How to cite a PDF.

A person working at a laptop to cite a PDF as a reference.

For an article or book, you can cite a PDF as a reference. Here’s what you need to know.

As the writer of a book, article, or scholarly paper, you may need to cite an online PDF as a reference. A PDF source you find on the web can represent a customized document, a newspaper or magazine article, or an entire book or report in PDF form. The citation style you choose needs to align with the specific source. Let’s take a quick look at your options.

Take these steps to cite a PDF.

Here’s what to look out for in general when you are figuring out how to cite a PDF:

  1. Try to establish the original source of the PDF if it has one. It may be another book, article, or paper.
  2. If you can’t find the original source, then cite the PDF as thoroughly as possible, just as you would for those original sources.
  3. Identify the:
    • Author
    • Title
    • Publication date
    • Year
    • Page range
    • URL
  4. If it’s a document created specifically for the web, then cite whatever info you can find from the list above.

As for the citation style, you should use the style of the person or organization requesting the written piece. If it’s all your project, you call the shots; however, organizations or businesses usually prefer a specific, established style. The most popular ones are APA Style (American Psychological Association), Chicago Manual of Style, or AP Stylebook (Associated Press).

How to cite a PDF in APA Style format.

The APA stands for American Psychological Association, and you’re probably familiar with it if you’ve had to cite sources in any of the social sciences or in the field of education. Citing a PDF in the APA style is like citing a web page. You’ll want to make sure to include the URL for your PDF. Here is the information you need to cite a PDF in APA:

Your citation will look like this:

Author’s Last Name, First Initials. (Year). Title. Publication Title. URL

How to cite a PDF in MLA Style format.

The abbreviation MLA comes from Modern Language Association. The MLA format is usually used by writers and other humanities students and professionals. The MLA style is more flexible and allows you to include or exclude details based on how relevant you feel they are for reference. For example, you may include the access date, but it’s not required. If you have multiple versions of the PDF, you may include the words “PDF Download.” (including the period) at the end of your citation. The basics of how to cite a PDF in MLA style are the same as citing a website.

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “PDF Title.” Website Name, Day Month Year of

publication, URL or DOI.

Citing a PDF book is different from citing an article. If you’re citing a book, put the title in italics instead of quotation marks. Remove the “https://” or “http://” from the beginning of your URL. Remember to always use a hanging indent for your citations in the MLA style. If you’re missing any of this information (for example, the day and month of publication), you can simply omit it in your citation.

How to cite a PDF in Chicago Style format.

The University of Chicago created the Chicago style, and it is frequently used in the fine arts, business, and some humanities. To figure out how to cite a PDF in Chicago style, just use a normal citation and add a URL for the PDF.

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “PDF Title.” Website Name, Month Day, Year of

publication. URL or DOI.

If you’re citing an eBook that you’ve downloaded as a PDF, you’ll cite it just as you would cite a book, but it will have “PDF.” at the end.

With any of these citation styles, don’t forget to include the necessary in-text citations. Additionally, be sure to include a hanging indentation of the citation to help readers easily differentiate each citation

Other ways to use PDFs.

Now that you know how to cite a PDF, you might be interested in using tools for your own PDFs. The PDF is a reliable format and is a standard across many professions. Adobe Acrobat has some of the most powerful tools for PDF, and many of them are accessible for free online.

If you want to combine or edit your own PDFs, you can explore what Adobe Acrobat online services can do. For even more capabilities, check out what Acrobat offers.