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Citing a dictionary is an academic exercise that students must master by considering the APA 7th edition format. Like a citation of any other source of information, an APA dictionary citation should capture several features. Basically, these elements include the word whose meaning is the title of a publisher or organization or individual names, the year of the dictionary’s publication, the word being sought, the source’s name, and the link to the publisher or URL/DOI number. Moroever, the decision on whether to indicate the publisher or the URL depends on the version the writer uses between the print and online versions. In turn, this guide includes basic principles of organizing in-text citations and footnotes for such sources.

General Features of Citing a Dictionary in APA 7

Academic writing rules require students to adhere to specific standards when writing scholarly texts, such as essays, theses, and dissertations. Ideally, students rely on different sources to strengthen their claims, opinions, or arguments. Occasionally, writers may have to cite a dictionary in APA 7 to expound on a concept or an idea. In such cases, authors need to cite a dictionary in APA 7 that they have used. By definition, a dictionary is a reservoir of knowledge in online or printed form that primarily focuses on words and their meanings or connotations. Like any other citation, an APA citation indicates that students have relied on another, authoritative source, to develop clarity in their writing. As such, an APA dictionary citation gives text credibility as an academic text.

How to cite a dictionary in APA

Printed and Online Dictionary

Generally, writers rely on two types of dictionaries to define words, such as printed and online sources. Basically, the former is limited in scope (has a maximum of 1,000 pages), while the latter’s range depends on the hardware resource in use. In this case, when using printed dictionaries, writers need only to type the word they seek meaning to and immediately gets an answer. However, when using online versions, they must look up the word in the dictionary alphabetically. As such, the online version offers speed and convenience.

Rules on How to Cite a Dictionary in APA 7

APA citation format rules differ from paper to paper. Basically, they all depend on what writers are citing and the paper format they are using. In principle, these rules are different in APA, MLA, Harvard, and Chicago/Turabian formats. When citing a dictionary in the APA format, students should pay attention to the features of the citation: the organization or individual, the year of publication, the word they are citing, the name of the dictionary, and the link of the publisher or URL/DOI number. Whether to indicate the publisher or the URL depends on the version that writers use: printed or online sources.

1. Citing an Organization or an Individual

APA reference entries always start with indicating titles of institutions or individuals. Basically, writers need to mention authors of the publication with words needed to be cited.

2. The Year of Publication

When citing sources to strengthen their claims and arguments, writers indicate the source’s publication year. In the APA dictionary citation, this feature comes second after the title of the institution or individual. Notably, the publication year is only applicable in the print dictionary and not the online dictionary. The reason is that the online dictionary undergoes regular updates, and it would be a challenge to indicate when exactly it was published.

3. Citing the Word

As indicated, the primary use of a dictionary is to give a writer meaning or definition to words. As such, the word that students look up in the dictionary is the central focus and the first feature in the APA dictionary citation. In a printed source, this word is placed alphabetically, and what writers need to do is to flip pages to the exact place of words. In contrast, when using an online source, writers need only to type the word to find its meaning.

4. Publisher

The third feature in citing a dictionary in APA 7 is the name of the dictionary. Like any other publication, dictionaries have names, including Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and The Chambers Dictionary. Basically, there are different versions of dictionaries, besides printed and online dictionaries. Unlike publishers of books and novels, publishers of dictionaries are not many. Since the online platform is the most used by students who seek information on diverse topics, these dictionaries have created an online presence. As such, a writer can find the meaning of a word by checking the printed or online version in whatever sources.

5. The Link of the Publisher or URL/DOI Number

Generally, writers can access documents in their print form or digital form. For the former, a key characteristic is the name of the publisher, which lacks in the latter. Basically, students can access most digital documents through the URL address or DOI number. When it comes to dictionaries, only printed ones have publishers, usually indicated in the first pages. In turn, online dictionaries are only accessed through the URL and have no named publishers. Notably, the name of the publisher includes their location (city and state or country).

Citing Printed vs. Online Dictionaries in APA 7

One of the significant differences between printed and online sources is that the former has an author and a publication date, while the latter lacks both. As indicated, there is usually no publication date for online dictionaries because of continuous updates. Where a date there is no specific date, as is the case with online versions, writers should use the initials “n.d.” in place of the publication date.

APA In-Text Citation for a Dictionary

Besides reference citations, a writer should indicate in-text citations in their essay or research papers. Basically, the former appears at the end of the document as a separate page. In turn, the latter appears in the body paragraphs. Consequently, while reference entries indicate all the features described above (authors, word, publication date, name of the dictionary, and the URL link or DOI number), in-text citations show only the author (organization, institution, or individual) and the publication year or n.d. Notably, writers should not enclose authors within double quotation marks.

Citation Scheme for a Dictionary in APA 7

Like any other form of citation, a dictionary citation has a scheme or format. Based on the features discussed in the preceding section, this scheme of citing a dictionary in APA 7 appears of as follows for printed and online sources:

1. APA Citation Scheme for a Printed Dictionary/Encyclopedia/etc.:

The Title of Organization/Institution or The Names of Individual Authors. Year of publication. Word. In Name of the dictionary (edition). Place: Publisher.

An example of this citation for an organization or institution is:

Clarendon Press. (1991). Contradiction. In The Oxford Compact English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Or an example of this citation for a publication with atuhors is:

Thompson, D. F., & ‎Soanes, C. (1996). Contradiction. In The Oxford Modern English Dictionary. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Check out how to cite a dictionary in APA 8 as an in-text citation and a footnote:

(Clarendon Press, 1991) or (Thompson and ‎Soanes, 1996)

2. APA Citation Scheme for an Online Dictionary/Encyclopedia/Teasurus/etc.:

The Title of Organization/Institution or The Names of Individual Authors. Year of publication. Word. In Name of the dictionary (edition). Retrieved from the URL link or DOI.

An example of this citation is:

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Superstition. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/superstition

The in-text citation and footnote would read:

(Merriam-Webster, n.d.)

Also, see how to cite a dictionary in MLA.

Summing on How to Cite a Dictionary in APA 7

Citing a dictionary in APA 7 is one of the exercises that writers of scholarly articles, including essays, theses, and dissertations, undertake. Basically, various types of sources in the market have both printed and online source versions, and students must cite each version appropriately. As a result, writers who cite a dictionary in APA to indicate the meaning or definition of a word should master the following tips:

  • Identify titles of publishers – organizations, individuals, or other institutions.
  • Find the year when it is published or use n.d.
  • Cite the word.
  • Identify the name of the dictionary.
  • Mention the publisher for printed and online dictionaries in italics.
  • Note the URL link or DOI number.

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