Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

PSY 289 - Downtown - Psychology Research Methods: APA References: Ordering them

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

It is essential to have a properly ordered list of references.

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. 


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: When references have Author names that match (at least partially)

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

When you cite sources that share a surname, but have different initials, 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).