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.

Is this article helpful?
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.

8 comments

MILA ILIEVA
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?

Reply

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.

Reply

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.

Reply

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."

Reply

Shawn
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!

Reply

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.

Reply

Zara
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)

Reply

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)."

Reply

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