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APA (7th ed.), Citation Style: Architecture of a Citation

The Generic Reference

"Whether you’re proofreading a finished reference list or trying to cobble together a citation for a new or nonroutine communications format, understanding what information any reference should contain will help you in your task. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is intended to be both explanatory and fairly comprehensive. Nonetheless, there is no way on earth it could set out examples for every possible type of reference. It does, however, offer an approach for the construction of new sorts of references beyond the various types it catalogues" (Chuck, 2009).

This approach involves the building blocks of every citation.  Who?  When?  What?  Where?

Who created this reference?

This part is pretty straightforward.  Who wrote this article, book, book chapter, review, technical report, etc.?



When was this reference created?

Another straightforward answer.  For most references, a publication year is your go-to date.  However, in special cases such as posters, presentations, blogs, or emails, more specific dates are needed (see Chs. 8,9 and 10 of the APA manual).  When a publication date is completely unavailable, using the abbreviation n.d. (no date) will suffice (see pp.291, section 9.17 of your APA manual).


What is this reference called?

The "what" can be a bit tricky.  In some instances, such as articles or book chapters from an edited book, the "what" refers to the name of the article or book chapter, not the publication in which the article or book chapter were published.  In other instances, the "what" refers to the name of the publication itself if the whole of it was used. 


Where does this reference come from?

Ah, we come to the final question.  The question with the most involved answer.  In the case of the journal article, the "where" can include the journal title, volume, issue, and page numbers.  At times, it will also include a DOI, database information, or URL.  Book chapters can involve much more: editor(s) name(s), complete book title, editions, publisher name, page numbers.  These are just a couple of examples.


To learn more about each component, follow these links for details and examples:

Who (Author)

When (Publication Date)

What (Title)


source: Chuck (2009, November 05). The generic reference [Web log post]. Retrieved from