When writing a research essay, the American Psychological Association (APA) style will require you to cite sources in two ways. The entry in the reference list at the end of the essay will provide the complete publication information that will allow readers to find the source and read it on their own. A parenthetical citation in the text will direct the reader to the full entry in the reference list. The APA style does not have a distinctive category for government publications. If you use a government website as a source, you will generally use the same format that you would use for any other website. However, if you are citing a report or brochure available on the website, the format will have to be a little different.
Method 1 of 2: Entry for reference list
Step 1. Start with the author of the Government
Even if the author is listed as a person (for a government document), the government agency will be considered the author of the report. Use the full name of the agency, not its abbreviation. For example, write "Internal Revenue Service" instead of IRS. Put a period at the end of the agency name.
For example: National Cancer Institute
While government agencies often list a hierarchy of departments, just include the name of the most specific responsible agency. For example, you should put "National Cancer Institute" in place of "US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute."
Step 2. Include the year of publication in parentheses
Leave a blank space after the period at the end of the agency name, and include the year of publication of the document. This date should be on the document. Don't use the copyright date for the website in general. Place a period outside the closing parenthesis.
For example: National Cancer Institute. (2016)
Step 3. Include the title of the document in italics
After the year of publication, write the full title of the document with a capital letter in the first word and any proper nouns. If there is a subtitle, put a colon after the title and capitalize it on any proper nouns.
For example: National Cancer Institute. (2016). Taking part in research studies on cancer treatment
Step 4. Identify the type of document
If it is a report, it will usually have a record or number. It could also be called a publication or document number. Write this information in parentheses after the title, in the same format as in the report. If the document is a brochure, just put the word “Brochure” in square brackets. Put a period at the end, outside the closing sign.
- Report example: National Cancer Institute. (2016). As part of Cancer Treatment Research Studies (Publication # 16-6249).
- Sample brochure: United States Department of the Interior. (2012). Snakes of the Everglades [Brochure].
Step 5. Finish with the URL where you can find the document
Type in the words "Obtained from" and copy the full direct URL of the document. Don't put a period at the end of the URL. In the case of documents uploaded to a government website, you will not have to include the date on which you accessed them.
- Report example: National Cancer Institute. (2016). As part of Cancer Treatment Research Studies (Publication # 16-6249). Retrieved from
- Sample brochure: United States Department of the Interior. (2012). Snakes of the Everglades [Brochure]. Retrieved from
Method 2 of 2: In-Text Citation
Step 1. Put the name of the author of the Government first
At the end of any sentence in which you paraphrase or quote the government document, include a quotation in parentheses within the closing sign of the sentence. It begins with the name of the agency as it appears in the reference list entry. Put a comma after the agency name.
For example: (United States Department of the Interior,
the APA style allows you to use the abbreviated version of the government author in the text if you are going to mention the agency frequently. In this case, you can also use the abbreviation in the parenthetical citation.
Step 2. Include the year of publication of the document
After the agency name, include the year the document was published. This will end the parenthetical quote if you are citing a paraphrased text. Place a period outside the closing parenthesis.
(United States Department of the Interior, 2012)
Step 3. Include the page or paragraph number for direct citations
If you are citing a government document uploaded to a government website, it will usually have page numbers. Otherwise, use paragraph or section numbers to tell the reader where the specific quote appears.
For example, you could write: Invasive Burmese pythons are responsible for declining populations of small mammals, as small mammals “have been frequently found in the stomach of pythons” trapped in and around the Everglades (Department of the United States Interior, 2012, para. 3)
Step 4. Omit the citations in parentheses if the information is included in the text
A separate quotation in parentheses will not be necessary if you include the information in the body of your essay text. By using these clue words instead of the parenthetical quotes, you can make your essay easier to read.
- For example, you could write, "A 2012 study by the United States Department of the Interior indicated that the raccoon population in the southernmost region of Everglades National Park has decreased by 99.3% since 1997."
- If you include the agency name in the text, put the year of publication in parentheses right after it. For example, you could write, “According to the United States Department of the Interior (2012), invasive Burmese pythons have completely (or almost entirely) eradicated many native mammal species, such as swamp rabbits and tail rabbits. of cotton, raccoons, and foxes”.