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How to Cite Government Documents in APA Style

Government documents are important sources for academic and policy research. Citing government documents in APA style requires specific elements: author (usually the government agency), publication year, document title, and publisher (often the agency itself). For online documents, include the URL. These details apply to both in-text citations and reference list entries. Proper citation ensures accurate attribution and allows readers to locate the source.

Key Elements of APA Style for Government Documents

Author(s)

The author of a government document can be an individual, a government department, or an agency. For instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be cited as the author when referring to their reports. 

Publication Year

The publication year is crucial for pinpointing the exact document referenced. For example, a report from the Department of Health and Human Services published in 2020 would be cited with the year immediately following the author. 

Title of Document

The title should be italicized and in sentence case. For example,

Annual report on the state of public health.

Report Number (if applicable)

Including the report number helps in identifying specific documents among many. For instance,

National Transportation Statistics. Report No. DOT-VNTSC-RSPA-98-4.

Publisher

The publisher is usually the government body that issued the document. For instance,

U.S. Department of Transportation.

URL or DOI (if applicable)

If the document is available online, provide the URL or DOI. For instance,

“Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/annual_report.pdf.” 

Different Types of Government Documents and Their Citations

Reports and Studies

Government reports and studies are extensive documents that provide detailed information on specific topics. 

Example Citations for Reports

Here’s an example:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Annual report on the state of public health (Report No. CDC-2020-01). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.cdc.gov/annual_report.pdf.

Congressional and Legislative Materials

Citing congressional and legislative materials requires specific attention to detail. 

Citing Bills and Resolutions

For bills, include the bill title, number, and session. For example,

“H.R. 3590, 111th Cong. (2009).”

 Citing Hearings and Debates

Hearings are cited with the committee name, hearing title, and date. For example,

“House Committee on Energy and Commerce. (2009). Hearing on health reform. 111th Cong., 1st sess.”

Government Websites and Online Publications

With the digital age, many government documents are published online. 

Best Practices for Citing Digital Government Sources

Ensure that URLs are current and lead directly to the cited document. Use DOIs when available. 

Dealing with Dead Links and Archived Pages

If a URL is no longer active, use an archived version from a repository like the Wayback Machine and include the date of access. 

In-Text Citations for Government Documents

Basic In-Text Citation Rules

For in-text citations, use the author and year. For instance, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). 

Handling Multiple Authors or Agencies

If there are multiple authors, list them all in the first citation and use et al. in subsequent citations. 

Citing Specific Sections or Pages

When citing specific sections, include the page or section number. For example, (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020, p. 15). 

Practical Examples of APA Citations for Government Documents

Sample Citations for Federal Reports

Here’s a citation for a federal report:

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2019). NASA’s Mars mission progress report. U.S. Government Printing Office. https://www.nasa.gov/mars_mission_report.pdf.

State and Local Government Publications

California Department of Public Health. (2018). State health statistics 2018. Sacramento, CA: Author. https://www.cdph.ca.gov/health_stats_2018.pdf.

International Government Documents

World Health Organization. (2021). Global health observatory data. WHO. https://www.who.int/gho/data/en/.

FAQs

What are the key elements needed to cite a government document in APA style? 

To cite a government document in APA style, you need to include the author(s), publication year, title of the document, report number (if applicable), publisher, and the URL or DOI if the document is available online.

How do I handle in-text citations for government documents with multiple authors or agencies?

For in-text citations with multiple authors or agencies, list all authors in the first citation and use “et al.” for subsequent citations. For example: (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020) becomes (CDC et al., 2020) in later references.

What should I do if the URL for a government document is no longer active? 

If the URL for a government document is no longer active, you can use an archived version from repositories like the Wayback Machine. Always include the date of access to help readers locate the document.

Are there any tools to help me accurately cite government documents in APA style?

Yes, WriterBuddy can assist you in generating accurate citations. Additionally, official APA style resources and university writing centers are excellent places to find guidance. 

Conclusion

APA citations for government documents include the agency name, publication year, italicized document title, and publisher. For online documents, add the URL. Use the agency name and year for in-text citations.

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