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!


Underlining vs Italics


A question that I commonly am asked is when you should use italics, “quotation marks”, or an underline in a paper, specifically in regard to titles of articles, books, websites, etc. I’ll admit that sometimes even I have to double check myself with this when I’m writing a paper 🙂

This is a great question to ask and something that I figured would be a great post!


In the past, underlining something and italicizing something were seen as being synonymous with one another. However, you’ll basically stick with italics if you’re deciding between the two. The only time I really underline something is when writing something with a pen or pencil. Italicizing and underlining something are basically used in the same instances, so when writing with a writing utensil rather than a computer, it’s admittedly a bit difficult to use italics when writing. In this case, I’ll underline instead because it’s easier to write and read on paper than italics. When you’re writing with a keyboard, a good rule of thumb is to stick with italics when you’re having to decide between underlining something or italicizing it.


Now that we know underlining and italicizing something are similar to one another, we can focus on when italicizing something is used.

For italics, consider the type of work that you’re referencing. If it’s seen as being a big form of work, you’ll put it in italics. Below are a few common instances where italics are used:

  • The title of an anthology or collection
    In an academic setting, many English textbooks will fall under this category since they have many works by many authors
  • The title of a LONG poem
    For these, make sure to consider the length of the poem. If it’s something that could stand alone (or already does stand alone) as a book, you’ll put the title of it in italics. A good example of this is The Odyssey.
  • Title of a book or novel
  • Title of a TV series
    If you’re writing a paper about The Walking Dead or Lost as a whole, you’ll put the name of the show in italics.
  • Title of a movie/film
  • Title of a magazine, newspaper, or journal
    This bullet will apply to scientific journal articles, a specific online or paper newspaper, the name of a magazine, and other similar mediums.
  • Title of CD/album
  • Title of a play
    Shakespeare, for example, wrote a lot of plays. Any of his plays that you reference (MacbethHamlet, Romeo and Juliet, etc.) will be in italics.

Quotation Marks

Above, I’ve made a pretty good list of instances where italics will be used. Now let’s look at quotation marks!

  • Title of a short poem or play
    The Odyssey is quite a lengthy poem. If we consider short poems, usually some that are included in a textbook or a large poetry book with other poems, these individual poems will have quotation marks around the titles.
  • Title of a short story
    This is similar to the previous bullet. If you’re writing about a short story, particularly one that’s included in a textbook or a large book with a collection of short stories, the title of the short story will be in quotation marks.
  • Title of a song
  • Title of a chapter
    You might be writing about a particular book (which will be in italics). If you’re referencing the name of a particular chapter from this book, this chapter will be in quotation marks.
  • Title of an article
    This can include articles in a magazine, newspaper, scientific journal, and even an encyclopedia.
  • Title of a handout
    If you’re given a 1-2 page handout and you’re referencing the handout, you’ll put the name of this handout in quotation marks. As a side note, if this handout is more of a packet or pamphlet than simply a 1-2 page handout, the title of it would be in italics
  • Title of a short skit
  • Title of an episode in a TV series
  • Title of an essay
    This bullet doesn’t apply to the title of your essay necessarily. Usually when you’re putting a title on your essay, you won’t put your own title in quotation marks. Rather, you’ll just write it in the normal font and font size that you’re using. However, if you’re referencing another essay that you wrote or that someone else wrote, you’ll put the title of this essay in quotation marks.

I hope this helps! If all else fails, just remember this:

Big = italics
Small = quotation marks

B is close to I in the alphabet (B for big and I for italics)
S is close to Q (S for small and Q for quotation marks)

Comment below if you have any questions!

~Write on!