Frequently Asked Questions

FAQS: APA

If you consult the 6th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, you will not find a section on citing "a website." 

Look carefully at the item you want to cite.  Many of the documents that you find on the web are more than just "a website."  If it is an article in an online journal, then it should be treated as a journal article.  If it is an electronic book, the same principle applies.

Other possibilities are blog posts, online videos, electronic mailing list (listserv) posts, technical reports, and raw data sets.  In all of these cases, the Publication Manual offers specific guidelines.  If none of these categories seems to fit, a fallback solution would be to use the format for an "informally published or self-archived work," for instance:

Hand, B.  (n.d.).  All about artificial sweeteners: The lowdown on zero-calorie sugar substitutes.  Retrieved from http://www.sparkpeople.com

For general principles to use when citing unusual sources, see this post from the APA Style Blog.

You wish to cite a source you know only through quotation in another source. For example, in Charles L. Griswold's book Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration you encounter a quotation you would like to use: "Dori Laub argues in his study of Holocaust testimonials that 'there is, in each survivor, an imperative need to tell and thus to come to know one's story.'" You wish to use the Laub quote, but you cannot locate the original article that Griswold cites.

APA:

Dori Laub maintains that "there is, in each survivor, an imperative need to tell and thus to come to know one's story" (as cited in Griswold, 2007, p. 106).

This would be accompanied by a full citation for the Griswold book in your References:

Griswold, C. L. (2007). Forgiveness: A philosophical exploration. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

see Publication Manual of the APA (6th ed.), section 6.17

MLA:

Dori Laub maintains that 'there is, in each survivor, an imperative need to tell and thus to come to know one's story" (qtd. in Griswold 106).

This would be accompanied by a full citation for the Griswold book in your Works Cited:

Griswold, Charles L. Forgiveness: A Philosophical Exploration. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007.

see MLA Handbook (7th ed.), p. section 6.4.7

An interview that you conducted should be cited in text using the name of the person interviewed and as specific a date as possible:

(B. A. Barakas, personal communication, December 13, 2009)

Such an interview is not included in your reference list, since there is no recoverable information.

An interview that you did not conduct is dealt with based on how it is published.  If it is published in a magazine, it is treated as a magazine article.  If it part of a podcast, it is treated as a podcast.

For more on interviews, see this entry from the APA Style Blog.
Chapter 4 in the MLA Handbook (7th ed.) and Chapter 2 in the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) describe how to format a research paper and include visual examples. Both books are available at the Research Help Desk on the Main Floor.

 Please see the Writing and Citing guide for help with MLA, APA, and other formats.

APA prefers that you use a DOI rather than a URL, but if you are using an online source and there is no DOI, you should include a URL.

The purpose of providing a URL is to allow someone else to locate your source. Since specific URLs often change, it is usually best to link to the homepage of whatever journal or organization is responsible for the content you are citing.

So, let's say that you find the following article in the database Academic Search Premier:

Trepal, H. C. & Wester, K. L.  (2007).  Self-injurious behaviors, diagnoses, and treatment methods: What mental health professionals are reporting.  Journal of Mental Health Counseling 29(4), 363-375.

Academic Search Premier provides the following "Permalink" for this document:

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=27329702&site=ehost-live

This link is a) ugly and b) of no use to those without access to EBSCO databases such as Academic Search Premier.

So, the appropriate URL to use would be the homepage for the Journal of Mental Health Counseling:

http://www.amhca.org/news/journal.aspx

Generally, you can find journal homepages with a simple Google search.

The entry in your reference list would look like:

Trepal, H. C. & Wester, K. L.  (2007).  Self-injurious behaviors, diagnoses, and treatment methods: What mental health professionals are reporting.  Journal of Mental Health Counseling 29(4), 363-375.  Retrieved from http://www.amhca.org/news/journal.aspx

There are situations in which providing a more complete URL may be useful.  One example would be a document on a publicly available website that is difficult to search.

For more on the thorny questions surrounding the use DOIs and URLs in APA, see this post from the APA Style blog and also the APA's DOI and URL Flowchart.

A Document Object Identifier (DOI) is a unique identifier for an electronic document.  Unlike a URL, the DOI of a document does not change, even if that document's location does.  To find a document based on its DOI, use the DOI Resolver at crossref.org.  Crossref also offers a free DOI lookup if you need to find the DOI for a paper.

DOIs are important if you are using the APA citation style, which encourages their use instead of URLs.  For more about the use of DOIs in APA, see this DOI Primer from the APA Style Blog as well as their flowchart for URLs and DOIs.

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