APA Style Blog_ Missing Pieces_ How to Write an APA Style Reference Even Without All the Information

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  • Blog Home

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    APA Style Home

    May 17, 2012

    Missing Pieces: How to Write an APA Style Reference Even Without All the Information

    by Chelsea Lee

    Most APA Style references are straightforward to writethe guidance and examples in Chapter 7 of the Publication Manual and on this blog make

    that possible. Weve written a good deal about the architecture of a generic reference (the four basic pieces of author, date, title, and source).

    Sometimes, however, one or more of those pieces is missing, and writing the reference can get more difficult. This post will help you adapt the

    classic APA Style reference template to fit any situation where information might be missing, as well as show you how to create the corresponding in-text

    citations for those references.

    The table below shows how to write an APA Style reference when information is missing. It is also available for download as a PDF.

    Whats missing? Solution Reference template

    Position A Position B Position C Position D

    Nothingall pieces

    are present

    List information in the order of author, date,

    title (with description in square brackets if

    necessary for explanation of nonroutine

    information), and source

    Author, A. A. (date). Title of document

    [Format].

    or

    Title of document

    [Format].

    Retrieved

    from

    http://xxxxx

    or

    Retrieved

    Month Day,

    Year, from

    http://xxxxx

    or

    Location:

    Publisher.

    or

    doi:xxxxx

    Author is missing Substitute title for author; then provide date

    and source

    Title of document

    [Format].

    or

    Title of document

    [Format].

    (date). n/a

    Date is missing Provide author, substitute n.d. for no date,

    and then give title and source

    Author, A. A. (n.d.). Title of document

    [Format].

    or

    Title of document

    [Format].

    Title is missing Provide author and date, describe document

    inside square brackets, and then give source

    Author, A. A. (date). [Description of

    document].

    Author and date

    are both missing

    Substitute title for author and n.d. for no

    date; then give source

    Title of document

    [Format].

    or

    Title of document

    [Format].

    (n.d.). n/a

    Author and title

    are both missing

    Substitute description of document inside

    square brackets for author; then give date

    and source

    [Description of

    document].

    (date). n/a

    Date and title are

    both missing

    Provide author, substitute n.d. for no date,

    describe document inside square brackets,

    and then give source

    Author, A. A. (n.d.). [Description of

    document].

    Author, date, and

    title are all missing

    Substitute description of document inside

    square brackets for author, substitute n.d. for

    [Description of

    document].

    (n.d.). n/a

    APA Style Blog: Missing Pieces: How to Write an APA Style Reference... http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2012/05/missing-pieces.html

    1 of 2 07/04/2015 2:14 PM

  • no date, and then give source

    Source is missing Cite as personal communication (see 6.20)

    or find a substitute

    n/a n/a n/a n/a

    Title Variations

    As shown in the table, the title of a document is only sometimes italicized, depending on the independence of the source. That is, do italicize the title of a

    document that stands alone (books, reports, etc.), but do not italicize the title of a document that is part of a greater whole (chapters, articles, etc., which are part

    of edited books or journals, respectively). Also do not italicize the titles of software, instruments, and apparatus (see 7.08 in the Publication Manual). If you

    have trouble determining whether something stands alone (such as for a document on a website), choose not to italicize. For examples and more explanation, see

    the blog post on capitalization and formatting of reference titles in the reference list.

    Source Variations

    As shown in the Position D column of the table, the source part of a reference list entry can vary as well. It should reflect either a retrieval URL (for online

    documents without DOIs), a publisher location and name (for print sources), or a DOI (for any document that has one, whether print or online). It is not usually

    necessary to include a retrieval date for online sources; one should be provided only if the source is likely to change over time, such as with an unarchived wiki

    page.

    Sometimes source information is incomplete but with a little detective work you can find what you need; for example, if you know a publisher name but not its

    location, you can research the publisher to find the location. Even sources of limited availability can be cited in APA Style, including unpublished and informally

    published works (see 7.09) and archival documents and collections (see 7.10).

    Note, however, that it is not possible to write a traditional APA Style reference if source information is truly missing. The purpose of an APA Style reference is to

    provide readers with information on how to locate the source that you used, and if you cannot tell them how to do so, you either have to find a substitute or cite

    the source as personal communication (see 6.20 in the Publication Manual).

    Creating In-Text Citations

    Create an in-text citation for any reference by using the pieces from Positions A and B in the table above. For most references, this will be the author and date

    (Author, date). For titles in Position A, use italics for works that stand alone (Title of Document, date) and quotation marks for works that are part of a greater

    whole (Title of Document, date). Retain square brackets for descriptions of documents in Position A ([Description of document], date). For examples and more

    explanation, see our post on formatting and capitalization of titles in the text.

    We hope this guide to missing pieces will help you as you create your APA Style references.

    Posted by Chelsea Lee at 12:19:45 PM in Digital Object Identifier (DOI), Electronic references, How-to, Personal communications, Reference list, References,

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    APA Style Blog: Missing Pieces: How to Write an APA Style Reference... http://blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/2012/05/missing-pieces.html

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