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Citing Government Documents: American Psychological Association

According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6th ed. (2010). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Revised January 2010 Contents

General Guidelines

GENERAL GUIDELINES: Citations in the Text

     The American Psychological Association recommends citation of sources within the text of a paper rather than in footnotes. The text citation briefly identifies the source and enables readers to locate it in the reference list at the end of the paper. (p. 174)

     APA journals use the author-date method of citation. The surname of the author and the year of publication are inserted in the text in one of the following ways:

Smith (2000) compared reaction times [author is part of narrative]
In a recent study of reaction times (Smith, 2000) [use both author and date]
In 2000, Smith compared [If both year and author are given in the text, no parenthetical
information is needed.]

     If a work has two authors, always cite both names every time a reference occurs in the text. If a work has more than two authors and fewer than six authors, cite all authors the first time the reference occurs and only the surname of the first author, followed by "et al." (not italicized and no period after "et") in subsequent citations. (p. 175)

     If a work has more than six authors, use only the surname of the first author followed by "et al." and the year for the first and subsequent citations. (p. 175)

     Precede the final name in a multiple-author citation in the text by the word "and". In parenthetical citations and in the reference list, use an ampersand [&] (p. 175):

as Kurtines and Szapocznik (2003) demonstrated

as has been shown (Kurtines & Szapocznik, 2003)

     Names of corporate authors (corporations, associations, government agencies, study groups, etc.) are usually spelled out each time they appear in a text citation. If the name is familiar you may abbreviate it in second and subsequent citations. If the name is short or if the abbreviation would not be readily understandable, spell out the name each time it occurs. (p. 176)

1. First text citation:

(National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2003)

Use brackets to indicate the abbreviation you intend to use in subsequent citations.

Subsequent text citations:

(NIMH, 2003)

Entry in reference list:

National Institute of Mental Health. (2003).

»»NOTE: The Manual offers contradictory examples for corporate authors (government agencies). On p. 174 it states "Each reference cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in text. Make certain that each source referenced appears in both places and that the text citation and reference list entry are identical in spelling of author names and year." In table 6.1 (p. 177) the in-text example given is: "National Institute of Health (NIMH, 2003)", as in the example above. However in chapter 7, "Reference Examples", where examples of reference list entries are located, section 7.03 uses this example: "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health,..." Ask your professor if you should use both forms or if they should be identical in the in-text citation and the reference list.

2. Example of the name of a corporate author that is spelled out (Table 6. 1, p. 177):

Reference list entry:

University of Nebraska. (2000).

ALL text citations:

(University of Nebraska, 2000)

3. Congressional publications: Examples for in-text citations are given below: "Congressional Documents".



     A reference list contains only titles which have been used to write a paper. Every item on a reference list must be cited in the text and every reference cited in the text must be in the reference list. (p. 174) In contrast, a bibliography lists sources for background or further information. The reference list provides information necessary to identify and retrieve each source.

      Each source cited in the text and on the reference list must appear in identical form in both places.


»» Double-space the reference list and use a hanging indent for the second and subsequent lines.


»» Numbers refer to chapter and section in Manual.

Author: (6.27)

     Can be a personal name or a corporate agency; personal names should be inverted (last name listed first) and initials used for the first and middle names. Spell out the full name of a corporate author. A period follows the author's name (personal or corporate).


Date of Publication: (6.28)


Books: year book was published, enclosed in parentheses

Periodical article: Year, month, day (if applicable, separated by a comma; in parentheses) followed by a period. If the date is a season (spring, winter) give the year and season separated by a comma and enclosed in parentheses.


Title: (6.29)


Periodical article:

     Capitalize only the first word of the article title and subtitle (if any) and proper names including names of task forces, treaties, laws, congressional committees, etc. Do not underline or place quotation marks around the title. End with a period. Use italics for the name of the journal or magazine.


     Capitalize as for periodical articles; italicize the title. Enclose additional information such as edition or volume number (3rd ed. or Vol. 2) in parentheses after the title. Do not use a period between the title and the parenthetical information. End with a period.

Other formats: 

     A description of the form of the work, if necessary for identification, follows in brackets: [CD], [Computer software], [Brochure], [Data file]. (p. 203)

Report number, contract number, monograph number, other publication number:

      If an agency assigned a number to a publication, give the number in parentheses immediately after the title. (p. 205)


Publication information: (6.30)



      Give the journal title in full, capitalizing all important words, and italicize it. Give the volume number in italics. Do not use "Vol." before the number. Give the issue number in parentheses after the volume number; do not italicize it. Omit if issues are paginated continuously from the beginning of the volume. If volume numbers are not used, give the month or season, i. e. (1998, April). Give the inclusive page numbers. Use commas between the journal name, volume number, and pages. End with a period.

     See also section for electronic resources.


     Give the city and, if the city is not well known or could be confused with another location, the state. Use two letter abbreviations for states (i.e. Nebraska -- NE). Use a colon after the location. Give the name of the publisher after the colon. Finish with a period. If the publisher and author are the same, use the word "author" after the location. (See example, "Nebraska State Document - Corporate author) (p. 187)

Publisher : Unless otherwise indicated, most government documents are published by the U. S. Government Printing Office. (7.03) Use: Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.