versus-narrative
Published October 21, 2013. Updated on April 9, 2020.
Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is an awesome school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.
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- How do I cite a PDF in APA?
The structure of the entry depends on what source type (e.g., report, book, etc.) the PDF is. The source’s URL will indicate that the source was published as a PDF. For an example, let’s look at an annual report that was published as a PDF. Since the report publisher and author are the same (Ingredion), omit the publisher information.
In-text citation example:
Ingredion. (2020). Purpose-driven growth: 2020 annual report. https://www.annualreports.com/HostedData/AnnualReports/PDF/NYSE_INGR_2020.pdf
For more information on citing in APA, see this APA format guide.
- How do I cite a PDF with no author in APA?
To cite a PDF with no author in APA style, it is important that you know some basic information such as the title of the work, publisher, and/or URL (uniform resource locator). The templates for in-text citations and reference list entries of a PDF along with examples are given below.
In-text citation template and example:
If the PDF does not have an author, cite the PDF by its title. If the title is too long, shorten it for the in-text citation. Follow title case in the in-text citation. A parenthetical citation might look like this:
(Title of the Work, publication year)
(Inspiring Growth, 2015)
Reference list entry template and example:
Title of the PDF [PDF]. (Publication Year). Name of Publisher. URL
Inspiring growth: CBI/Pearson education and skills survey 2015 [PDF]. (2015). Pearson. https://www.pearson.com/content/dam/corporate/global/pearson-dot-com/files/press-releases/2015/CBI-Pearson-Skills-survey-FINAL.pdf
You need to set the title of the PDF in sentence case in the reference list. While arranging the entry alphabetically in the reference list, treat the title as the author name. Remember, articles (“a,” “an,” and “the”) present at the beginning of the title should not be considered when alphabetizing. When there is a numeral used in the title, consider it to be in the spelled-out form and arrange it accordingly in the reference list.