Ordering works on the APA reference page

This article reflects the 7th edition guidelines of the APA Publication Manual.

An APA Style reference page is ordered alphabetically by the first element in the reference entry, usually the first author’s last name.

  • Smith, B. H. precedes Thompson, A. G.

In more complex situations, this basic guideline may not be enough. That’s probably why you’re here, right? Luckily, APA created more detailed guidelines that are outlined in this article.

Multiple works with the same first author

Single-author works

If the works have just one author, order them based on the publication date, listing the oldest source first. Works with no date come before works with a date. Works that are “In press” come last.

  • Warren, K. J. (n.d.)
  • Warren, K. J. (2018)
  • Warren, K. J. (in press)

Multiple-author works

If the first author is the same, but subsequent authors are different, order the references based on the second author’s last name. If the second author is the same, then order on the third author, and so on. One-author works come before multiple-author works.

  • Palmer, T
  • Palmer, T., & Hunt, S.
  • Palmer, T., Hunt, S., & Robertson, H.

Different authors with the same last name

Order works from different authors with the same last name based on their initials.

  • Theel, M. precedes Theel, P. S.

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No author (source title)

When the author of a work is unknown, the source title is moved to the author position. In this case, the reference is ordered based on the title. Disregard “A”, “An”, and “The” at the beginning of the title. If the title starts with a numeral, alphabetize it as though it were spelled out.

  • How social media influences mental health (ordered on the H of “How”)
  • The impact of smartphones on creativity (ordered on the I of “Impact”)
  • 10 ways to increase your productivity (ordered on the T of “Ten”)

Same author, same date

Works with the same author and date are distinguished with a lowercase letter after the publication year. This letter appears in the APA in-text citation and the reference entry. Order works by that lowercase letter.

  • Browning, H. (2020a) precedes Browning, H. (2020b)

Nothing precedes something

Shorter names precede longer names with which they share all their letters.

  • Camp H. G. precedes Campbell A. T.

Apostrophes, hyphens, parentheses, and brackets

Disregard apostrophes and hyphens in two-word names, and disregard anything in parentheses (e.g., contributor roles) or brackets (e.g., usernames).

  • O’Connor, G. precedes Oetman, H.
  • Bloom, S.-J. precedes Bloom, S. P.

M’, Mc, and Mac

Order prefixes such as M’, Mc, and Mac as spelled, not as sounded out.

  • MacArthur, B. precedes McCombes, S.
  • MacNeil, J. precedes M’Carthy, P.

Suffixes (Sr., Jr., I, II, III)

Works authored by people with the same first and last name, but with a suffix such as Jr., Sr. or I, II, III, are ordered chronologically, oldest first.

  • Burrows, L., Sr. precedes Burrows, L., Jr.
  • Andrews, K. P., II precedes Andrews, K. P., III

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I order works that have no author?

If the author of a work is unknown, order the reference by its title. Disregard the words “A”, “An”, and “The” at the beginning of the title.

  • The privacy concerns around social media
  • Teens, social media, and privacy

Read more about alphabetizing the APA reference page.

How do I order works whose title starts with a numeral?

Order numerals as though they were spelled out:

  • “20 tips to relax” is ordered on the “T” of “Twenty”.
  • “100 cities you should visit” is ordered on the “O” of “One hundred”.

Read more about alphabetizing the APA reference page.

Is there a tool that can order my references automatically?

Popular word processors like Microsoft Word and Google Docs can order lists in alphabetical order, but they don’t follow the APA Style alphabetization guidelines.

If you use Scribbr’s APA Citation Generator to create citations, references are ordered automatically based on the APA guidelines, taking into account all the exceptions.

Is this article helpful?
Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo has been writing articles for Scribbr since 2017. His areas of expertise are plagiarism and citation. Besides writing articles, Raimo works tirelessly on improving Scribbr's Citation Generator and Plagiarism Checker tools.


January 19, 2022 at 6:39 PM

I'm new to marking students work and wanted to get confirmation how they are supposed to reference a combination of both authored references and web sources.

I'm assuming you simply put everything in alphabetical order. But could they also separate website sources and put them in alphabetical order, separate from the alphabetised authored sources?

I can't seem to find info online. Will continue searching but in the meantime I thought to ask you. Thanks


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
January 20, 2022 at 11:07 AM

Hi Dee,

In APA Style, the rule is to list all different types of sources together in the reference list, alphabetized by author name. There's no mention in the APA manual of dividing the sources into categories, so you can assume doing so would be incorrect in APA Style.


