How to cite a PDF in APA Style
APA Style doesn’t provide a specific citation format for PDFs. Instead, you’ll have to determine what kind of source the PDF is (e.g., a book, a journal article) and cite it in the appropriate format.
If you’re not sure what type of source you’re dealing with, look for clues in the PDF. For example, you might find the name of the larger publication the PDF comes from, which you can then look up to see what kind of source it is. If you received the PDF from an instructor, you can always ask them to clarify how to cite it.
This article explains the formats for several source types you might encounter in PDF form below.
Citing a book in PDF form
Books, or extracts from books, may be encountered online in PDF form. A book will generally include a copyright page with the details of publication. To cite an online book like this, list the usual information for a book, followed by a URL or DOI at the end.
|Format||Last name, Initials. (Year). Book title. Publisher. DOI or URL|
|Reference entry||Sedgwick, E. K. (2003). Touching feeling: Affect, pedagogy, performativity. Duke University Press. http://www.bu.edu/honoringeve/files/2009/09/paranoid-reading-and-reparative-reading.pdf|
|In-text citation||(Sedgwick, 2003)|
Citing a journal article
Journal articles will usually indicate the volume, issue, and name of the journal they’re published in.
Journal articles published as PDFs often use an e-locator (the letter “e” followed by a series of numbers, e.g. e1034762) instead of a page range to identify their location within the journal. If the article cited lacks a page range, use the e-locator instead.
|Format||Last name, Initials. (Year). Article title. Journal Name, Volume(Issue), Page range. or e-locator. DOI or URL|
|Reference entry||McCabe, D. P., & Castel, A. D. (2008). Seeing is believing: The effect of brain images on judgements of scientific reasoning. Cognition, 107(1), 343–352. http://castel.bol.ucla.edu/publications/McCabeCastelCogn.pdf|
|In-text citation||(McCabe & Castel, 2008)|
Citing a dissertation or thesis
A dissertation or thesis published online will often be in PDF form. These will generally feature a title page clearly marking them as a dissertation or thesis.
List the author, date, and title, followed by the type of document (e.g. “Master’s thesis”) and university in square brackets, the name of the website, and finally the URL.
|Format||Author last name, Initials. (Year). Dissertation title [Type of dissertation/thesis, University Name]. Archive Name. URL|
|Reference entry||Behrens, B. (2020). Linguistic markers of maternal focus within emotional conversations: The role of depressive symptoms and maltreatment [Master’s thesis, University of Notre Dame]. CurateND. https://curate.nd.edu/show/9k41zc80w8w|
|In-text citation||(Behrens, 2020)|
Citing a report
Reports are frequently accessed online in PDF form. They will generally clearly identify the organization they’re published by and frequently list a report number. They may also have “report” in the title.
Include the title, author, date, publisher, report number (if available), and the URL.
|Format||Author last name, Initials. (Year). Report title: Subtitle (Report No. number). Publisher Name. URL|
|Reference entry||Bedford, D. A. D. (2017). Enterprise information architecture: An overview (Report No. WA-RD 896.4). Washington State Department of Transportation. https://www.wsdot.wa.gov/research/reports/fullreports/896-4.pdf|
|In-text citation||(Bedford, 2017)|
Citing a white paper
A white paper is a type of report presenting the ideas, policy, or proposals of the organization that issued it (e.g., a government or business) concerning a particular topic.
The format for citing one is similar to that for a report, except that white papers generally don’t have report numbers, and the label “White paper” in square brackets appears after the title instead.
|Format||Organization Name. (Year). White paper title: Subtitle [White paper]. Publisher Name. URL|
|Reference entry||Department of Health and Social Care. (2012). Caring for our future: Reforming care and support [White paper]. Crown. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/136422/White-Paper-Caring-for-our-future-reforming-care-and-support-PDF-1580K.pdf|
|In-text citation||(Department of Health and Social Care, 2012)|
Citing a brochure
Brochures and pamphlets are small, informative promotional texts designed, for example, to introduce an exhibition or advertise a range of products or services.
Brochures encountered in PDF form are cited in a similar format to reports. Note that when the organization listed as author is the same as the publisher (as in the example below), you should only list it once.
|Format||Organization Name. (Year). Title [Brochure]. or [Pamphlet]. Publisher. URL|
|Reference entry||Museum of Modern Art. (2004). Projects 81: Jean Shin [Brochure]. https://www.moma.org/d/pdfs/W1siZiIsIjIwMTYvMDcvMjkvM3h6ajlsbWNtaF9wcm9qZWN0czgxX2Jyb2NodXJlLnBkZiJdXQ/projects81_brochure.pdf?sha=f2f2e81f2cbf0514|
|In-text citation||(Museum of Modern Art, 2004)|
Citing a newspaper or magazine article
When you encounter a newspaper or magazine article in PDF form, the page numbers will generally be available, so that you can just cite it in the format for a print article.
|Format||Last name, Initials. (Year, Month Day). Article title. Newspaper Name, pages.|
|Reference entry||Schwartz, J. (1993, September 30). Obesity affects economic, social status. The Washington Post, A1, A4.|
|In-text citation||(Schwartz, 1993)|