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How to Cite an Encyclopedia in APA 7: The Main Rules With Examples

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Written by
Dr. Isabel Larsen
  • Icon Calendar 16 May 2024
  • Icon Page 1331 words
  • Icon Clock 7 min read

Encyclopedias are useful tools in academic research. In particular, students may include encyclopedias as academic sources when they write essays or research papers in the APA format. Basically, this guide on how to cite an encyclopedia in APA 7 begins with an extensive definition of this type of source and describes its main types. Then, the manual deconstructs the structure of an encyclopedia into the seven core elements: author, date, the title of the entry, editors, title of the encyclopedia, publisher, and universal resource locator (URL) or digital object identifier (DOI). Moreover, the guide discusses the author-date in-text citation/footnote format and provides schemes for the APA citation of online and print encyclopedias.

General Guidelines for Citing Encyclopedias in APA 7

An encyclopedia is a reference work that attempts to compile most of the general knowledge concerning a specific discipline. In this definition, general knowledge refers to concepts that are factual or lines of thought that have a common consensus among scholars. Also, it acts as the starting point of discourse on a particular issue. Mostly, encyclopedias employ a systematic arrangement of entries or topics, which relies on criteria that reflects the editors’ conceptualization of the hierarchy of knowledge within a discipline. Based on the content arrangement criterion, there are two main types of encyclopedia: general education and dictionaries. Firstly, general education encyclopedias organize topics in ‘natural’ hierarchies, for example, a timeline arrangement of a history encyclopedia. In turn, encyclopedic dictionaries employ an alphabet-based arrangement of entries. Moreover, encyclopedias may exist in digital or print formats.

How to cite an encyclopedia in APA

Elements of Reference Entries for Citing an Encyclopedia in APA 7

1. Author

Typically, the author’s name is the first element for citing an encyclopedia in APA 7. Basically, the author’s last name appears first, and abbreviations of the author’s other names follow. In this case, each letter that represents an abbreviated name has a period. Also, a single space creates a distinction between the author’s other names, while a comma separates the surname from the other names.

2. Date

Writers may present the date element in four different forms:

  • Year only
  • Year, month
  • Year, month, date
  • Year, season
  • Range of years

The abbreviation for no date, “n.d.,” replaces the year in cases where there is no specific publication date for citing an encyclopedia in APA 7. For example, this situation may occur because of continuous updating or revising of entry content within short time intervals. In turn, if “n.d.” occupies the date element, students must include a retrieval date.

3. Title of the Entry

The entry’s title refers to the topic that authors assign to the content they contribute to the encyclopedia. In this case, italicization, bolding, and underlining of the title are not formatting requirements for citing the title of the encyclopedia in APA 7. Instead, writers use a sentence case styling only. If the names of authors and editors are not available, this part becomes the first element of the reference entry.

4. Editors

In many instances, the compilation of an encyclopedia depends on a significant number of contributors, which makes the presence of an editor crucial to the development process. For example, the names of editors appear in the traditional arrangement. However, only the surname maintains its full form, while the first and other names undergo an abbreviation. Also, the word “In” precedes the editors’ names, and the role abbreviation “Eds.” appears in parentheses immediately after the editors’ names.

5. Title of Encyclopaedia

The title of the encyclopedia precedes the editors’ names in the reference list entry. For example, it has two primary sub-elements: title and version. In this case, writers italicize the name of the title, which is a replica of the title of the encyclopedia, except for a sentence case styling. Moreover, the version sub-element contains the edition, volume, and page range details in parentheses. Nonetheless, the page range and volume are not present in the reference list entry for citing an online encyclopedia in APA 7.

6. Publisher

Students should format the publisher’s name in the title case. Basically, the publishing company’s capitalization preferences overrule standard title case capitalization rules. In this case, the titles of publishers are the last element for citations of a print encyclopedia in APA 7. Conversely, the publisher’s name is not an element of reference list entries for online encyclopedias.


A URL or DOI is the final element for citing an online encyclopedia in APA as a reference entry. Basically, this element is not present in the reference entry of a print encyclopedia. For example, it is common practice to provide a DOI when it is available because it is much more stable than a URL. In turn, the transfer protocol section, “https://,” is a shared feature of the URL and DOI.

APA In-Text Citation/Footnote for Encyclopedias

In-text citations for encyclopedias conform to the standard APA author-date in-text citation format. Basically, the integration of the in-text citation may take two forms, as shown in the illustration below:

Parenthetical in-text citation example:

Fat plays a critical role in the body’s defensive design (Jones, 2010).

Narrative in-text citation example:

Jones (2010) emphasizes the role of fat in the body’s defensive design.

Notably, it is unlikely that the author’s name is absent in academic encyclopedias. In a case where authors are absent, students should use the first element of the reference list entry to develop an appropriate word or phrase that occupies the author feature of the in-text citation/footnote structure, for example:

Example of citing an editor as the author:

(Xuhsi & Bolowea, 2020)

Example of referencing an organization as the author:

(American Psychological Association, 2020)

Example of the title of an APA encyclopedia citation as the author:

(“Adipose Tissue,” 2020)

Examples of Citing an Encyclopedia in APA 7

1. Print Encyclopaedia


Author, A. A. (Publication Year). Title of an encyclopedia entry. In E. E. Editor (Ed.), Name of the encyclopedia (edition, volume, page range). Publisher’s Name.

Sample Entries:

Entry 1.

Fruhbeck, G., & Gomez-Ambrosi, J. (2008). Adipose tissue. In B. Caballero, L. Allen, & A. Prentice (Eds.), Encyclopedia of human nutrition (2nd ed., pp. 1-14). Elsevier.

  • The encyclopedia is the second edition in print form.

Entry 2.

Potter, L. (2004). Natriuretic peptides and their receptors. In W. J. Lennarz, & M. D. Lane (Eds.), Encyclopedia of biological chemistry (Vol. 3, pp. 1-5). Elsevier.

  • The encyclopedia is part of a multivolume work.
  • This volume does not have its title, which necessitates the inclusion of a volume number in the version element.

2. Citing an Online Encyclopedia in APA 7


Author, A. A. (Publication Year). Title of an encyclopedia entry. In E. E. Editor (Ed.), Name of the encyclopedia (edition, volume). URL or DOI

Sample Entries:

Entry 1.

Frede, D. (2017). Plato’s ethics: An overview. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2017 ed.). https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2017/entries/plato-ethics/

  • The online encyclopedia has archives of previous versions, which requires the mentioning of the specific version, for example, “Winter 2017 ed.”

Entry 2.

Royde-Smith, J., & Hughes, T. A. (n.d.). World War II: 1939-1945. In A. Augustyn, A. Zeidan, A. Zelazko, A. Eldridge, A. McKenna, A. Tikkanen, B. A. Schreiber, B. Zang, B. Duignan, D. Mahajan, D. Promeet, E. Rodriguez, E. Gregersen, G. Shukla, G. Liesangthem, G. Lotha, G. Young, H. Bolzon, I. Yousuf, . . . J. E. Luebbering (Eds.), Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/event/World-War-II#info-article-history

  • The online encyclopedia does not retain older versions of the encyclopedia entry despite the continuous updating of the content.

Summing Up on How to Cite an Encyclopedia in APA 7

  • Students should make a decent effort to find all the necessary bibliographic information for citing an encyclopedia in APA 7 to satisfy the content demands of citation schemes.
  • Both the title of the entry and encyclopedia name have a sentence case styling.
  • The only italicized element is the encyclopedia name.
  • All URLs should be functional.

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