November 14, 2021 at 1:55 PM

Hi there, I'm so glad to have found this website!

Just a quick question, how should I denote multiple works from the same author with no date?

Taking the example from another user,

Smith, A.B. (n.d.) Interesting Question.

Smith, A.B. (n.d.) Citing sources.

I'm thinking it would be n.d.-a and n.d.-b, is that right? Similarly for works that are in press (e.g. in press-a and inpress-b). Thanks!


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
November 15, 2021 at 12:16 PM

Hi Sean,

You’re right, the format is indeed “n.d.-a” and “in press-a”; make sure that the identifying letters are included in both the reference entries and the in-text citations.


Lea K Galanter
November 5, 2021 at 12:51 AM

How do you order when the author sometimes used one initial and sometimes two initials. Which one goes first? Or do you order it by publication date (this assumes it's the same author--can we make that assumption?) This is how my author has it:

Jones, A. B. (1964)
Jones, A. (1965)

Should it be:

Jones, A. (1965)
Jones, A. B. (1964)


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
November 9, 2021 at 1:49 PM

Hi Lea,

To avoid ambiguity, it’s best to use one name consistently for each author, even when their name varies slightly in their publications. APA suggests that you “consult other works that cite that author, bibliographic database records, or the author’s website or curriculum vitae (CV) to determine the appropriate format. … Follow the most common presentation if any ambiguity remains.” This assumes you’re sure that the two authors here are the same person—ideally you should find that out, and if it’s really not clear, assume they’re two separate people.

If these were two separate authors, the order would be Jones, A. (1965); Jones, A. B. (1964).


July 16, 2021 at 4:21 PM

When my references are in different languages with different alphabets, should I translate it?
If no, should I order them by alphabetic order? Which language first?


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
July 20, 2021 at 4:17 PM

Hi Mila,

APA usually recommends transliterating (spelling with the Roman alphabet) source titles that are from a language with a different alphabet. This way, they can be alphabetized normally.

If you don't transliterate the source, though, APA recommends using your own judgment about where to place it. A common approach would be to just include sources written in a different alphabet at the end of your list.


David Welsh
May 7, 2021 at 2:44 AM

How do I order in reference list same author, same year, different month. Do I order by first letter of article or by earlier month?

Which would come first?

Smith, A.B. (2012, May 1) Interesting Question.

Smith, A.B. (2012, June 1) Citing sources.

Once ordered I would add the 'a' and 'b' after the year for in-text citations.


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 10, 2021 at 3:55 PM

Hi David,

Good question! You should place the articles in chronological order—so, the May one first, then June. And yes, indeed, make sure to add the "a" and "b."


April 29, 2021 at 6:44 PM

I love your site, and have been sending my students here for their citation questions! I did notice one problem, though: the APA citation tool has a little trouble alphabetizing when an entry has no author and the title begins with 'a' or 'an' or 'the.' When sorting alphabetically, the checker DOES include those articles when ordering entries. And unless I'm missing something, there doesn't seem to be any way to manually re-order the entries. I can see a number of different ways to sort, but no drag to reorder, for example.

Is there perhaps a setting that I'm missing, or is that just a current limitation of the citation tool? Thanks!


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
May 6, 2021 at 8:37 PM

Hi Shawn,

Thanks for your comment, and glad you and your students are finding the site useful! Unfortunately, that is a current limitation of the tool, but we're constantly working on improvements, and we'll take your feedback into consideration for future updates.


March 24, 2021 at 7:11 PM

Hi there

For in-text citations with multiple authors, which would go first?

E.g., (Wulf & Shea, 2002; Wulf et al., 1998)

or (Chiviacowsky & Drews, 2006; Chiviacowsky et al., 2009)


Jack Caulfield
Jack Caulfield (Scribbr Team)
March 29, 2021 at 6:58 PM

Hi Zara,

If you have two citations starting with the same author name, one containing a second author's name and the other "et al.", you should place them in the same order they appear in the reference list—i.e. alphabetized based on the second author's name, even though it might not directly appear in the in-text citation. So for example, if the second author in "Wulf et al., 1998" was called Davis, then the order would be "(Wulf et al., 1998; Wulf & Shea, 2002)."


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