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How to Cite a PDF in APA Style

PDFs are common sources in academic and professional writing. Citing PDFs in APA style depends on the document type (e.g., report, article, book chapter) rather than the file format. Key elements typically include author, publication date, title, and source URL. These details apply to both in-text citations and reference list entries.

Essential Components of a PDF Citation

Citing a PDF in APA style requires identifying several key components: the author(s), publication date, title of the document, and source information. Each element plays a pivotal role in creating a comprehensive and accurate citation that guides readers to the original source.


Begin by identifying the author or authors of the PDF. This information is usually located on the title page or the document’s header. List multiple authors in the order they appear, separating each name with a comma and using an ampersand before the last author’s name. 

Date of Publication

The publication date is typically found near the title or the end of the document. In APA style, the date format is year, month, and day, if available. For instance, “2023, April 15”. If only the year is available, that will suffice. 

Title of the PDF

The title of the PDF should be italicized, and in sentence case, only the first word and any proper nouns should be capitalized. For example, “Exploring the dynamics of human behavior.” 

Source Information

Source information includes the name of the publisher or the organization responsible for the document and, if available, the DOI (Digital Object Identifier). The DOI is a unique alphanumeric string assigned to a document that provides a permanent link to its location on the internet. 

Guide to Citing a PDF in APA Style

Creating an accurate APA citation for a PDF involves several steps: 

Formatting the Author(s) Correctly

List the author’s last name first, followed by a comma and the first initial(s). For example,

Smith, J. A.

Accurate Date Placement

Place the date in parentheses right after the author’s name. For example,

Smith, J. A. (2023).

Crafting the Perfect Title Citation

Italicize the title and use sentence case. For example,

Exploring the dynamics of human behavior.

Including Publisher and DOI Information

Finish with the publisher’s name and the DOI. For example,

Publisher Name.

Special Considerations for Citing Different Types of PDFs

Different types of PDFs require specific citation adjustments: 

Government Reports

Government reports often have a distinct structure and may list an organization as the author. Example:

National Institute of Health. (2020). Title of the report.

eBooks and Journals

For eBooks and journal articles available as PDFs, include the format and the retrieval information. Example:

Smith, J. A. (2023). Title of the book. eBook. Publisher Name.

Online PDFs

When certain information is missing, such as the author or date, note that it is not available. Example:

Title of the document. (n.d.). Retrieved from URL

Practical Examples of APA Citations for PDFs

Here are examples to illustrate different scenarios: 

Citing a Single Author PDF

Smith, J. A. (2023). Exploring the dynamics of human behavior. Publisher Name.

Multiple Authors

Smith, J. A., & Brown, B. C. (2023). Exploring the dynamics of human behavior. Publisher Name.

No Author?

Title of the document. (2023). Publisher Name.

Annotated PDFs

Smith, J. A. (2023). Exploring the dynamics of human behavior [Annotated version]. Publisher Name.

Tips and Tricks for Perfecting Your Citations

WriterBuddy Citation Generator can automate citations, saving time and ensuring accuracy. However, always review the generated citations for completeness. 


What is an APA PDF Citation and why is it important? 

An APA PDF Citation is a specific format for referencing PDF documents in APA style. It’s crucial because it ensures your sources are accurately credited, maintaining academic integrity and helping readers locate the original documents. 

How do I cite a PDF with no author in APA style?

If a PDF has no author, begin the citation with the title of the document, followed by the year of publication in parentheses. For example: Title of the document. (2023). Publisher Name. URL. 

What should I do if the publication date of the PDF is missing? 

When the publication date is not available, use “n.d.” (no date) in place of the year. For example: Author. (n.d.). Title of the document. Publisher Name. URL.


APA citations for PDFs follow the format of the original document type, not the PDF format itself. Include author, publication date, title, and source URL if available. Use the author’s last name and year for in-text citations. Create a full entry in your reference list.


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