Overview of the Reference List

The reference list is found after the main body of your text. Each reference in the list has all of the information needed for the reader to identify and retrieve every source that you have cited.  An APA style reference list is in alphabetical order.

It is very important that references be correct and complete. It is extremely frustrating for the reader to try to find one of your cited sources only to discover missing data or even a completely missing reference. When this happens you have lost credibility. Your reader will take you less seriously, you will be viewed as a careless researcher and writer, and ultimately you will be less convincing. It is your responsibility as the writer to ensure that the reference list is 100% accurate.

In an attempt to ensure accuracy, I have seen many writers copy and paste references from online sources such as Google Scholar. Or perhaps because they do this because they simply have not taken the time to learn proper reference formatting. Too often the copying and pasting is done mindlessly. These sources should be seen as a starting point because they are frequently riddled with errors. Take the time to learn proper formatting and correct the errors. There will be more on this later.

It is becoming more common for there to be multiple versions of an article available online. For example, below is an article taken from Google Scholar.

 APA Versions of Articles

You can see that there are 25 versions of the article available. If you click on the link you will see that that the article can be found at multiple websites. The authors may place their own copy or “pre-press” copies on their own personal website. Or they might put copies on a social network site or archival system such as researchgate.net. Or they might put earlier versions of the paper at their university’s repository. Be advised that as an author there are potential copyright issues making your work freely available, but as a user you need to make sure that you use the most current and authoritative version. This is most likely found at the publisher’s website accessed through your university’s online library resources. Each library’s system operates differently. You must take the time to learn how yours works. Then use the information from Google to obtain the authoritative version and cite and reference it properly.

Different styles have different rules on how the order the reference list. In APA style is it quite simple. Order references alphabetically.

The next section provides specific instructions on how to structure and format references, but after you get the references assembled you start at the beginning for each reference and use standard alphabetizing rules.

Briefly, references begin with the author’s or authors’ last name and initials. Next comes the year so the beginning of a reference might look something like this.

Allen, B. (1997).

Below l list the beginning of four references showing the order in which they would appear in the reference list. In the next section you will learn how to format the rest of the reference. This is just showing the basic ordering.

Allen, B. (1997).
Allen, B. (2007).
Lopez, M. E. (2010).
Lopez, M. E., & Singh, Y. (2001).

Sometimes, however, you might run into a situation where the same author(s) wrote more than one article in the same year, causing problems because the correct order would not be apparent. In references after the year comes the article title and we would use the title to determine with reference comes first. Below is an example how we would handle that situation.

Singh, Y. (2016a). Cost effectiveness of evidence-based instruction . . .
Singh, Y. (2016b). The efficiency of evidence-based . . .

It is important to note that in when you cite either source in the text you must also include the lower case letter after the year so the readers know which reference to use. Thus, the citation might look something like this.

In comparison to traditional instructional methods, evidence-based instruction is more efficient (Singh, 2016b) and more cost effective (Singh, 2016a).

Test Yourself

1. Where is the reference list found?

After the main body of the text.
After all appendices.


2. How should the reference list be ordered in APA sytle?

In the order that they appear in the text.
In alphabetical order.


3. Four sources where sources were cited withing a research manuscript. They appeared in the manuscription in this order: 1) Smith (1999), 2) Jones and Chin (2000), 3) Lopez (2016), and 4) Smith (2000)? In what order should they appear in the reference list?

1) Jones & Chin (2000), 2) Lopez (2016), 3) Smith (1999), 4) Smith (2000)
1) Smith (1999), 2) Jones & Chin (2000), 3) Lopez (2016), 4) Smith (2000)
1) Lopez (2016), 2) Jones & Chin (2000), 3) Smith (2000), 4) Smith (1999)