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APA Citation Style Guide: Step 5- Retrieval Info

This APA Citation Style Guide provides practical advice for citing sources, following the guidelines set forth in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition).

How to Use This Guide

What You Will Find Here

This page provides a breakdown on a specific component of a Reference list citation.  You can find the very basics and more advanced details that help you construct your citations to fit the needs of the source you are citing.

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If you are looking for full examples of Reference list citations, please see the Reference Examples guide.

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Retrieval Info Basics

Citations of electronic items found online require Retrieval Info to assist the readers in finding the item themselves.  The only time you need to include retrieval information for print items is if the item has a DOI. Wondering what a DOI is?  Check here for more details.  Retrieval Info is the last component of a citation.

Formatting Retrieval Info:

  • If you have a DOI, simply list it after the Publication Info. 
  • If you do not have a DOI, provide the homepage of where the reader can find the item. 
  • Follow the steps below for guidance and for examples.  

APA Manual pp. 187-192, Sections 6.31 & 6.32

Advanced

When citing an item you found electronically, retrieval information should be listed- as available- in the following order:

1.) DOI

If you have a digital object identifier (DOI) then you are golden.  No further retrieval information is needed if you have a DOI. 

2.) Periodical or Website Homepage URL

If the item you are citing does not have a DOI, then you should provide a homepage URL.  What does that mean?
  1. If you retrieved an article from a subscription database (like a library database), then you must do a simple google search to find the publisher's homepage for that item.  Many journal publishers will have a simple homepage where you can find basic information about the journal and where articles can be purchased.  Be wary of journal homepages from old publishers; you want the latest publisher's homepage.  If you have no DOI but do have the journal homepage, then you are finished with the retrieval information portion of the citation. Example: Retrieved from http://www.wiley.com/bw/journal.asp?ref=0021-9029
  2. If you retrieved the item from the internet, you simply provide the homepage URL of the website where the item was found, but there is one condition.  Is the website easily searchable?  You must determine if the website is easily searchable before you include the homepage URL.  Try searching the site for the author or title of the item you are citing.  Can you find it?  If there is no DOI and the website is easily searchable, then you include only the website homepage URL.  You are then finished with the retrieval information portion of the citation.  Example: Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/

3.) Database Information or Exact URL

If the item you are citing does not have a DOI, a publisher's homepage, or an easily searchable website, then you include either database information or an exact URL to the item online.
  1. If you are unable to find the journal or periodical homepage online and you retrieved the item from a subscription database (like a library database), then you can list the database in the retrieval information portion of the citation.  When you list the database, include the "abstract identifier" or accession number.  Most databases will provide a unique number for each item in the database.  Simply include this number after stating the database name.  Example: Retrieved from Health Reference Center-Academic database. (Accession No. A149657222). 
  2. If you retrieved the item from a website that is not easily searchable, include the exact URL to the item as the retrieval information portion of the citation.  Example: Retrieved from http://www.ericdigests.org/pre-9211/critical.htm