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 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.

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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo is an expert in explaining plagiarism and citing sources. He has been writing helpful articles since 2017 and is continuously improving Scribbr's Citation Generators.

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