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PSY 218 - Health Psychology (Infanti): APA References: Ordering them

How to order your list of references in APA style, 7th edition

Your list of references needs to be properly ordered. 

  • Usually, this is easy to do: simply alphabetize by the first (significant) word of each reference. 
  • However, when two references begin with the same word, special rules apply. 
  • Follow the three steps below.


1. Alphabetize your references by the first word (letter by letter). Then pause.


The first word means one of these things:

  • The surname of the first author.                                Adelson, M. M.
  • The first word of a corporate author*              The Center for Civil Dialogue
  • If no author is given, the first word of the title*    Christmas Carol.

*Ignore the words AAn, or Thewhen they begin a reference. Alphabetize by the next word.

  • What if an author's surname is two words?    Treat it as one word (as if the spaces and punctuation are removed).
    • Garcia Chavez, P.       Think of it as:            Garciachavez, P.
    • Goodrich-Potter, A.   Think of it as:      Goodrichpotter, A
    • St. John, T. G.           Think of it as:            Stjohn, T. G.
  • What about the following situation? 
    • Brown, G. (2017)
    • Brownmiller, A. (2003)                             The Longest word goes Last!
  • What about references that begin with a number     Alphabetize the number as if it is spelled out in words.
    • Russell, A. O.
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey               2001 = Two thousand and one


2. Stop and check: do any of the references begin with the same word?  (Ignore AAn, or The)


  • If none of the first words match. . . congratulations! Your list is properly ordered.

  • If some first words do match. . . then you have more work to do. Find an appropriate tie-breaker below.


3. Tie-breakers


  • The following rules apply only when two references begin with the same word. Otherwise, ignore them!
  • Once you have "broken a tie," stop. For example, don't try to put references in order by date, unless the rules tell you to.


In general, to break a tie, alphabetize by the 2nd element. It will will be one of these things:

  • An author's first initial
  FordB. K. (2017). Worker affection for robot work partners. 
  • The next word* in a corporate author    
  Ford Motor Company. (2017). Jobs for robot welders. 
  • The next word* in a title.

"Ford: The next part is the hardest." (2018, May 2).  

*Alphabetize  A, An, or The like any other word, except when it begins a title or corporate name. (In that case, ignore it, and skip to the next word.)


In general, if you still need to break a tie, apply the rules above to the third element, etc.


Special tie-breakers for Author names.

Surnames match, but the initials don't?     Compare the 1st initials. If they match, compare the 2nd initials.
  • JobsonB. T. (2015)
  • Jobson, C. (2000).

If your paper includes sources like those above, include the initials in your in-text citations:       

(B. T. Jobson, 2015)Otherwise, the reader won't know which Jobson you mean.

Authors match exactly?    Order them by year. The Latest year goes Last!
  • Jobson, J. (2012). 
  • Jobson. J. (2018).                     The Latest year goes Last!


  • Scorsese, M. (Ed). (2006).
  • Scorsese, M. (Director). (2020).        Ignore roles (like Ed. or Director). Order by date.


  • Potts, T. B., & Kelvin, J. (2008).     In this case, the entire author string matches.
  • Potts, T. B., & Kelvin, J. (2011).          The Latest year goes Last!


  • Mitchell, A. (n.d.).
  • Mitchell, A. (2018).
  • Mitchell, A. (in press).               For non-numerical dates, use this order.
Part of the author-string matches?
  • Jobson, J. (2001).
  • Jobson, J.,Rios, A. (2000).              The Longer author string goes Last!
First authors match, but second ones don't?     Order by the surnames of the 2nd authors.
  • Jobson, J., & Betts, R. T. (2002).
  • Jobson, J., & Carrasco, A. (2001).
Second authors' surnames also match?     Skip the initials. Order the surnames of the 3rd authors, etc.
  • Jobson, J., Bellocchio, T. J.  & Apple, R. R. (2001)
  • Jobson, J., Bellocchio, A. C., & Xiao, W. -K. (2003).


Authors match exactly and the YEARS also match?    [This is rare.]
Step 1: Order them by the first significant word in the title. (Continue with the next word, etc., if needed.)
  • Jobson, J. (1999). A quantitative method revisited.
  • Jobson. J. (1999). Systems of observation.
Step 2: Once you alphabetize by title, add letters to the dates, as follows:
  • Jobson, J. (1999a). A quantitative method revisited.
  • Jobson. J. (1999b). Systems of observation.
When you cite these works, use the revised year format: (Jobson, 1999b).