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How to Alphabetize Your APA Reference List

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You’ve finished your paper and have your references organized and ready to place into your Reference List. You know it needs to be in alphabetical order so that’s pretty easy…a, b, c….  Or is it? But wait! You have three separate works written by the same author and two articles written by people with the same last name, different first names. Okay, so this isn’t as easy as it seems at first glance.

Take a deep breath and follow the basic ‘letter by letter’ alphabetizing format.

Student alphabetizing APA Reference List

Surname

The author’s surname is first, followed by his/her initials.

Ex:
Ring, A. A
Ring, J.

Alphabetize letter by letter.

Ex:
Ring, J.
Ringing, A.

*nothing precedes something. Place Ring before Ringing.

This surname/given name format is commonly used in the U.S.; however, in other countries, it may be different. If you don’t know how a particular author’s name should be formatted, look for other publications or resources, such as the author’s web page to figure it out.

Authors with the same surname, different first names:

Ex.
Lopez, G.
Lopez, J.

*Similarly, Lopes precedes Lopez.

Several works by the same author:

It’s common to have several works cited by the same author, who may be an expert in his/her field. When that happens, place them in order by publication date.

Ex:
Hayman, D. (2001).
Hayman, D (2005).

Single author works precede multiple author works of the same year.

Ex:
Hayman, D (2001).
Hayman, D, Forrest, R. (2001).

Prefixes

If the prefix is commonly part of a surname, use it for alphabetizing.

Ex:  De Vries

Mc & Mac

Using the letter by letter alphabetization system, Mac comes before Mc.

Ex:
MacDonald, R.
McDonald, A. J.

Apostrophes 

Ignore apostrophes, spaces and capitals when you are organizing your APA reference list.

Ex:  Damner, J. comes before D’Arcy, A.

Group authors

Organizations and government agencies are alphabetized by the organization or agency’s title spelled out in full.

Ex:
American Medical Association (not AMA)
Central Intelligence Agency (not CIA)

The parent body precedes the department:

Ex:  University of New Mexico, Department of Anthropology

No author

If there is no author, move the title to the author position and alphabetize it by the first significant word in the title.

Ex:
Coating, M.
Code of Warfare, The

If a work is signed by Anonymous, then spell it out and alphabetize it as though it was real name.

Ex:
Agry, P.
Anonymous
Avery, E.

Legal cases

Alphabetize by the case name.   Ex:  Lessard v. Santos.  Lessard v. Schmidt

Ex.
Damner, J.
Lessard v. Santos
Lessard v. Schmidt
Lopez, G.

Now you have a good idea of how to alphabetize your APA Reference List. Go ahead and give it a try. Just remember to follow the basic letter by letter system and you’ll do great.

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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