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Formatting the References Page

References Page Formatting


The references page comes on the page after the paper’s text. References are materials and resources that contain information cited in an essay. The reference list is presented immediately after the last page of the paper’s body (Purdue Writing Lab, n.d.). It should be easy for a reader to locate all sources a writer has cited. APA 7 Publication Manual contains a range of reference examples, including books, journal articles, government websites, magazines, blog posts, book chapters, personal communications, press releases, images, and online media (APA, 2021).

Formatting the ‘References’ Label in the References Page

The label “References” (without quotation marks) heads the references page. This label is written in boldface and is centered at the top of the references page.

Order of References

Arrange reference entries in ascending alphabetical order based on each entry’s first author’s surname. If multiple sources have an equal alphabetical hierarchy, they should be listed in ascending chronological order (i.e., from the oldest to the newest).

Hanging Indents

APA 7 references should use hanging indentation. A reference’s first line should be indented just like the second and subsequent lines of a paragraph in an APA 7 paper’s text (i.e., one inch from the paper’s left margin). Subsequent lines of the reference should be indented one and a half inches from the left margin, just like the first line of a paragraph in an APA 7 paper’s text.

Double Spacing References

Text in the references page, much like the text in the rest of an APA 7 paper, should be double spaced. Spaces between lines in a single reference and spaces between adjacent references should be double.

DOIs and URLs in the References Page

Just like URLs, which begin with https://, (e.g.,, the recommended DOI format in APA 7 is:

In older formats, the DOI number was preceded by “doi:” or “DOI:”

In other cases, it was preceded by http:/

This is no longer the case in APA 7. Look at the templates below:

APA 6:

Surname 1, Initials., Surname 2, Initials., Surname 3, Initials., Surname 4, Initials., Surname 5, Initials., Surname 6, Initials., & Surname 7, Initials. (Year). Journal article title: Written in sentence case. Journal Name Written in  Title Case and Italicized, Volume Number(Issue Number), Page Number(s). DOI starting with doi:xxxxx

APA 7:

Surname 1, Initials., Surname 2, Initials., Surname 3, Initials., Surname 4, Initials., Surname 5, Initials., Surname 6, Initials., & Surname 7, Initials. (Year). Journal article title: Written in sentence case. Journal Name Written in  Title Case and Italicized, Volume Number(Issue Number), Page Number(s). DOI starting with

DOIs are static, while URLs are not. A URL will change if there is a change in website content, such as editing, updating, or moving. Websites use stable URLs, known as permalinks, to avoid changes in URLs. Contrarily, DOIs do not change once assigned.

The DOIs do not have punctuation at their end from the above examples. This applies to URLs, too. Adding a punctuation mark (e.g., a period) at the end of a DOI or URL may render the link dysfunctional.  Hence, avoid periods at the end of DOIs or URLs. Also, do not alter a DOI or URL’s spelling, capitalization, punctuation, or any other element.

What Does APA 7 Recommend?

APA Style requires authors to use DOIs or URLs as much as possible when citing digital content. URLs are used when DOIs are unavailable. You should also use them if a citation style requires so.

Tips for when and when not to use DOIs and URLs

  • Use a DOI whenever sources, be it an online or print version, have DOIs.
  • URLs and DOIs should not be used if there are no DOIs for print versions of sources.
  • When both URLs and DOIs are present for online sources, use the DOIs and not the URL.
  • Use URLs if online sources have URLs but no DOIs.

Formatting Publication Dates

Use the Year, Month Date format when presenting publication dates in an APA 7 paper’s entries. For some references, such as webpage references and YouTube videos, you should provide the full date the webpage article or YouTube video was posted. For others, such as books, you should only provide the year the book was published.

Author Element Format

Single Author

For example, J. David Goodman:

Write the surname and the author’s initials.

Goodman, J. D. (2020, October 16). New York City fights covid-19 block by block: Scattershot approach to avert full closure. The New York Times, CLXX(58,848), A1, A8.

Two Authors

For example, Erik A Levinsohn and Kevin P Hill:

Write the surnames and initials. Do not use the conjunction ‘‘and.’’ Instead, use the ampersand symbol (&).

Levinsohn, E. A., & Hill, K. P. (2020). Clinical uses of cannabis and cannabinoids in the United States. Journal of the Neurological Sciences411, 116717.

Three to 20 Authors

Use commas to separate the authors’ names. The symbol ”&” precedes the final author’s surname. This reference template in Bibliography Makers’ guide illustrates how to format the author element in a source with between three and 20 authors.

Twenty Authors or More

List by surnames and initials. Use commas to set apart the author names. There should be no more than 20 authors listed.

Rules for Writing Hyphenated First Names

If the author’s first name has a hyphen (e.g., Liu-Xiu and Chao-Ran), do not present the name’s initials separately (as if the name represents two separate names). Use a hyphen and not a space between the initials of the two names in the hyphenated first name. For a first name such as Liu-Xiu, use the format “L.-X.” (without quotation marks).

Below is an example of a source whose authors have hyphenated first names except for the last author (i.e., Liu-Xiu Yang, Chao-Ran Li, and Wen Gao).

Yang, L.-X, Li, C.-R, & Gao, W. (2020). The origin, transmission and clinical therapies on coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak – an update on the status. Military Medical Research7(1).

Format of the Title Element

Generally, the title element of an APA 7 reference should follow the principles outlined below:

For a source that does not stand alone

This refers to a source that is part of a larger volume of work.

Use sentence case and do not italicize the title element. Examples of title elements that fall in this category include the title of a:

  1. journal article, which is part of a collection of articles in the journal;
  2. magazine article, which is one of several articles in the magazine;
  3. newspaper article, which is one of many articles in the newspaper; and
  4. chapter in an edited book (being one of several chapters in the book).

For a stand-alone work:

Use sentence case and italicize the title. Examples of titles that fall in this category include:

  1. the title of a whole book;
  2. the title of a report; and
  3. the title of a webpage.

When writing in sentence case, capitalize the first letter of the following components in the title element:

  • title
  • subtitle (section after a colon, dash, or period)
  • noun that is followed by digits or letters
  • proper noun

Write all other letters in lowercase.

When writing in Title Case, write all letters in the title element in lowercase except for the first letter of:

  1. the title and subtitle (the section after a colon, dash, etc.);
  2. any major word (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, pronoun, and any word with more than three letters); and
  3. both words in a hyphenated, major word (e.g., Part-Timers, User-Friendly, Good-Looking, etc.).

For additional information on formatting the title element of a source in the references list of an APA 7 paper, please read the Title section of the webpage that describes the four elements of an APA 7 reference.


American Psychological Association. (2021). Reference examples.

Purdue Writing Lab. (n.d.). Reference list: Basic rules.