How to cite a PDF.
Here’s what you need to know about citing sources in a PDF.
There are a wealth of publications and online materials available in PDF format, from journals and books to peer-reviewed papers and newspapers. Whether you’re writing an article, assignment or a book, making sure you cite all your sources correctly is important for the authority and validity of the text.
There are various citation styles that you can use to reference the sources you use to create your document. The one you choose should align with the specific source and type of document you’re writing.
We’ll talk you through how to cite a PDF and how to do this using the many different citation styles currently out there.
How do I cite a PDF?
Citing a PDF doesn’t need to be difficult. But you need to make sure that you are following the standards requested by the person or organisation you’re writing the piece for.
The first thing to consider is, does the document have an original source? This could be another book, article or whitepaper.
If it does, then you should cite it as thoroughly as possible, including where you found the document and how you accessed it.
You should include:
- Page range
- Date accessed
If the document has been written specifically for the web, try and pull out as much information from the list above as possible. It’s important to give as much credit as you can.
When it comes to citation style, it all depends on the style you’ve been asked to use for the written piece. If you’re writing your own project, it’s up to you to pick a citation style.
Most businesses and larger organisations, universities or educational institutions prefer a specific, established style. This might include:
- APA Style (American Psychological Association)
- Chicago Manual of Style
- Harvard referencing
- AP Style (Associated Press)
- The Guardian Style Guide
How to cite using one of the main citation styles.
The APA format looks like this:
Author last name, First name initials. (Year of Publication). Document Title. Website name. URL.
There are various ways to cite, depending on the following circumstances:
- Article has no clear author. Cite the following: Title of document. (Year of Publication). Website name or publisher. URL.
- Article is in-print as well as online. Write the citation as per the PDF’s sources list.
- Article is online-only. Add the issue or volume number after the title of the journal/publication.
Chicago Manual of Style.
There are no firm rules in the most recent Chicago Manual of Style (17th edition), but most people who use this style cite the PDF as per its original source. Then, they add the URL, DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and the date it was accessed.
It’s a simple way to reference sources compared to other methods, but it’s useful to learn, as it’s also one of the most popular styles used by larger organisations.
Like APA style, the way you cite a source may vary depending on the circumstances:
- PDF is downloaded. You need to add a media marker at the end of your citation. For example: Last name of author, First name. Book title. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication. PDF. Some people may also add when they downloaded the publication.
- PDF is not downloadable. You would then take off the media marker and add in the URL and DOI. For example: Last name of author, First name. Book title. Place of publication: Publisher, Year of publication. URL. DOI.
Harvard is one of the most common referencing formats for students and academic institutions. It follows quite strict rules that can sometimes become complicated and difficult to remember.
We’ve got you covered. Just add the PDF website after the citation and then the date you accessed it. The easy thing about Harvard referencing is that it doesn’t change no matter how you accessed the PDF.
Author last name, First name initial. (Published date). Title of book/publication. Edition. [eBook/online journal] City: Publisher, pages used. Available at: URL [Date Accessed]
The AP Style Guide and the Guardian Style Guide do not have set rules for citations, as they are mainly used by journalists, so they don’t require citations. If your project is using one of these styles and you need to reference a PDF, the easiest way to get it right first time is to check if the person or organisation you’re writing for prefers a particular style.
Knowing what referencing format you need to use when you cite a PDF is the main thing to consider. If you’re looking to amend or combine any PDFs that you’re using, as part of your project, we have online applications to help you. Our Edit PDF tool can help you make changes to files, while Merge PDF lets you combine all your PDFs into one document.
Frequently asked questions.
I don’t know what professional style guide I’m using. Which citation style should I choose?
If you haven’t been given any direction, then usually APA or Harvard style will work just fine. It’s always best to check by asking the company or individual you’re working with if they have a style guide in mind. Even if it is their own, they should make reference to how to make a citation.
How do I do in-text citations of a PDF?
It’s really simple, most of the above style guides use the author-date method of in-text citation. So, you would need to put the author’s last name, date of the publication and page number in the text. For example: (Smith, 1989, p.20).
Do you have to cite a PDF?
You will generally need to provide a reference of what documents you have been using when sourcing information to avoid plagiarism penalties when writing an assignment, for example. So citing any PDF documents you have used for research is important.