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Answered By: Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen
Last Updated: May 01, 2017     Views: 171

Sometimes databases have information that is written just for them (reports or articles or pamphlets or patient education sheets) or that is "not easily located through...primary publishing channels" (APA, 2009, p. 192). In these cases, APA provides this guidance:

"In general, we recommend that you include the same elements, in the same order, as you would for a reference to a fixed-media source and add as much electronic retrieval information as needed for others to locate the sources you cited" (APA, 2009, p. 187).

They also indicate that electronic retrieval information should be added according to a generally applied sequence (see related answer). Warning: the sequence specified does not apply to all situations and sometimes you need to take your best bet.

Please note that you cannot generally assume this a database is the ONLY place a source is available (this is important to know if you are using NoodleBib and following its URL instructions).

So, we probably didn't completely answer your question. We aren't dodging you; it is just complex. So, to help, we have provided one example from a database-published article(?) from Nursing Reference Center, below, for your perusal. Visit the article at: 

Our thought process in creating a reference for this article went as follows:

All APA references are created the same way: author, date, title, access information.

So this is what we picked:

Author: no one/corporate author

Date: July 2012

Title 1: Hypothyroidism: Alternative Therapy (seems to be an article inside a larger source)

Title 2: Health Library: Evidence-Based Information (seems to be like a journal or reference source that contains many articles)

Access information: what gets included, according to APA, depends on what the source is. If we interpret that the source we have is a:

  • journal article, we'd need the journal title, volume, issue, page numbers, and doi or publisher's url.
  • reference source entry, we'd need the title of the reference work, editors, page numbers, and doi or publisher's url.

Nursing Reference Center does not tell us exactly what this source is, so we have to make some guesses. In one area (if we click on source) we see JN preceeding the maybe it is a journal. On the other hand, there is no volume or issue given, so maybe it is not. But, journal article citations and reference source citations are not all that different, so we tried both. We also noticed that there is a "Database: Original Content" type selection in NoodleBib and we tried that. We ended up with the following:


Hypothyroidism: Alternative therapy. (2012). Health Library: Evidenced Based
     Information. Retrieved from

Reference Source:

Hypothyroidism: Alternative therapy. (2012). In Health library: Evidence based 
     information. Retrieved from

Database/Original Content:

Hypothyroidism: Alternative therapy. (2012, July). Retrieved from

The reference with the least amount of information is the one for "Database." We were not happy with that and the APA Manual seems to indicate that we should provide the home page entry for Nursing Reference Center and not the publisher of the article, so that is a bit confusing (see page 192 of the Publication Manual, bullet number 4 of 6).

As for the Journal and Reference Source references, the only real differences are the "in" and the capitalization of a reference source title (sentence style) versus a journal title (all words capitalized). We liked both of these better and we'd say it is your pick on which one to choose.

Note: we chose EBSCO as the publisher of Health Library (what Hypothyroidism) because that was what Nursing Reference Center indicated when we clicked on source. APA says, when there is no doi for an online source, that the home page URL for the journal, book, or report publisher should be given. So, we Googled "EBSCO" and got the homepage publisher of Health Library. Thus, even though we did not get the article from (we got it from Nursing Reference Center), that is the URL that APA wants us to provide.


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