How to Reference Electronic Sources in APA Format

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There are a number of special style concerns for referencing electronic sources in APA format. Online documents, journal articles, databases, and message boards all have unique referencing requirements. It is important to note the exact web address on any online source you use. Always keep track of the electronic resources you refer to as you are researching a topic and collecting references.

Proper APA Format for Electronic References

The following examples can help you prepare your electronic references in proper APA format.

Online Documents

The basic structure for referencing online documents is very similar to other references but with the addition of a retrieval source. Provide the exact URL for where the document can be found.

Author, A. A. (2000). Title of work. Retrieved from source

For example:

Cherry, K. (2006). Guide to APA format. About Psychology. Retrieved from

Online Journal Article

Online journal articles should be cited much like print articles, but they should include additional information about the source location. The basic structure is as follows:

Author, A. B., Author, C. D., & Author, E. F. (2000). Title of article. Title of Periodical, Volume number, page numbers. Retrieved from source

For example:

Jenet, B. L. (2006) A meta-analysis on online social behavior. Journal of Internet Psychology, 4. Retrieved from http://www. 3924.html

Article Retrieved from a Database

Articles that are retrieved from online databases are formatted like a print reference. According to the sixth edition of the APA style manual, it is not necessary to include database information since these databases tend to change over time.

For example:

Henriques, J. B., & Davidson, R. J. (1991) Left frontal hypoactivation in depression. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100, 535-545.

Online Newspaper Article

When citing an online newspaper article, you should provide the URL of the newspaper's home page. The APA suggests doing this in order to avoid the problem of nonworking URLs.

For example:

Parker-Pope, T. (2011, November 16). Practicing on patients. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Electronic Version of a Print Book

The APA style manual suggests that you should only include electronic book references if the book is only available online or is very difficult to find in print. Your reference will be very similar to a regular print book reference, except the electronic retrieval information takes the place of the publisher's location and name.

For example:

Freud, S. (1922). Totem und Tabu: Einige Übereinstimmungen im Seelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker [Kindle version]. Retrieved from

Online Forums, Discussion Lists, or Newsgroups

Messages posted by users on forums, discussion lists, and newsgroups should follow the basic structure for citing an online document. When possible, use the poster's real name starting with the last name and followed by a first initial. If this is not possible, list the author's online screen name. You should also include the exact date that the message was posted.

For example:

Leptkin, J. L. (2006, November 16). Study tips for psychology students [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from

More Tips for Referencing Electronic Sources

  • Emails should not be included in your reference section, although they should be cited in-text.
  • The APA also provides information on the preferred spelling of several electronic terms, including the following:
    • e-mail
    • e-journal
    • database
    • Internet
    • FTP
    • online
    • web

A Word From Verywell

Getting the hang of APA format can sometimes be a struggle, but it is well worth the investment. Electronic sources require special consideration as the format of your references may be different depending on where you found the information.

Utilize this guide as a start, but always be sure to check your work against the guidelines issued in the official APA style manual.

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."