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From COVID-19 to demands for social justice: Citing contemporary sources for current events

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Adams, A. (2021, May 3). From COVID-19 to demands for social justice: Citing contemporary sources for current events. APA Style.

From COVID-19 to demands for social justice: Citing contemporary sources for current events

Currently, you can look to almost any medium to find information on the COVID-19 pandemic and on campaigns for immediate social reform across the globe. As a result, writers are accessing and using types of works that are published more frequently than those traditionally cited in research papers, such as press releases on government websites, podcast episodes, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, tweets, and comments on online articles. The APA Style team is here to help with your APA formatting needs. The guidance in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual makes the process of citing contemporary sources found online easier than ever before.

If you read the blog post “A tale of two reference formats,” then you know a work’s reference format is based on whether the work stands alone—press releases, podcasts, webpages, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, and tweets—or is a part of a greater whole—podcast episodes and comments on online periodical articles. The templates in each section of Chapter 10 of the Publication Manual and the Concise Guide to APA Style (7th ed.) show the placement and formatting of the elements (author–date–title–source) for references in each category. This means you can use these templates to create references for works even if you don’t find an example that’s an exact match (i.e., use the Social Media template to create a reference for a Twitter Fleet even though it didn’t exist when the manual was published).

Because the author–date–title–source format is consistent across all reference types, the addition of bracketed text in some reference types helps readers identify the type of work at a glance. Whereas works that do not fall into the category of webpages and websites, such as articles, books, and reports, can appear on websites and thus have no bracketed description in their reference list entries, reference list entries for other types of works that appear on websites include the bracketed description so you can tell a press release from a tweet from a podcast episode, for example.

Online press release

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2021, January 15). EPA approves emergency exemption for antiviral air treatment [Press release].

Parenthetical citation: (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2021)

Narrative citation: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2021)


ESPN [@espn]. (2020, August 31). Naomi Osaka wearing a Breonna Taylor mask before her match at the #USOpen [Image attached] [Tweet]. Twitter.

Parenthetical citation: (ESPN, 2020)

Narrative citation: ESPN (2020)

Podcast episode

Hannah-Jones, N. (Host). (2019, September 13). How the bad blood started (No. 4) [Audio podcast episode]. In 1619. The New York Times.

Parenthetical citation: (Hannah-Jones, 2019)

Narrative citation: Hannah-Jones (2019)

For those of you who want to know how to reference a TikTok video, here is an example (also see the TikTok References page for more information):

TikTok video

World Health Organization [@who]. (2021, January 30). The way in which the new #COVID19 virus variants transmit hasn’t changed. So therefore, all the measures we already have [Video]. TikTok.

Parenthetical citation: (World Health Organization, 2021)

Narrative citation: World Health Organization (2021)

If you would like to see more examples of these types of works, visit the following reference examples pages:

In addition to these links, please see Chapter 10 in the Publication Manual and the Concise Guide for more reference examples. For guidance on formatting your papers, in-text citations, and references in APA Style, visit the Instructional Aids and APA Style Products pages. APA also offers resources for authors writing about racism, bias, and discrimination and COVID-19.

If you want to submit a paper to an APA journal, visit the Journals Publishing Author Resource Center page.