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How to Cite a TV Show in APA Style

Television shows are increasingly used as sources in academic writing. Citing TV shows in APA style requires specific elements: writer’s name, director’s name, episode title, series title, production company, and release year. These details apply to both in-text citations and reference list entries. Proper citation of TV shows ensures credit to creators and maintains academic integrity when referencing audiovisual content in research papers.

Basic Principles of Citing TV Shows in APA

Understanding the framework of APA citation for TV shows is fundamental for anyone engaged in writing within the social sciences. Each component of the citation serves a specific purpose, contributing to the reader’s ability to locate and verify the sourced material. 

Elements of a Citation

A typical APA citation for TV shows requires meticulous attention to detail. It must include the title of the episode, the title of the series, the principal director’s name, production company, and the year of broadcast. Each element is a breadcrumb that leads the reader to the original source. 

In-text vs. Reference List Citations

Distinguishing between in-text and reference list citations is pivotal. In-text citations, usually parenthetical, briefly identify the source within the text of the essay and are less detailed, often only including the last name of the creator and the year of publication. Reference list citations, on the other hand, provide full details about the source, enabling readers to locate the material independently. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Citing a Single TV Show Episode

Mastering the citation of a single TV show episode can greatly enhance the accuracy of academic writing. 

Example Citation

Consider an episode titled “The Strategy” from the series “Mad Men,” directed by Phil Abraham and aired in 2009:

(Abraham, 2009, “The Strategy”) 

Detailed Explanation

To cite this episode, one must mention the director’s name followed by the year of the episode’s broadcast in parenthesis, and then the title of the episode in quotation marks. This format not only adheres to APA guidelines but also directs the reader precisely to the cited work. 

How to Cite an Entire TV Series

Citing an entire TV series involves a broader approach as compared to a single episode. 

Structuring the Citation

For an entire series, the citation must encompass the series title, the creator’s name, the production company, and the range of years during which the show was broadcast. This provides a holistic view of the work being cited and respects the comprehensive nature of television productions. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Common pitfalls in citing TV shows include incorrect order of details, forgetting to include the year of broadcast, and misidentifying the director or creator. Awareness and avoidance of these errors are crucial in maintaining the scholarly integrity of the document. 

Special Scenarios in TV Show Citations

Multiple Directors or Writers

When episodes feature multiple directors or writers, list them in the order they appear on the screen, using an ampersand (&) to connect the last two names in the sequence. This reflects both accuracy and respect for the collaborative nature of television production. 

Citing a TV Show with No Identified Director

In cases where a director is not credited, one might instead cite the executive producer or not specify a director, depending on the focus of the reference and available information. 

Using Citation Tools and Resources

You can use the WriterBuddy APA TV Show Citation Generator tool to ensure accurate citations are essential for efficient and error-free writing. 


Can I cite a TV show if the episode title is not officially given?

Absolutely! If an episode lacks an official title, you may use a brief description of the episode enclosed in square brackets. For example, [Episode on environmental sustainability]. Remember to include all other necessary citation details like director and air date.

How do I handle citations for a TV series with episodes directed by different directors?

In such cases, it’s important to cite the specific episode and its director. Each episode citation should reflect the director responsible for that installment, ensuring that each individual’s contributions are accurately acknowledged.

What should I do if the airing year of the TV show is different from the production year?

When citing a TV show, always use the year it was first broadcasted on television. This helps the reader locate the source effectively, even if the production year differs.

Is it acceptable to use citation generators for submitting academic papers?

While citation generators, like WriterBuddy, are a fantastic tool for ensuring accuracy and saving time, it’s crucial to review each citation for adherence to APA guidelines. Automated tools can streamline the process, but a final manual check can safeguard against possible errors.


Accurate citation of TV shows in APA format is crucial for academic credibility. The process involves including writer and director information, episode and series details, production information, and release date. Following these guidelines helps properly attribute audiovisual content and provides readers with necessary information to locate the original source.


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