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  Electronic Reference Formats Recommended by the American Psychological Association

© 1999, 2000 American Psychological Association. See Copyright and Permissions for policy on distribution and reuse.
Last update: January 10, 2001

Citing Email Communications

First, a cautionary note: It is possible to send an email note disguised as someone else. Authors—not journal editors or copy editors—are responsible for the accuracy of all references, which includes verifying the source of email communications before citing them as personal communications in manuscripts.

Email communications from individuals should be cited as personal communications, as noted in APA's Publication Manual (4th ed., pp. 173–174). The format in text (personal communications are not cited in the reference list) is as follows: L. A. Chafez (personal communication, March 28, 1997).

Citing a Web Site

To direct readers to an entire Web site (but not a specific document on the site), it's sufficient to give the address of the site in the text. For example,

Kidspsych is a wonderful interactive Web site for children (

No reference entry is needed.

Citations and Quotations in Text

Follow the author/date format described on pages 168–174 in the Publication Manual. To cite specific parts of a Web document, indicate the chapter, figure, table, or equation as appropriate.

For quotations, give page numbers (or paragraph numbers) if they are available. For example,

As Myers (2000, ¶ 5) aptly phrased it, "positive emotions are both an end — better to live fulfilled, with joy [and other positive emotions] — and a means to a more caring and healthy society."
If needed, the abbreviation "para." can be substituted for the ¶ symbol. If page or paragraph numbers are not available (i.e., they are not visible to every reader), they can be omitted from the in-text citation. With most browsers, readers will still be able to search for the quoted material.

Creating References for Specific Documents on a Web Site

Web documents share many of the same elements found in a print document (e.g., authors, titles, dates). Therefore, the citation for a Web document often follows a format similar to that for print, with some information omitted and some added. Here are some examples of how to cite documents posted on APA's own Web site.

An action alert posted by our Public Policy Office: 1

American Psychological Association. (1995, September 15). APA public policy action alert: Legislation would affect grant recipients [Announcement]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved January 25, 1996, from the World Wide Web:

An article from the journal American Psychologist: 1

Jacobson, J. W., Mulick, J. A., & Schwartz, A. A. (1995). A history of facilitated communication: Science, pseudoscience, and antiscience: Science working group on facilitated communication. American Psychologist, 50, 750–765. Retrieved January 25, 1996, from the World Wide Web:

An article from the APA Monitor (article in a magazine, no author identified): 1

From "character" to "personality": The lack of a generally accepted, unifying theory hasn't curbed research into the study of personality. (1999, December). APA Monitor, 30. Retrieved August 22, 2000, from the World Wide Web:

An abstract: 1

Rosenthal, R. (1995). State of New Jersey v. Margaret Kelly Michaels: An overview [Abstract]. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 1, 247–271. Retrieved January 25, 1996, from the World Wide Web:

An independent document (no author identified): 1

Electronic reference formats recommended by the American Psychological Association. (2000, August 22). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Retrieved August 29, 2000, from the World Wide Web:

All references begin with the same information that would be provided for a printed source (or as much of that information as is available). If no publication date is available for a document, use "n.d." (stands for "no date") in its place. The Web information is then placed in a retrieval statement at the end of the reference. It is important to give the date of retrieval because documents on the Web may change in content, move, or be removed from a site altogether.

Creating References for Articles and Abstracts Obtained From Electronic Databases

APA's recommendations for citing electronic media have changed substantially since we published the fourth edition of the Publication Manual. For databases, rather than the "Available: File: Item: " statement specified in the Publication Manual, we now recommend a retrieval statement that identifies the date of retrieval (omitted for CD-ROMs) and the source (e.g., DIALOG, WESTLAW, SIRS, Electric Library), followed in parentheses by the name of the specific database used and any additional information needed to retrieve a particular item. For Web sources, a URL should be given that points to an "entry page" for the database. The basic retrieval statement for CD-ROM databases is as follows:

Retrieved from [source] database ([name of database], CD-ROM, [release date], [item no.--if applicable])
The basic retrieval statement for on-line databases is:
Retrieved [month day, year,] from [source] on-line database ([name of database], [item no.--if applicable])
The basic retrieval statement for databases accessed via the Web is:
Retrieved [month day, year,] from [source] database ([name of database], [item no.--if applicable]) on the World Wide Web: [URL]
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1998, March). Encryption: Impact on law enforcement. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from SIRS database (SIRS Government Reporter, CD-ROM, Fall 1998 release)
Schneiderman, R. A. (1997). Librarians can make sense of the Net. San Antonio Business Journal, 11(31), pp. 58+. Retrieved January 27, 1999, from EBSCO database (Masterfile) on the World Wide Web:
Kerrigan, D. C., Todd, M. K., & Riley, P. O. (1998). Knee osteoarthritis and high-heeled shoes. The Lancet, 251, 1399-1401. Retrieved January 27, 1999, from DIALOG database (#457, The Lancet) on the World Wide Web:
Davis, T. (1992). Examining educational malpractice jurisprudence: Should a cause of action be created for student-athletes? Denver University Law Journal, 69, 57+. Retrieved January 27, 1999, from WESTLAW on-line database (69 DENULR 57)
Bowles, M. D. (1998). The organization man goes to college: AT&T's experiment in humanistic education, 1953-1960. The Historian, 61, 15+. Retrieved January 27, 1999, from DIALOG on-line database (#88, IAC Business A.R.T.S., Item 04993186)

1 In newer browsers (4.0 and higher), the citation examples will appear in "hanging-indent" style (i.e., the first line is flush left and all subsequent lines are indented). In older browsers, the citation examples will appear in block format. (This is not APA style, but rather a limitation of paragraph display in older browsers.) For papers or manuscripts, either a regular paragraph indent or a hanging indent is appropriate for references, as long as the format is consistent throughout. 

In addition, italics are used in place of underlining. As with the paragraph indent, either italics or underlining is acceptable in an APA-style manuscript, providing they are used consistently.

Finally, the examples are single spaced rather than double spaced. This is also a browser limitation -- APA style calls for references to be double spaced.