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APA Referencing Guide

Based on the NWU Referencing Guide.

Elements of a reference list

Elements of a reference entry


Each entry in the reference list has four elements:
Date of publication
Title and edition

To make it easy to remember, think of the four “W’s”:
Who – Author(s)
When – Date
What – Title
Where – Source or publishing information for books



Authors are typed in inverted form, surname first, followed by a comma and then initials. Use a space between initials.

Use a comma to separate an author’s initials from additional author names and use an ampersand (&) before the final author’s name

Mabaso, T. P. P.
Dikobe, J., Manyedi, E. M., & Sehularo, L. A.
Nesselroade, K. P., Jr.

When there are 21 or more authors, include the first 19 authors’ names, insert an ellipsis (but no ampersand), and then add the final author’s name.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., Author, C. C., Author, D. D., Author, E. E., Author, F. F., Author, G. G., Author, H. H., Author, I. I., Author, J. J., Author, K. K., Author, L. L., Author, M. M., Author, N. N., Author, O. O., Author, P. P., Author, Q. Q., Author, R. R., Author, S. S., . . . Author, Z. Z.

‚á®Remember: spell out the full name of an organisation as author in the reference list entry.

World Health Organization
North-West University
National Institute of Mental Health

Date of publication

Enclose the date in parentheses, followed by a period. 

Sometimes a more specific date is required, depending on the type of source (see examples of source types). 
(2020, September 30).

If a work has been accepted for publication but is not yet published, use the term “in press” instead of a year. 
(in press).

For an approximate date, use the abbreviation “ca.” (which stands for “circa”) in front of the approximate date. 
(ca. 1985).


The title of a cited source falls into two categories:

  • works that stand alone (e.g. books, theses and dissertations, reports, articles on websites, social media, etc.)
  • works that are part of a greater whole (e.g. journal articles, edited book chapters, etc.)

The title of a work that stands alone (e.g. books or reports) is the “what” element of the reference, which is the title. Italicize the title and use sentence case. A subtitle is preceded by a colon and starts with a capital letter.

Singing and wellbeing: Ancient wisdom, modern proof.

Enclose edition information, volume numbers and report numbers in parentheses after the title. Do not italicize the parenthetical information.

Human development (11th ed.).
Nursing: A concept-based approach to learning (2nd ed., Vol. 1).

If a numbered volume has its own title, the volume number and title are included as part of the main title (not in parentheses).

APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology: Vol. 1. Building and developing the organization.

The title of a work that are part of a greater whole (e.g. a journal article or chapter in an edited book) is not typed in italics. In these instances, the title of the source (the “where” element) should be typed in italics.

Boshoff, P., Strydom, H., & Botha, K. (2017). Implementation and evaluation of the psycho-social therapeutic programme (PTP) for police officials. Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development, 29(1), 49-72.

Taylor, J. (2010). Preparing a research proposal. In K. Gerrish, & A.Lacey (Eds.), The research process in nursing (6th ed., pp. 93-103). Wiley-Blackwell.


The source indicates where the cited work can be found / retrieved and it varies depending on the reference type.

The source for works that stand alone (e.g. books, theses and dissertations, reports, articles on websites, social media, etc.) is the publisher (for books), address of a website or social media site, plus any applicable DOI or URL.

Note: do not include the publisher location in the reference list entry for books.

The source for a work that is part of a greater whole (e.g. journal articles, chapters in edited books), is the title of the journal or title of the edited book (typed in italics), plus the specific information of the source and any applicable DOI or URL (see examples on specific reference types).