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How to Cite a PDF in APA Format

Knowing how to cite a PDF in APA format can be confusing. Do you treat a PDF as an electronic source or a hard copy? What are the rules for how to cite a PDF with no author in APA format? 

We answer these questions below, but in short, the APA format 7th edition (the most recent) requests that PDF citations follow the same rules as their source but include a URL at the end. So if the PDF is a book, cite it as a book with the PDF’s URL; if it’s a journal article, cite it as a journal article with the URL; and so on. 

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In general, to cite a PDF in APA format, use the same formula as you would to cite a website in APA format

Last name of author, First name initials. (Year of publication). Title of document.

Website name or publisher. URL.

In APA reference citations, titles use the sentence case except for periodicals (newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, etc.), so capitalize only the first word of a title, the first word after a colon, or proper nouns. In-text, however, use the standard title case.

If you’re familiar with how to write a research paper, you know that you’ll also need in-text citations. In APA format, PDF in-text citations should follow this formula: 

(Last name of author, Year of publication)

These formulas work for PDFs as both primary and secondary sources. Keep in mind that specific source types may require additional information, such as volume or issue numbers for scientific journals. 

As mentioned earlier, citing a PDF in APA format requires a URL. If you can’t find a URL, try citing the source as its original version, such as a physical book or journal article. If you need extra time to track down the original, you may want to ask your professor for an extension

If the PDF is not public or even published, such as lecture notes or course documents, it won’t have a URL. Instead, cite the PDF document as you would a personal communication.  

How to cite an online PDF of an in-print publication in APA format

When writing research papers, you’ll often find online PDF versions of in-print publications. These can be scanned copies of physical books or digital equivalents published simultaneously as hard copies. 

Regardless, when citing online PDFs use the same formula as the PDF’s source, with the addition of the URL. For example, if you wanted to cite an online PDF of Elliot Aronson’s book The Social Animal, you would use the same formula as for a hard copy of the book, with the URL added at the end. 

Aronson, E. (1999). The social animal (8th ed.). Worth Publishers, Inc.

https://webéducation.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/

Elliot-Aronson-The-social-animal-Worth-Publishers-1999.pdf

In APA format, PDF in-text citations should look like this: 

(Aronson, 1999)

How to cite an online-only PDF in APA format

More and more publications and scientific journals are switching to an online-only format, and some of these rely on PDFs as their main mediums. To cite a PDF in APA format for online-only sources, follow the same formula as you would for other online-only website sources. 

For example, let’s say you want to cite a PDF document from the Open Psychology Journal, an online-only scientific journal. Your reference-page citation would look like this: 

Diab-Bahman, R. (2022). Psychological diversity in the workplace: Personality

types and gender differences within ethnicities. The Open Psychology

Journal, 15. https://openpsychologyjournal.com/contents/volumes/

V15/e187435012203070/e187435012203070.pdf 

Note that the “15” after the journal name refers to the volume number, in accordance with APA’s guidelines for citing journal articles. 

PDF in-text citations in APA style follow the same guidelines regardless of whether the source is online-only or not. 

(Diab-Bahman, 2022)

How to cite a PDF with no author in APA format

Posting a PDF online doesn’t have the rigorous regulations as publishing a proper manuscript, so you may occasionally encounter a PDF document without an author. If you want to know how to cite a PDF with no author in APA format, follow this formula: 

Title of document. (Year of publication). Website name or publisher. URL.

The reference-page citation should look like this: 

Introduction to psychology. (2015). University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.

https://open.lib.umn.edu/intropsyc/open/download?type=pdf 

Adhering to APA’s no-author format, PDF in-text citations should use the document’s title in place of the author’s name, along with the publication year. 

(Introduction to Psychology, 2015)

If the author is credited as “Anonymous,” it’s acceptable to use the word “Anonymous” in place of a name in your citations. The above method is for sources that don’t credit an author at all. 

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