Skip to Main Content

CEMS APA 7th edition Referencing Style Guide: Introduction to a reference list

Scribbr Video

What is a reference list?

A reference list consists of the works that specifically support an essay/article/thesis/dissertation. References cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in the text.

All the APA references contain four main components namely, author, date, title and source. If you are unable to locate components for a reference, the APA Style website contains a page on Missing Reference Information that you can consult.

Do not call a reference list a bibliographyit is not one. It only covers the sources you have consulted; it is not a complete list of all possible sources on the topic.

Formating in terms of punctuation

Styles of the reference list

The surnames and initials of all authors of the work, are given in inverted order (Barnard, H.A.). If the work is an edited book and the reference is to the book as a whole, the editor(s) are placed in the author position and surname and initials also inverted.

Format: Last name, Initials (with a space between the initials)

Brann, A.C.L.

Peng, K. Z.

Shackleton-Jones, N.


Add all the authors and use commas to separate divisions, that is, commas between an author's surname and his/her initials, as well as commas between co- authors:

Kwok, A. O. J., Watabe, M., & Ahmed, P. K.


Include the first 19 authors in the reference, then add three ellipsis points (...), and then the last author. The in-text citation will only include the first author followed by et. al., e.g. Smith et al., 2009)

Smith, J., Jones, B. E., Brown, K. E., Doe, J., Chan, L., Garcia, S. M., White, C-G., Fernández, J., Ahmed, A. J., Zhào, L., Cohen, D., Watanabe, K., Kim, K., Del Rosario, J., Yilmaz, P. K., Nguyễn, T., Wilson, T. H., Wang, W., Kahale, A. ... Zhang, Z. Z. (Date). Title. Source.


If the work that you are referencing, is an edited book and the reference is to the book as a whole, the editor(s) are placed in the author position and surname and initials also inverted as in the examples above.

However, if the reference is to a chapter or part of the edited work, the authors’ inverted details are listed as in the example above, but the editors’ initials and surnames are not inverted. See the ‘Books’ tab above for examples and more detail.

Books and scholarly journals only need the year in parentheses, followed by a period, e.g. (2024).

Author. (Date). Title. Source

Other publication types are entered differently:

  • Meetings, conferences, popular monthly magazines, and newsletters - (2023, August)
  • Magazines, newsletters, newspapers, social media, YouTube videos, blog posts, etc. - (2024, January 9)
  • Any publication acknowledged for publication but not yet in print or accessible in electronic form. - (in press)
  • Republished works - (1923/1961)
  • No date - (n.d.)
  • When dealing with webpages, it's crucial to avoid relying solely on the website's copyright date. Instead, seek out a distinct date of creation, update, or modification for the specific page or document you're referencing.


If you are citing a classic work that has been reprinted or republished, you can include the original date at the end of the reference. Include both dates in the in-text citation.

Freud, S. (2005). Civilization and its discontents. Norton. (Original work published 1930)

The in-text citation will be written as follows - (Freud, 1930/2005)


In cases where you reference two or more separate works from the same author and published in the same year, distinguish them using letters. Arrange these citations based on the title.

Format: Author surname, innitials. (2023a). The second publication will include a b, e.g. (2023b) and so forth.

This format should also be used for any other type of publication.

The formatting of your title will depend on the type of publication and may be written in either italics or regular font.

Certain words in the title should be capitalised:

  • The first word of the title
  • The first word of the subtitle, usually directly after a colon (:)
  • Any proper nouns like a place, person, organisation, etc.)
  • All significant words in a journal or website title

Titles of stand-alone works must be italicized:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Films
  • Reports
  • Webpages

The titles of books and names and volume numbers of journals are italicized.

When citing a component of a larger work, it is not necessary to italicize the titles:

  • Chapters in books
  • Title of an entry in a reference book
  • Titles of articles appearing in journals, magazines, or newspapers.


  • If a title concludes with a non-period punctuation mark, such as a question mark or an exclamation mark, incorporate it as the concluding punctuation without appending an additional period.
  • If the title employs an em dash instead of colons to distinguish a subtitle, maintain the usage of the em dash.
  •  between city/place of publication and state where applicable and as separators between journal name, volume number and inclusive pages.

  • Use a colon between the city/place of publication and the publisher's name.

  • Use brackets for extensions, qualifications, or interpretations of each subdivision or of the entire entry. Use “p.” or “pp.” when providing page numbers.


Include the edition or volume used in parentheses after the title a book.


In exceptionally uncommon instances, you might be referencing a source lacking a distinct title, such as a social media post, untitled artwork, or a Google map. In the title section, incorporate a description within brackets, and if feasible, include the medium in the description.

Google. (n.d.). [Google Maps directions for driving from Gainesville, FL, to Miami, FL]. Retrieved October 8, 2019, from


When citing information that does not adhere to a standard format, employ square brackets after the title for clarification.

Examples include:

  • [Video]
  • [Tweet]
  • [App]
  • [Painting]


When a book has an edition or volume, include the relevant edition or volume in parentheses after the title, e.g. (2nd ed.)

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).

The components of a source may change depending on the format of the work you are citing:

Books - Publisher

Article - journal, volume, issue, page numbers, and DOI. Write out the complete journal title, avoiding abbreviations. The journal title and volume should be italicized.

  • If any of this information is unavailable, exclude it. In this instance, there is no issue number or DOI.
    Tremblay, M. S., Inman, J. W., & Willms, J. D. (2000). The relationship between physical activity, self-esteem, and academic achievement in 12-year-old children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 12, 312–323.
  • If an article has an article number, include it.
    Van Hedger, S. C., Heald, S. L. M., & Nusbaum, H. C. (2019). Absolute pitch can be learned by some adults. PLOS One, 14(9), Article e0223047.

