How to Cite a PDF Using APA Style - Easy Methods

February 13, 20232.4K views

Welcome to our guide about How to Cite a PDF Using APA Style. A portable document file (PDF) is a universally accepted document format that may contain various types of content and preserve formatting, text and graphics. Knowing how to cite PDFs using APA Style can be confusing. In this article, we'll explain the main rules of citing PDF in the American Psychological Association (APA) citation style.

While writing a research paper, you might be concerned about using PDF as the source file. In APA style, how to cite the PDF entirely depends on its type, whether it's freely available online or was sent to you personally and thus not available publicly. We can use only in-text citations for PDF files that are not available publically. These types of files don't follow Reference List entry citations.

Basic Rule to Cite a PDF Using APA Style

Citing a PDF in a paper may seem tricky, but the process becomes straightforward once you understand the basic rules. In PDF citations based on the 7th edition (The Most Recent) of APA format requests that these citations follow the same rule as their source but add a URL at the end. It means if PDF is a Book, cite it as a book + PDF's URL and so on. The main reference entries include the author's name, publication date, title and publisher name.

General APA Reference List Entry Formula

When PDF you're going to cite is freely available on the web, then follow the below pattern:Start the reference list entry with the author's name.Provide the date when the file was published or created.Add document title with document type mentioned.In the end, add the website name and the document's URL.In general, you can follow the below formula to cite an online PDF:

Author's Last Name, First name, initials. (Year/ date of publication). Document title (PDF). Website name (if different from the author). URL

In APA reference list entry citations, titles use the sentence case except for magazines, journals, newspapers and other such periodicals.

General In-text Citation Formula

Suppose the PDF you're going to cite is not publically available, such as lecture notes or course documents. In that case, you can place a parenthetical citation at the end of any sentence you quote from the concerned PDF. For this only have to provide the name of the author followed by a comma and then add the date when PDF was sent in month-day-year format.In APA format, PDF in-text citations should follow this formula:

(Author's last name, publication date)

Different Scenarios for In-Text Citation

When PDF is not publicly available, you can cite it as personal communication.Your in-text citation follows APA guidelines if the PDF is publically available and you've created a Reference List entry.You can use the author's name in the paper's text to enhance the readability. If you've used the author's name in the text, place the year in parentheses immediately after the author's name.If you quote a text directly from the source, add a page number after the publication date of your citation. For this purpose, place the p. abbreviation for single page and pp. for page range, just after the year.

How to cite a single author PDF

If the source has an individual author, cite their name first. Please see the format below.

Lastname, F. M. (Year, Month Date). Title of page. Site name. URL

The reference will look like this.

Parker, A. (2023, April 10). How to cite APA. 

How to cite a PDF with multiple authors

In APA 7, you must include all authors' last names and initials, up to a maximum of 20, in your bibliography. On the other hand, in APA 6, you only need to list the last names of up to 7 authors. In the list of authors, separate their names with commas and use an ampersand (&) before the last name of the final author.

How to cite a PDF with no author in APA format

When posting a PDF online, there are more relaxed regulations than those for publishing a formal manuscript. Consequently, you may come across PDF documents that lack an identifiable author. To cite a PDF with no author in APA format, you can follow this formula:

Adhering to APA’s no-author format, PDF in-text citations should use the document’s title in place of the author’s name and the publication year. 

(how to cite a PDF in APA, 2023)

How to cite a PDF with no date

If the date is unknown, the citation will look like this.

Author. (No Date). Title (edition) [PDF file]. Place of Publication: Publisher. Retrieved from or doi:0000000/000000000000 or

APA In-Text Citation of a PDF with author and date

A Work by One Author

The APA manual suggests using the author-date citation format for in-text citations. According to this format, any citation within the text should be followed by a corresponding entry in the reference list.

When providing an in-text citation, include the author's last name but exclude suffixes like "Jr.".

As Wilson (2023) mentions...

(Wilson, 2023)

A work by two Authors

When citing the work, you have two options: Mention both authors' names in the signal phrase or include them in parentheses.

Use the word "and" in the text to connect the authors' names. However, when using parentheses, use the ampersand symbol "&" instead of the word "and".

Research by Wilson and Grace (2023) supports...

(Wilson & Grace, 2023 )

APA In-Text Citation of a PDF without author and date

In cases where neither the author nor the date is provided, you can utilize the title in your signal phrase or include the first few words of the title within parentheses. To denote the absence of a date, employ the abbreviation "n.d." (which stands for "no date").

("Citing PDF APA," n.d.).

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Algirdas Jasaitis


1. How to cite a PDF in the text with an unknown author and date?

When the author's name is unavailable, include the first few words of the work's title within the in-text citation. For articles, web pages, or book chapters, enclose the title in double quotation marks. Italicize the titles of periodicals, books, and reports.

If the publication date is unknown, use "n.d." instead. For instance, (Johnson, n.d.).

2. How to cite a PDF in the text with an organization as the author?

When citing a book with an organization as the author, fully spell out the organization's name in the reference list.

3. How to cite a PDF in the text with two or more pdf in the same parentheses?

If you wish to cite multiple sources within a single in-text citation, follow the standard format for each citation and separate them with a semi-colon. 

Arrange the sources in alphabetical order based on the author's last name or the first word used from the title (if there is no author), maintaining the same order they would appear in the References List.

Master APA Style Citations: Try WPS Office for Seamless Referencing

Properly citing a PDF document in APA style is essential for academic integrity and ensuring accurate references. Throughout this article, we have studied how to cite a PDF in APA style, including the specific requirements for author names and the formatting differences between APA 7 and APA 6.

Citing PDFs without authors can pose a challenge. Still, by following the provided formula, you can maintain consistency in your references. 

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15 years of office industry experience, tech lover and copywriter. Follow me for product reviews, comparisons, and recommendations for new apps and software.