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How to Cite a PDF

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You can’t avoid citing a PDF (Portable Document Format), especially if you’re using the internet for research. As it turns out, the “how to” when it comes to how to cite a PDF in your MLA 8, APA 6 or Chicago/Turabian style paper is easier than you think. Just break down your MLA PDF citation to the basic elements and number of authors, and then cite it like any other electronic document. Just in case you’re still confused, there are PDF citation examples below for each style as well.

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Citing a PDF in  MLA, APA & Chicago Style

Do you need to cite a Google PDF on your works cited, references or bibliography page? Never fear! A PDF is just a book or article in a PDF format. Setting up the citation in your works cited, references or bibliography for a PDF is as simple as citing an e-book or other electronic document. And, you already know the basics for that. 

No matter what, you’ll include these basic elements:

  • Author name(s)
  • Title of the work
  • Date of the work
  • Creator
  • URL or DOI
  • Medium (optional)

Use these basic elements for any citation style. If you need to know how to cite a PDF in MLA style, know that MLA 8th edition now uses a container system. This provides flexibility while using nine core elements. Depending on the topic of your paper, you may also need to know how to cite a PDF in APA style or Chicago style instead.

Look at the examples to see just how it is done. 

How to Cite a PDF in MLA 8 Example

An MLA PDF doesn’t require a PDF identifier. MLA 8 also no longer requires an access date for undated articles. You may include it, however, if you feel it is helpful for the reader. A typical MLA PDF citation looks like this:

Murphy, John A. How to Cite the Bible. Messiah College, 2011, https://www.messiah.edu/download/downloads/id/1647/bible_cite.pdf.

How to Cite a PDF in APA 6 Example

When you need to know how to cite a PDF in APA style, you will tag the PDF in square brackets. It is also important to make sure you do not place a period after the URL.

Doe, J. B. (2010). Disease and lifestyles [PDF File]. New England Journal of Medicine 14(8). Retrieved from www.nejm.org

How to Cite a PDF in Chicago/Turabian Example

When it comes to citing in Chicago or Turabian style, you should add the PDF identifier after the title of document or book, as shown below. Additionally, Chicago style requires you to add https://doi.org/ to DOIs.

Reilly, Dan. Relationships. PDF file. September 25, 2017. http://www.relationships.com/amazon.pdf.

Cite a PDF With Multiple Authors

Students citing a PDF in bibliography

Multiple authors? No problem. They will simply make the setup of your first section unique. How unique will depend on the number of authors. Look at the different examples in MLA, APA and Chicago style to make sure you’re formatting your authors correctly for your PDF citation entry. 

MLA PDF Citation Example

When it comes to handling multiple authors, how to cite a PDF in MLA is similar to Chicago and Turabian. MLA format uses the word “and” before the last author in a list. For three or more authors, you’ll add et al. at the end. Chicago/Turabian does the same.

  • Two authors: Charles, Carl A., and Barry Jackson.
  • Three or more authors: Charles, Carl A. et al.

APA Style PDF Citation Example

If there are seven or fewer authors, you include all the names with an ampersand (&) before the last author.

  • Doe, J. B. & Dina A. B.

For PDFs with more than seven authors, you will include no more than seven authors with an ellipsis before the final author.

  • Ann, A.B., Bam C. D., Verry, L. L., Harry, A. A., Stan, J. A., Thomas, S. T., . . . Roberts, L. H.

No Author PDF Citation Examples

Having an author, or even multiple authors, is one thing. Sometimes, though, there isn’t an author listed for informational texts. Rather than get worried, just follow your style guide. MLA, APA and Chicago style guides all dictate in this situation that the title becomes the first element.

Example – Cite a PDF in MLA Style:

How to Cite the Bible. Messiah College, 2011, https://www.messiah.edu/download/downloads/id/1647/bible_cite.pdf.

Example – Cite a PDF in APA Style:

Disease and lifestyles [PDF File]. (2010). New England Journal of Medicine 14(8). Retrieved from www.nejm.org.

Example – Cite a PDF in Chicago Style:

Relationships. PDF file. September 25, 2017. www.relationships.com/amazon.pdf.

Perfect PDFs

Citing PDFs in MLA, APA and Chicago can seem hard at first. But, with the right tools, you can cite these digital documents perfectly. Have fun perfecting your PDF citation of that book or article!

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