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How to Reference PDF Files

Updated April 17, 2017

The PDF file is the most common format for many types of reports, research and whitepapers found on the Web. You can transfer a PDF file with ease across operating systems and computer environments, while including large amounts of data and robust security features to protect your data. In conducting research on the Web, you will come across PDF files you will need to reference. One example is the research guide "Communicating research for evidence-based policy making," published by the European Commission. The most utilised citation style for social science and humanities is the APA style.

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  1. Write the name of the author of the PDF file, followed by a period. In this case you would write: European Commission.

  2. Cite the year of publication in parentheses, such as (2010).

  3. Write the name of the report followed by a colon, followed by any subtitle, in italics. For example: Communicating research for evidence-based policymaking: A practical guide for researchers in socioeconomic sciences and humanities (in italics).

  4. Make sure you capitalise the first letter in the title and the first letter in the subtitle.

  5. Cite the publication number in parentheses after the title. For example, (978-92-79-14858-3), the ISBN number of the report in question.

  6. Write the place of publication for the PD, with a colon followed by any individual authors. For example, Brussels, Belgium: Louisa Anastopoulou.

  7. Cite the date you view the PDF, followed by the complete URL as follows: Retrieved September 6, 2010, from

  8. Your complete APA reference or citation of a PDF file will read as follows:

  9. European Commission. (2010). Communicating research for evidence-based policymaking: A practical guide for researchers in socio-economic sciences and humanities. (978-92-79-14858-3). Brussels, Belgium: Louisa Anastopoulou. Retrieved September 6, 2010, from

  10. Tip

    Other forms or reference styles include MLA and Turbian. You should always check and verify the type of citation style required for your paper.

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About the Author

Kenneth W. Michael Wills is a writer on culture, society and business. With more than 15 years of experience in sales, public relations and written communications, Wills' passion is delighting audiences with invigorating perspectives and refreshing ideas. He has ghostwritten articles on a diverse range of topics for corporate websites and composed proposals for organizations seeking growth opportunities.

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