APA: Online Articles from Database

I apologize for my long absence! I promise that I have not forgotten about this blog and those who follow this blog. I’ll try to get back into the swing of things with posting regularly again. I’ve been busy with graduate school! Graduate school actually inspired this blog post!

One of my professors is a stickler for APA format. Many of my peers have gotten points off of their assignments because of the way that they formatted each APA reference. For the sake of length for this post, I want to focus on how to do an APA reference for an article from an online database. This is probably one of the most common references that you’ll use in an APA assignment. For the sake of this post, this is based off of the APA guidelines from the 6th edition as well as the Purdue Owl website.

The general outline for all online articles will be as such:

Authors. (year of publication). Title of article in normal font with lowercase letters except
for the first one. Title of Journal in Italics, Volume number, page range. doi:#######.

The authors will always follow the format of Last name, First Initial. If a middle name is provided or a middle initial, you’ll include that as well. If your author is Ronald M. McDonald, you’ll format the article as such:

McDonald, R. M. (year)……….

Make note that there is a period after each initial. There is also a space between the period and the second initial. It gets a little more complicated when there is more than one author. If Ronald M. McDonald and Spongebob Squarepants (notice no middle initial!) wrote an article that you are citing, you would format the reference as such:

McDonald, R. M., & Squarepants, S. (year)…………

Notice a few things. To start, the format is still the same as one author in terms of the last name coming first followed by a comma and the rest of the initials. For more than one author, you’ll put after the first person. There will also be a comma before the when you type it. The remainder is also the same. The order of the authors is not done in alphabetical order, but rather the order that they appear on the article.

If more than two authors are listed, you’ll just follow the same format and put between the second to last author and the last author. If there are more than 7 authors, you’ll list 6 authors the same as we did above. You’ll then omit all of the other authors until you get to the last author listed. You’ll then put that author in the reference as usual. Let’s see this as an example now:

McDonald, R. M., Squarepants, S., Star, P., Thomas, P. L., Biggs, C., Andrews, J., . . . Holmes, A. R. (year)……

Notice with this, you list all of the authors up to the 6th one. Once you finish the 6th author, you’ll put an ellipses. This is 3 periods with a space between each one. Then you’ll put the final author in the same format, but without the &. Then the rest of the reference is done as usual.

Year of publication
With this, it’s the year of the article’s publication. This will be in parenthesis and there will be a period after the closing parentheses.

Title of article
This is pretty straight-forward. This is the title of the article without any sort of quotation marks, italics, or anything else. Make sure to only capitalize the first word of the title unless any of the other words in the title are proper nouns (names of people, cities, states, countries, etc.). Basically, if it’s a name, capitalize it! If the title has a colon in it, you’ll capitalize the first letter of the first word that follows the colon.

Title of Journal, Volume, and Pages
This part is a little trickier. For formatting, you’ll always put the title of the journal, the comma following it, and the volume number in italics. The comma following the volume number and then the page range will be typed with the “normal” format. Sometimes you’ll see an issue number listed along with the volume number for a given source. You will only include this if the page range starts with page 1. The issue number will also be inside of parentheses and will be formatted “normal.”

……….Journal of Science, 34(2), 1-23.
………Journal of Science, 34, 233-240.

As seen above, the first hypothetical source ranges from pages 1 to 23. Since it starts on page 1, an issue number will need to be given. When the pages start with 23 or a different number, the issue number can actually be determined based on these page numbers. In a given year, a number of journals may come out. Each journal may be a separate “issue” and the pages will continue where the previous journal left off.

This is often a forgotten part of APA references. This is the identifying series of numbers and letters that are given to journal articles. The DOI is something that most of the newer articles coming out will have. When it is given, always use this in the reference vs. giving the url. If the database doesn’t have the DOI listed (let’s face it, sometimes it happens!), I usually follow these steps:

1. Check the article itself. Oftentimes, I’ll find the DOI on the first page!
2. Recheck the database preview page.
3. Check a different database for the article. There is crossover with databases in regard to having the same articles, so you may be able to find the DOI when finding the exact same article in the a separate database!
4. Check Google. Though I normally try to avoid finding articles in Google since the database is what professors tend to prefer (and what I prefer also!), it can sometimes be helpful when finding a DOI for a given article.

If the above-listed steps still don’t yield a DOI, then you can resort to linking the url. Just be sure that when you provide the url, remove the hyperlink so that the website isn’t underlined or shaded a different color. With both of these ways of referencing, you will format it as such:

……….Journal of Science, 34(2), 1-23. doi:#######
……….Journal of Science, 34(2), 1-23. Retrieved from http:// insert website here

With the DOI, take note that there is not a space between the colon and the start of the numbers in the DOI. Also take note that there is not any ending punctuation after the DOI and also after the url.


I hope that this helped to clear up any questions/concerns that you may have had regarding APA references, specifically with online articles! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below! As always, suggestions for future posts are welcomed!

~Write on!