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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

Federal Legal References



The APA Manual follows the form of legal citation found in The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18th ed.) (2005).
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law Review Association).

     Text citations are formed from the first few words of the reference list entry and the date. Give enough information for the reader to locate the reference list entry easily. (p. 217)

     Some of these examples follow general guidelines for citing legal materials since the Manual provides no guidance for legal materials beyond court cases and statutes.

     Do not italicize the abbreviation for the legal set ("U. S." or "U. S. C.", etc.). Use capital letters for words in the names of laws, court cases, and regulations.


Court case: U. S. Supreme Court

 In-text: (Cupp v. Murphy, 1972)

»»NOTE: Name of the case, italicized; year of decision.

Reference list: Cupp v. Murphy, 412 U. S. 291 (1972).

»»EXPLANATION: Volume 412, U. S. Supreme Court Reports, page 291, year decided.

U. S. Code and U. S. Statutes at Large

In-text: National Environmental Policy Act (1969)

»»NOTE: Give the popular or official name of the act and the year.

Reference list:

National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. §4332 (2006).

»»EXPLANATION: Title 42, U.S. Code, section 4332, 2006 edition.

If the law is currently in force, cite it to the U. S. Code, rather than the historical session law compilation, U. S. Statutes at Large.

If the latter must be cited, use:

In-text: National Invasive Species Act of 1996.

Reference list: National Invasive Species Act of 1996, Pub. L. No. 104-332, 110 Stat. 4073 (1996).

»»EXPLANATION: This was the 332nd law passed by the 104th Congress. It is located in volume 110 of the U. S. Statutes at Large beginning on page 4073 and passed in 1996.

U. S. Constitution

   In-text: (U. S. Constitution.)

   Reference list: U. S. Constitution, Art. I, § 9, cl. 2.

»»EXPLANATION: Article I, section 9, clause 2. Not addressed in APA Manual; example based on general guidelines.

Federal Register

    In-text: (Pistachios Grown in California, 2005)

Reference list: Pistachios Grown in California: Establishment of Continuing Assessment Rate and Reporting Requirements, 70 Fed. Reg. 9843 (2005) (to be codified at 7 C.F.R. pt. 983 )


»»EXPLANATION: Volume 70 of the Federal Register, page 9843. Pagination in Federal Register starts at the beginning of the year and is continuous through the daily issues of the year. (The volume for 2008 included over 80,000 pages.) Therefore, only a volume and page number are needed.

Final regulation, published in Federal Register; will be codified in Code of Federal Regulations at Title 7, part 983.

Code of Federal Regulations

   In-text: (Protection of Human Subjects, 2004)

Reference list: Protection of Human Subjects, 34 C.F.R. pt. 97 (2004).

»»EXPLANATION: Regulation is in Title 34, part 97. (APA Manual erroneously calls the first number a "volume" instead of "title" number. [p. 223] )

Executive order

   In-text: (Executive Order No. 12,804, 1992)

   Reference list: Exec. Order No. 12,804, 3 C.F.R. 298 (1992 comp.)

»»EXPLANATION: Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations is published annually and contains the previous year's Presidential executive orders and other directives. APA does not explain whether the year the executive order is issued or the year the compilation is printed should be used. To save confusion, use "comp." after the year to indicate it is the compilation year rather than the year the President issued the executive order.


APA also says to provide a parallel citation (if applicable) to the executive order's location in the U. to the executive order's location in the U. S. Code. The U. S. Code does not contain every executive order.