  • If an article is accessible online for free (open access) and lacks a DOI, you have the option to include the URL for the full text.

  • Include the name of a library database only if the source you are citing is specific to that database. Most journals, magazines, and newspapers do not meet these criteria. Some library databases, such as A to Z the World, Cochrane Library, and certain content in ERIC, Health and Wellness, and Opposing Viewpoints, fall into this category.


APA mandates the inclusion of DOIs, when available, in the citation of a journal article. A DOI, or Digital Object Identifier, serves as a permanent link to electronic content. Due to the dynamic nature of links generated by some databases (i.e., links that change with each access), they cannot reliably guide someone to an article. If an article possesses a DOI, providing that information facilitates directing readers to your references. DOIs are typically located in the database record, the journal's article page, or on the initial page of the article itself. They are identifiable as a string of numbers and slashes, potentially including letters, and commencing with 10.

  • DOI must be formated as an URL 10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449

    Occasionally, a DOI may lead to a publication not accessible through the Unisa Library. For such cases, you can request these publications through our interlibrary loan service at


Internet sources typically include the website on which the source is located and the URL. If the author and the website title are identical, omit the website title.

You may elect to add a retrieval date to the URL if the information is expected to change.

If a publication date is not available, use (n.d.)

If a URL is excessively long, you may use a URL shortener.

U.S. Department of State. (2019, April 9). Afghanistan travel advisory. Retrieved October 9, 2019 from

Walker, A. (2019, November 14). Germany avoids recession but growth remains weak. BBC News 50419127


Use full stops to separate the major subdivisions of a reference citation, namely, author, date, title, publication data. Also, place full stops after an author's initials.

Use commas within subdivisions, that is, between an author's surname and his/her initials, between co- authors, between city/place of publication and state where applicable and as separators between journal name, volume number and inclusive pages. The APA convention is to insert a comma preceding the "&" before the last author, while PsySSA does not. Follow the PsySSA style in your reference list. Use a colon between the city/place of publication and the publisher's name.

Use brackets for extensions, qualifications, or interpretations of each subdivision or of the entire entry. Use “p.” or “pp.” when providing page numbers.


  • Book, article, or chapter titles:
  • Capitalise the initial letter of the first word only, with exceptions according to common usage, such as capital letters for names, first word of a title within a title, and first word after a colon or dash.
  • Journal names:

Capitalise the initial letter of all major words.


The titles of books and names and volume numbers of journals are italicised when typeset for print. If you cannot use italics, for example handwritten work, underline them.


Use Arabic numerals for all numbers in reference lists, even if the book or journal concerned makes use of Roman numerals.


Chapter chap. Page or Pages p. / pp.
Edition ed. Volume (as in Volume 4) Vol.
Revised Edition Rev. ed. Volume (as in 4 volumes) vols.
Second or Third Edition 2nd ed. or 3rd ed. Supplement Suppl.
Editor(s) / Translator Ed. / Eds. / Trans. Technical Report Tech. Rep.
No date (n.d.)    


Always start below the third letter of the first word if the reference is longer than one line. This is called a hanging indent.

General requirements of a reference list

The general requirements for reference lists are given below. Make sure that you comply with them.

  • References must be correct and complete. Check them carefully against the original publication if you don't want future researchers to be annoyed at you as a writer responsible for supplying incomplete or inaccurate information.
  • The heading for a reference list is REFERENCES.
  • It stands alone at the end of an essay/article/thesis/dissertation; therefore, the heading is not given a number following the main heading numbers in your text.
  • All entries in the reference list are arranged in alphabetical order by the surname of the author (or title in case of no author)Smit precedes Smith and MacArthur precedes McAllister which in turn precedes M'Carthy
  • When a prefix is part of the surname, alphabetise accordingly:
  • De Beer is listed under D and Von der Ohe is listed under V
  • Authors with the same surname are arranged alphabetically according to their initials.
  • Names are listed in inverted order: surname followed by the initial(s). In the case of multiple authors, inverted order for all names is used, separated by commas and an ", &" before the last name.
  • Always give the names of all authors - never use "et al." in a reference list.
  • Several works by the same first author is cited according to the following rules:
  • One-author entries are arranged in the numerical order of publication date
    • Christensen, L. B. (1991)
    • Christensen, L. B. (1994)
  • Single author entries precede multiple author entries beginning with the same surname.
    • Mauer, K. F. (1987)
    • Mauer, K. F., & Watkins, M. L. (1994)
  • References with the same first author and different second and/or third authors are arranged alphabetically according to the surname of the second author.
    • Mauer, K. F., Marais, H. C., & Prinsloo, R. J. (1991)
    • Mauer, K. F., & Retief, A. I. (1985)
  • Several references to the same author(s) are arranged chronologically according to the year of publication.
    • Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1980)
    • Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1981)
  • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​References to the same author published in the same year are arranged alphabetically according to title (excluding a or the). The letters a, b, c and so on, in parenthesis, are placed immediately after the year.
    • Terpstra, D. E. (1981a)
    • Terpstra, D. E. (1981b)
  • Group authors are arranged alphabetically according to the first significant word.  Human Sciences Research Council
  • The full name must appear in the reference list, not an abbreviation - in the above example HSRC.
  • Entries in the reference list are not numbered.
  • Books and journal articles are mixed up in the reference list; they are not grouped in any way.
  • Secondary sources which were not consulted are not included in the reference list.
  • Personal communications are not listed.
  • DOI formatted as URL, e.g. 10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449