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Writing and Citing: More About APA

Cite it Right: The Four Levels of a Database Hierarchy

Why is this important anyhow?

Generic image of a flowchartWhenever you cite an article - especially one obtained electronically - you are asked to provide specific information regarding where the information was retrieved from. If you put the wrong information in the wrong spot, the Professor will not be able to verify your sources which could impact your grade on either the paper or the bibliography!


There are 4 levels associated with database articles,
from the top level down:

Image of the ProQuest logoAggregator (or vendor, if you prefer): this is the company that holds the databases. Examples of larger aggregators include EbscoHost and ProQuest. There is always only ONE aggregator for the purposes of citing the source. Note: Content from multiple aggregators can live in 'discovery' systems like Molloy's SEARCH EVERYTHING.

Image of Ebsco Academic Search Premier database logoDatabases live inside products like Ebsco and the larger aggregators can contain 25 databases or more. Examples of databases within Ebsco would include ERIC, Academic Search Premier, PsycARTICLES and Business Source Complete to name a few. Certain aggregators (e.g. LexisNexis,JSTOR) contain only one database; in these cases they are both the database and the aggregator. More on Databases...


Image of a stack of journals entitled "Access Online Journals"

Journals live inside of databases and there could be hundreds of them - they could be periodicals, newspapers, magazines or trade journals. Examples of a Journal would be The Chronicle of Higher Education or Teaching Exceptional Children. Most journals are uniquely identified by an 8 digit ISSN# (xxxx-xxxx). Journals are generally organized by volume, issue and page number(s). Some databases and aggregators (e.g. SAGE, ScienceDirect, PsycARTICLES) contain only peer-reviewed journals, but normally, this is not the case. So, once you have entered your keywords, always make sure to filter for either "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" results if that is a requirement from your Professor. More on finding journals...

Illustration of an article Articles are contained within the journals and of course, there can be thousands of them. This is the bottom level that leads to the full text. The article level is what you see in the results page after you enter your keywords, but the Journal, Volume, Issue and Page Number(s) are always contained in the article’s abstract or citation. The DATABASE is normally indicated somewhere at the top of the page. All of this information is required in order to cite a journal article. More on finding articles...

Simply stated - this time from the bottom up: articles live in the journals, which live in the databases, which are accessible via an aggregator. Knowing the names and the components will help you keep your citations and your research organized.  

Citation Example APA (6th):

Image of a citation example in APA formation (6th)


Citation Example MLA:

Image of a citation example in MLA

Further Information on APA and Citing Sources

Need More Help With Citing Sources??

Then be sure to check out our full research guide on Writing & Citing for more information on citations (including citation managers available to you), writing thesis statements, plagiarism and much, much more.

Do you know about Academic Writer? You should!

Launched as a new offering in 2017, Academic Writer (formerly APA Central) combines sophisticated learning and teaching tools, writing and content processing technology, and full integration of the APA's Style Manual. Why go to third party sites when everything you need is now available from the source! Take me there now.... and check out the brief video below: Academic Writer for Students.

APA and DOI's

Important note regarding APA citations when citing online articles:  

APA style does not distinguish between articles accessed through a database and articles accessed via the Web. The exact citation formation will depend on whether the article has a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) available. 

  • If the article information DOES include a DOI, place it at the end of the citation.
  • If the article information DOES NOT include a DOI, give the URL of the journal home page (not the database in which it was retrieved).You may need to search the Internet to locate the journal's home page.

Example - Journal Article with DOI: 


Example - Journal Article without DOI: 

 These samples courtesy of Pellissippi State Community College.



Electronic Reference / Credo Example:


Citing the Mental Measurements Yearbook

This example assumes you are citing from the Mental Measurements Yearbook online database:

Cizek, G.J. (2003). Test review of the Woodcock-Johnson III. From B. S. Plake, J. C. Impara, & R. A. Spies (Eds.), The fifteenth mental measurements yearbook [Electronic version]. Retrieved from the Buros Institute's Mental Measurement Yearbook Online database

A few tips on citing this resource:

  • With each edition there will be different editors required for your citation - a convenient list of templates is provided courtesy of the Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania library libguide
  • It is required that you spell out the edition number, as illustrated in the example above fifteenth, not 15th