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How To Cite A Journal Article APA Style

Citing Your Sources Correctly

Published: June 22, 2022
Today Digital - How to Cite A Journal Article APA Style

Rebekah Carter

Knowing how to cite a journal or article “APA style” is important when you’re writing articles or publications referencing other official sources. Citing a source correctly ensures you’re giving credit to whoever you’re quoting when you share a specific statistic or piece of information. It also means your reader can seek out the source, and verify whatever you say.

There are a few different ways to cite a journal. The most common are “MLA” and “APA”.

The APA style is approved by the American Psychological Association, and it’s generally the most common choice for the communication landscape, as well as content written about sociology, history, and psychology.

Here’s everything you need to know about citing journals “APA style”.

APA Journal Citations: Basic Formatting

APA citations place the name of the author first, followed by the year when the piece was published, and information where to find the original text. The components of an APA citation are:

Last name, Initials (Year of publication). Article title. Name of Journal, Volume (Issue of publication), page numbers, URL/DOI.

When you reference a standard journal article using APA format, you’ll include a reference both in the actual body of your text, and at the end of your paper. For instance, in the body of the text, directly after you cite something or someone, you’d place the name of the author and the data in brackets, i.e. (Smith et al, 2022).

At the end of the article, you’ll dive a little deeper into the information your reader might need about the citation. Generally, all of the citation will appear in plain text except for the journal name, which should be written in italics, i.e:

Smith, R. (2022). Example article. Journal on citations, Volume 2 (3), 201-207.

Using APA Citations

You should be able to find all the information you need to complete your citation on the article itself. However, articles published in PDF form might include an e-locator instead of a page range, which you would use instead of the page numbers in your citation.

A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) should always be used whenever it’s available. However, some databases don’t list one. If you don’t have a DOI, you can use an URL linking to a specific website where you found the journal.

Citing unpublished articles

If you’re citing from an article that hasn’t been formally published yet, your format will vary depending on whether the article has already been submitted to a journal. Different formats are available for raw data and unpublished dissertations, for instance.

With an unpublished article, you’d add the [Unpublished Manuscript] element to your citation, as well as any available information about the department or university where the dissertation was written. For instance:

Smith, R. (2022). Example article. Journal on citations, [Unpublished manuscript]. Department of Language, University of Yale.

If the article has been submitted to a journal but not yet accepted, you’ll use the phrase “Manuscript submitted for publication”. Here, you don’t need to include the name of the journal.

Smith, R. (2022). Example article. Journal on citations, [Manuscript submitted for publication]. Department of Language, University of Yale.

Citing articles in press

An article submitted and accepted for publication in a journal will use the term “in press”. With this citation, you’ll include the name of the journal, but the information of any university where the data was discovered, or the manuscript was drafted is omitted.

Smith, R. (2022). (In press) Example article. Journal of Developmental Language.

Citing a journal article with an article number

If a journal article has a number instead of a page range (as is the case with some publications), you’ll use the word “article”, and then the number instead of the page range.

Smith, R. (2022). Example article. Journal on citations, Volume 2 (3), article 29233.

Citing a special issue of a journal

If you’re citing a special issue of a journal, rather than a standard article, the name or names of the editors and the title issue will appear in place of the author’s name and article.

Johnson, M (Ed.) (2022) Issue Title [Special issue]. Journal on citations, Volume (3)

If you’re specifically citing an individual article from within a special issue, you can cite it the same way you would a standard journal article.

Citing an article with missing information

Though most journal articles will include all the information you need for an APA style citation, it’s possible you may encounter some with missing information, such as a lack of an issue number, page number, or publishing date.

When a journal doesn’t have all the information you need, you can simply omit the missing element from the reference, provided all journal publications do not have these details.

Smith, R. (2022). Example article. Journal on citations, Volume 2 (3),

Citing a retracted journal article

Sometimes, the journal article you want to reference may be removed from journal after you’ve built your content around the information you saw. In this case, you’ll need to include information about the retraction in your citation.

Smith, R. (2022). Example article. Journal on citations, Volume 2 (3), 201-207. (Retraction published 2022, Journal on citations, Volume 2 (3), 201-207)

Why Use APA Style Citations?

APA style can be a little confusing to get your head around at first. However, it’s a commonly recognised format for citing information both online and offline. If you’re writing in the business landscape, social sciences, or nursing field, it’s generally expected you’ll use APA citations. Doing so will help to establish your credibility in the field, and provide your audience with more information.

Because there are some complexities involved in citing certain pieces of journal content, like monographs as part of a journal issue, or online-only supplemental material, the APA also includes a complete guide on how to use the citation style in different scenarios online.