Learn and Master Bibliographies, Works Cited, and References

Citing a Reference Book in APA


One frequently asked question by students is how to property cite a reference book such as a dictionary or encyclopedia in APA style. Reference books are useful to supplement your research but use them as a secondary source to help you find primary sources to back up your thesis.

Citing a Reference Book in APA

Creating an APA Citation

Creating a reference book citation follows the APA book format. Typically, there are editors rather than authors, so place the editor (s) name first.

VandenBos, G.R. (Ed.). (2007). APA dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC. American Psychological Association.


For reference books that have been translated into English, follow the same format but place the translation of its title in brackets, don’t italicize the translated title.


Real Academia Espanola. (2005). Diccionario Panhispanico de dedas [Panhispanic Dictionary of Doubts] (22nd ed.). Mardrid, Spain: Author.


If you’re citing an online reference work, follow the same format and add the url at the end. Remember don’t put a period after the url.


Rosen, G. (2018).  Abstract objects. In E.N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Winter 2018 ed.).  Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2018/entries/abstract-objects


To cite a definition in an online dictionary in APA format, follow this example:

Reference. (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary (11 ed.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reference


Note: Include the edition number for an online reference book if the print edition is referred.

There are many interesting reference books available for your use. It’s definitely worth your time to find sources using these materials. Follow your teacher’s instructions so you will know how many secondary sources you can use in your school paper.

About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico. As Editor-in-Chief of SJSU School of Information SRJ. Adrienne guided the editorial team through the scholarly journal’s double-blind, peer reviewed process to provide quality, cited articles to library information and science researchers. Her passion for digital inclusion and information literacy led her to volunteer as a digital training team member of Librarians Without Borders. Adrienne has over 25 years of experience as a freelance writer and editor.

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