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Answered By: Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen
Last Updated: Apr 14, 2016     Views: 731

Government agency authors can sometimes be very confusing since there are frequently divisions, branches, and agencies that can all fit inside one another.

For example, you might have the following "author":

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services > National Institutes of Health > National Institute of Nursing Research > Division of Intramural Research > Biobehavioral Branch > Digestive Disorders Unit.

So, which one do you list as author or do you list all of them?

APA does not have a clear ruling on this. APA's core advice is to get the reader back to the source in as efficient method as possible.

Rasmussen advises the following:

  • Only use the names of agencies that are listed on the document/webpage (don't do extra research).
    • List the parent or largest agency first
      • In the example above, you would begin with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    • List the smallest body last
      • In the example above, you would end with the Digestive Disorders Unit.
    • Leave "middle agencies" out unless you personally think they are necessary OR your instructor requires it.
    • The author in your reference citation would look like:
      • U.S. Department of Health and Human Serivces, Digestive Disorders Unit.
  • For in-text citations, you can use just the first agency you list (don't try to list all of the agencies you decided to list in the reference). Follow normal abbreviation rules.

How we came to our advice:

We looked at Publication Manual or the American Psychological Association examples 31 and 32. They list 2-3 levels of bureacracy. We also asked APA's editorial staff. This is part of the answer we got:

Spell out the full name of a group author...

the complete hierarchy is not necessary...

...the rest of the bureaucracy is irrelevant...

The URL takes us there directly

(Personal communication with Jeff Hume-Pratuch, April, 17, 2014)

We also found the following information posted by Chelsea Lee on the official APA blog (Sep. 10, 2009):

The manual doesn't specifically address this, but here's some insight: Cite the person or entity as they called themselves in the report in question (so if the publication has the byline "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," don't add "U.S." to the front just for its own sake). Similarly, sometimes the parent agency is listed, sometimes not. The example of a government report in the manual (example 31) shows the parent agency listed---but if you visit the actual document, you'll see that all that information is listed as the author. So, go with what's on the document and address this on a case-by-case basis.

If you have completely different agencies or departments working together, aka Department of Health and Human Serives and the Environmental Protection Agency, you should list both.

See also:

In-text citations for multiple authors

Multiple corporate authors:

APA Guide