8.9 – What is a Reference List Citation?

Learning Objective

  • Identify the key elements of a reference list

Let’s begin by discussing what a reference list is. A reference list is an alphabetized list located on a separate page at the end of your paper that lists all the reference citations for the sources used in your paper to support your research.

Each reference citation includes key elements referred to as the Four W’s:

The 4 W’s:

  • WHO: The author(s) or creator(s) of the work
  • WHEN: The date of publication of the work (year, month & day if needed)
  • WHAT: The title of the article, webpage, or other work
  • WHERE: The source location of the work (journal or newspaper name, book name, website name, etc)

Asking these 4 questions helps identify the key elements needed for a reference list citation. See media attributions at end of page for image licensing information.

Watch APA references on YouTube (10 mins)

Video source: Georgian College Academic Success. (2022, August 19). APA references [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIgCu1O4UE0

You’re not expected to memorize APA guidelines. Instead, use available resources (APA Quickguide and this tutorial) to help guide you. Over time you will become more comfortable with creating citations yourself.


Using APA resources to help create a reference citation is like using a recipe. The ingredients are the key pieces of information about a source (4Ws). If you’re missing an ingredient, leave it out or substitute it.

Following a recipe’s directions is like following a citation example. If you follow the directions and add the ingredients at the right point, then your recipe (i.e. your citation) will turn out!

Attribution & References

This chapter is adapted from “What is a Reference List Citation?” In APA Style Citation Tutorial by Sarah Adams and Debbie Feisst, University of Alberta Library, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International License / Minor updates for accessibility, CC license notes.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

8.9 - What is a Reference List Citation? Copyright © 2022 by Jen Booth, Emily Cramer & Amanda Quibell, Georgian College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book