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.
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.
In-text citation (McCabe & Castel, 2008)

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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.
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.
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.
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].
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)

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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.

1 comment

Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr-team)
December 17, 2020 at 1:15 PM

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