Citing Government Documents in APA Format

A very thorough source for guidance about citing government publications is a book by Garner and Cheney called The Complete Guide to Citing Government Documents: A Manual for Writers & Librarians (1993).  USU has that book at call number J 9.5 .G3 1993 (located in the BARN, request through the library catalog).

Fortunately, librarians at the Indiana University, Bloomington have developed a website the provides numerous, detailed examples of citation for government documents produced by Congress and other agencies.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) offers one example for citing a report published by a U.S. government agency in APA style:

U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. (1990). Clinical training in serious mental illness (DHHS Publication No. ADM 90-1679). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

This title is treated as if it were a book, which is appropriate for many government publications.  While government agencies do publish periodicals or serials, citing those follows APA rules for citing articles in magazines, newspapers, or research journals.

Note the following characteristics in the example above.  You will see that the details for formatting the citation follow standard rules for APA style:

  • the country of origin is listed first
  • the author is most often listed as the full name of the source agency rather than any person or named group of individuals except when citing a technical report or sub-part of a publication
  • the publication date appears in parentheses after the author
  • the next element after publication date is the title of the report in italics
  • a report number is listed after the title (these are often on title pages or covers of government documents whether they are in print or online
  • geographic place and publisher are last in this example.

For publications that are produced online only and are freely accessible, add the URL and the date you accessed the site to the end of the citation with the date formatted as month/date/year.

Government publications that you locate through subscription databases for which the library pays for access should not have the URL.   Instead, list the database where the item is available and provide the date of access.

Remember that you can get more detailed guidance from the Publication Manual of the APA.


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