How to cite a book

To cite a book, you need a brief in-text citation and a corresponding reference listing the author’s name, the title, the year of publication, and the publisher. The order and format of information depends on the citation style you’re using. The most common styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago style.

Use the interactive example generator to explore the format of book citations in APA and MLA.

If the book is an edited collection of works by different authors (e.g. essays or stories), you should cite the relevant chapter, followed by details of the whole book.

Where to find source information in a book

All the information you need for a book citation can usually be found on the book’s title page and copyright page. The main things you’re looking for are:

  • the title (and subtitle if present)
  • name(s) of the author(s)
  • year of publication
  • place of publication
  • publisher

You should also check if the book specifies an edition (e.g. 2nd edition, revised edition) and if any other contributors are named (e.g. editor, translator).

The image below shows where to find the relevant information on the title and copyright pages of a typical book.

Book citation information

Citing a book in APA Style

An APA Style book citation lists the author’s last name and initials, the year of publication, the title and any subtitle (in italics, capitalizing only the first word), the edition (if specified), and the publisher. Add a DOI or URL to the end of the entry if available (e.g. for e-books or books accessed online).

In an in-text citation, state the author’s last name and the publication year, and a page number if you need to show the location of a specific quote or paraphrase.

APA format Author last name, Initials. (Year). Book title: Subtitle (Edition). Publisher. DOI or URL
Reference entry Donaldson, B. (2017). Dutch: A comprehensive grammar (3rd ed.). Routledge.
In-text citation (Donaldson, 2017, p. 73)

You can also use our free APA Citation Generator to automatically generate your book citations. Search for a title, DOI, or ISBN to retrieve the details.

Citing a book chapter in APA

To cite a book chapter, list information about the chapter first, followed by information about the book, including the book’s editor(s) and the chapter’s page range within the book.

The author of the chapter, not the editor of the book, is listed in the in-text citation.

APA format Author last name, Initials. (Year). Title of chapter. In Editor initials. Last name (Ed. or Eds.), Book title: Subtitle (pp. Page range). Publisher.
Reference entry Nussbaum, M. C. (2020). Legal reasoning. In Tasioulas, J. (Ed.), The Cambridge companion to the philosophy of law (pp. 59–77). Cambridge University Press.
In-text citation (Nussbaum, 2020, p. 65)

What is your plagiarism score?

Compare your paper with over 60 billion web pages and 30 million publications.

  • Best plagiarism checker of 2020
  • Plagiarism report & percentage
  • Largest plagiarism database

Scribbr Plagiarism Checker

Citing a book in MLA Style

An MLA book citation includes the author’s name, the book title (in italics, capitalized headline-style), the edition (if specified), the publisher, and the year of publication. If it’s an e-book, write “e-book” (or a more specific description, e.g. “Kindle ed.”) before the publisher name.

The corresponding in-text citation lists the author’s last name and the page number of the passage cited.

MLA format Author last name, First name. Book Title: Subtitle. Edition, Publisher, Year.
Works Cited entry Donaldson, Bruce. Dutch: A Comprehensive Grammar. 3rd ed., Routledge, 2017.
In-text citation (Donaldson 73)

You can also use our free MLA Citation Generator to create your book citations.

Citing a book chapter in MLA

To cite a book chapter, first give the author and title (in quotation marks) of the chapter cited, then information about the book as a whole and the page range of the specific chapter.

The in-text citation lists the author of the chapter and the page number of the relevant passage.

MLA format Author last name, First name. “Chapter Title.” Book Title: Subtitle, edited by Editor name, Publisher, Year, pp. Page range.
Works Cited entry Nussbaum, Martha C. “Legal Reasoning.” The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Law, edited by John Tasioulas, Cambridge University Press, 2020, pp. 59–77.
In-text citation (Nussbaum 65)

Citing a book in Chicago Style

Chicago notes and bibliography style uses footnotes to cite sources instead of parenthetical citations. These notes refer to a bibliography at the end giving full source details.

A Chicago bibliography entry for a book includes the author’s name, the book title and subtitle, the edition (if stated), the location and name of the publisher, and the year of publication. For an e-book, add the e-book format (e.g. “Kindle”) at the end.

Chicago format Author last name, First name. Book Title: Subtitle. Edition. Place of publication: Publisher, Year. E-book format.
Bibliography entry Donaldson, Bruce. Dutch: A Comprehensive Grammar. 3rd ed. Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge, 2017.
Footnote 1. Bruce Donaldson, Dutch: A Comprehensive Grammar, 3rd ed. (Abingdon-on-Thames: Routledge, 2017), 35.

2. Donaldson, Dutch, 73.

Chicago also has an alternative style that uses author-date parenthetical citations. You can see examples of book citations in this style here.

Citing a book chapter in Chicago

To cite a book chapter, start with the author and the title of the chapter (in quotation marks), then give the title (in italics) and editor of the book, the page range of the chapter, the location and name of the publisher, and the year of publication.

Chicago format Author last name, First name. “Chapter Title.” In Book Title: Subtitle, edited by Editor first name Last name, Page range. Place of publication: Publisher, Year.
Bibliography entry Nussbaum, Martha C. “Legal Reasoning.” In The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Law, edited by John Tasioulas, 59–77. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2020.
Footnote 1. Martha C. Nussbaum, “Legal Reasoning,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Law, ed. John Tasioulas (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 60.

2. Nussbaum, “Legal Reasoning,” 65.

Frequently asked questions about citations

What are the main elements of a book citation?

The main elements included in all book citations across APA, MLA, and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.

In Chicago style and in the 6th edition of APA Style, the location of the publisher is also included, e.g. London: Penguin.

When should I cite a chapter instead of the whole book?

When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.

When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.

  • In APA Style, single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
  • In MLA Style, if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories), you should cite the individual work.
  • In Chicago Style, you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.
Which citation style should I use?

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

When should I use “et al.” in citations?

The abbreviationet al.” (Latin for “and others”) is used to shorten citations of sources with multiple authors.

In APA Style, “et al.” is used in in-text citations of sources with 3+ authors, e.g. (Smith et al., 2019). It is not used in reference entries.

In MLA style, use “et al.” for 3+ authors in in-text citations and Works Cited entries.

In Chicago style, use “et al.” for 4+ authors in an in-text citation, and for 10+ authors in a bibliography entry.

How do I cite a source with no page numbers?

When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation. You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)

In APA Style, you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.

For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.

Is this article helpful?
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)
February 26, 2021 at 4:05 PM

Thanks for reading! Hope you found this article helpful. If anything is still unclear, or if you didn’t find what you were looking for here, leave a comment and we’ll see if we can help.

Still have questions?

Please click the checkbox on the left to verify that you are a not a bot.