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How should I order my references in APA style?

Last Updated: Jun 29, 2017  |  160 Views

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Alphabetize your references by the last names of authors (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 181) or titles of works which do not identify an author (p. 183). Order multiple references by the same author chronologically.

Alphabetizing by author name

Alphabetize authors with identical last names by their first initial (e.g., Baheti, A. before Baheti, B.) (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 183). Alphabetize author names beginning with an identical sequence of letters by the first different letter in their names (e.g., Andersen before Anderson, since E precedes O) (p. 180). Short names precede longer names with which they share all their letters (e.g., Girard, B. before Girard-Perregaux, A., even though A precedes B in the alphabet) (p. 180).

Treat the title of an organization as an author name for work produced by agencies, associations and institutions of which an individual author is not specified (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 183). The APA Style manual directs writers to “alphabetize group authors, such as associations or government agencies, by the first significant word of that name” (p. 183). For example, alphabetize The Prince of Wales and The Culinary Institute of America under “P” and “C” respectively, since “Prince” and “Culinary” are the first significant words in the titles.

Alphabetizing by title of source

If the author is unknown, alphabetize the references by the title of the source unless the work is signed “Anonymous”,  in which case the word “Anonymous” is listed and alphabetized as an author’s name in the reference list (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 183). See “How do I cite a resource by “Anonymous” or without a stated author in APA Style?” for more information.

If the author published more than one work in a single year, order these works alphabetically by the first letter of each title of their work. See “How do I cite two or more resources by the same author that were published in the same year in APA style?” for information and examples.

Ordering by year of publication

Order a list of two or more works by the same author(s) in different years chronologically according to the year of publication (American Psychological Association, 2010, p. 182); for example, list a work published in 2009 before a work published in 2012, since 2009 is the earlier entry. If at least one of several works by the same author was co-authored by additional authors, the single-author entry precedes the multi-author entry (p. 182).

See also the APA Style Blog posts on “Order in the Reference List! Or the Case of the Maddening Initials” and “Alphabetization in APA Style” for more information on applying the APA rules to the ordering of a reference list. 


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. 

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