The truth about formatting dates and titles: notes on common errors in formatting APA reference lists


1.  Dates: Dates are vital to APA documentation style.                     

a.  For the reference list, the rule is the date is always second in the citation, in parentheses

                                                                                i.      For books, journals, audiovisual media, use only the year (2008)

                                                                           ii.      For monthly publications, use year and month (2007, January)

                                                                      iii.      For dailies, like newspapers, use year, month and date (2007, January 28)

                                                                           iv.      If there is no date, us n.d., lower case (n.d.)

b.  For in-text citations always include the date in parentheses

                                                                                i.      HalesVass (2006) says to use dates.

                                                                           ii.      Our Professor says to use dates (HalesVass, 2006). [note the placement of the comma and end punctuation.]

2.  Titles: There are distinctions between types of titles that can be really confusing. This is the way APA breaks it down.

a.  Title of Article or Chapter

This immediately follows the date and occurs as a title within a bigger document. It is in sentence case. In sentence case only the first work of the title, subtitle, and proper nouns are capitalized.

HalesVass, T. (2006). What the community college offers that the university doesn’t. College English, 43, 1064-1068.

b.  Title of Work

                                                                                i.      This is the “big” title, the name of the book in which the chapter appears, or the journal/magazine/website in which the titled article appears. It is in Title Case.

                                                                           ii.      This title is italicized. Important note: NEVER UNDERLINE in APA.

HalesVass, T. (2006). What the community college offers that the university doesn’t. College English, 43, 1064-1068.

c.  Title of Work: nonperiodical

                                                                                i.      This would mean the title of a book, brochure, motion picture, videotape, CD, DVD, Data file, etc.

                                                                           ii.      Put in sentence case and italicize.

                                                                      iii.      When it is unclear what the source is (non-books), put the description in brackets after the date.

Hales, D.B. (1998). [brochure] Cells and their function. Boulder, CO: Ghost Road Press.

d.  Title of Book Chapter

                                                                                i.      This is a chapter in an edited book.

1.  Do not invert the editor’s name. Give names of all editors.

2.  With two names, use & sign before second name and no comma

3.  With three or more names, use & before the final name, and use commas to separate the names.

4.  Identify the editor by the abbreviation Ed. in parentheses after the name.

5.  For a book with no name, use the word In before the book title.

Baker, F., & Lightfoot, O. (1993). Psychiatric care of ethnic elders. In A. C. Gaw (Ed.), Culture, ethnicity, and mental illness (pp. 517-522). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

A note (or two) about electronic sources:

The citation machine gives wrong information. Do not use the information “Retrieved 2006, January from American Psychological Association website: http://url

Do not use the URL in an in-text citation. Page 279, number 13 in The Bedford Researcher is wrong, but the example is right.


The above information comes from

American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th ed. Washington, DC: APA