How to cite a journal article in APA Style

A basic journal article reference in APA Style includes the usual elements plus the volume and issue number, the page range of the article, and a DOI (if available). Use the buttons below to explore the format.

You can also use the free APA Citation Generator to create your citations. All you need is the URL or DOI of the journal article. With the click of a button, the generator retrieves all the necessary information.

Scribbr APA Citation Generator

Where to find information for an APA journal citation

When viewing a journal article online, the required information can usually be found on the access page.

Where to find information for an APA journal citation

Linking to online journal articles

A DOI should always be used where available. Some databases do not list one, but you may still find one by looking for the same article on another database. You don’t need to include the name of the database in your citation.

If no DOI is available and the article was accessed through a database, do not include a URL.

If the article is not from a database, but from another website (e.g. the journal’s own website), you should ideally use a stable URL: this is often provided under a “share” button. Otherwise, use the URL from your browser.

Citing unpublished journal articles

When citing from an article that has not yet been formally published, the format varies depending on whether or not it has already been submitted to a journal.

Unpublished article

The text of an article which has not yet appeared online or in publication (i.e. which is only available directly from the author) should be cited as an “unpublished article.” The title is italicized and information about the author’s university is included if available:

FormatLast name, Initials. (Year). Article title. Unpublished article, Department Name, University Name.
ExampleSmith, J. M., & Davis, H. (2019). Language acquisition among autistic children. Unpublished article, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.
In-text citation(Smith & Davis, 2019)

Article submitted for publication

An article which has been submitted to a journal but not yet accepted is cited as an “article submitted for publication.” The title is italicized, and the name of the journal to which it was submitted is not included:

FormatLast name, Initials. (Year). Article title. Article submitted for publication, Department Name, University Name.
ExampleSmith, J. M., & Davis, H. (2019). Language acquisition among autistic children. Article submitted for publication, Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.
In-text citation(Smith & Davis, 2019)
7th edition changes

In the 7th edition of the APA manual, these two formats are slightly different. In both cases, the information appears in the same place, but in square brackets and followed by a period:

Smith, J. M., & Davis, H. (2019). Language acquisition among autistic children [Unpublished article]. Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.

Article in press

An article which has been submitted and accepted for publication in a journal is cited as “in press.” Here, the name of the journal is included, university information is omitted, and “in press” is written in place of the year (both in the reference list and the in-text citation):

FormatLast name, Initials. (in press). Article title. Journal Name.
ExampleSmith, J. M., & Davis, H. (in press). Language acquisition among autistic children.
Journal of Developmental Psychology.
In-text citation(Smith & Davis, in press)

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Special issue of a journal

If you want to cite a special issue of a journal rather than a regular article, the name(s) of the editor(s) and the title of the issue appear in place of the author’s name and article title:

FormatLast name, Initials. (Ed. or Eds.) (Year). Title of issue [Special issue]. Journal Name, Issue(Volume).
ExamplePollak, S. D., Camras, L. A., & Cole, P. M. (Eds.) (2019). New perspectives on the development of human emotion [Special issue]. Developmental Psychology, 55(9).

Note that if you want to cite an individual article from the special issue, it can just be cited as a regular article.

Frequently asked questions about APA journal citations

When should I include a DOI or URL in an APA journal citation?

If a DOI (digital object identifier) is available for an article, always include it.

If an article has no DOI, and you accessed it through a database or in print, just omit the DOI.

If an article has no DOI, and you accessed it through a website other than a database (for example, the journal’s own website), include a URL linking to the article.

How do I format a DOI in APA style?

In your reference list entry for a journal article or other online source, APA currently recommends writing the full DOI address that gives access to the article. For example:

https://doi.org/10.1037/rev0000126

The old guidelines were to present DOIs by writing “doi:” followed by the numerical string. For example:

doi:10.1037/rev0000126

If you’re following the 6th edition, this format is still accepted, as long as it's used consistently.

When should I use “et al.” in APA in-text citations?

Depending on the number of authors a source has, an APA in-text citation is shortened using “et al.” (meaning “and others”). In this case you only include the first author’s name followed by “et al.”.

Sources with 3-5 authors are written in full the first time and shortened from the second citation onwards. Sources with 6+ authors are always shortened, even the first time.

  • First in-text citation: (Taylor, Kotler, Johnson, & Parker, 2018)
  • Subsequent in-text citation: (Taylor et al., 2018)
How many authors do I include in an APA reference list entry?

The APA 6th edition recommends including the names of up to seven authors in a reference list entry. When an article has more than seven authors, replace the names prior to the final listed author with an ellipsis, but do not omit the final author:

Davis, Y., Smith, J., Caulfield, F., Pullman, H., Carlisle, J., Donahue, S. D., … O’Brien, T. (2012).

Note that the 7th edition of the APA manual, published in 2019, recommends including up to 20 authors in a reference list entry.

Should I include the exact publication date or just the year in an APA journal citation?

In an APA reference list, journal article citations include only the year of publication, not the exact date, month, or season.

The inclusion of volume and issue numbers makes a more specific date unnecessary.

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Jack Caulfield

Jack is a Brit based in Amsterdam, with an MA in comparative literature. He writes and edits for Scribbr, and reads a lot of books in his spare time.

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