Saturday, May 19, 2007

How to cite a YouTube video in APA style

UPDATED: 5 March 2010

More recently a googler landed here from the query: ...directly quoting from youtube apa...

My original post did not contain a significant point for directly quoting: location reference.
{Note: A location reference would also be desirable if paraphrasing a point that does not represent the whole of the cited work.}

In APA style a location reference is included with the in-text citation rather than in the reference list: (Author, year, location) or Author stated (Year, location).
To locate a quote within a video I would use a time reference, eg:

"No monkeys were harmed in the making of this film" (Booth, 2006, 3:36)
Back to original post with minor edits:

I apologise if this page took a while to load, I love these videos because my boys love World of Warcraft.

I haven't really had occasion to need to cite a video myself, but as MyBlogLog tells me that visitors have browsed by my 'cite-a-blog' and 'cite-a-blog-comment' posts from google searches seeking APA style citation guidance for youtube videos, I've been wondering...

First, to cite a video seems on the surface quite simple:
  • title would be the video title [from the YouTube page only if there is no titling within the video itself],
  • as an electronic source there would be 'Retrieved -date- from URL' [since 6th edition, retrieval date not required unless source is likely to be changed] and 
  • author would be the producer of the video if known... which begs another question: identifying the producer. However for now, one calls to mind that
  • APA citation style for audiovisual media varies from print material in that the function of the originator or primary contributors is designated in parentheses, and the nature of the work in brackets after the title (American Psychological Association [APA], 2001, p. ?)... which brings to mind the music video which begs another question (if one's commentary refers to the music content is the reference to the song writer and if relevant performer?; and if one's commentary refers to the visual content is the reference to the video producer?; or does one in any case reference both?)

Back to identifying the producer:
  1. If the video includes an appropriate credit - great use that, (although one still has those questions about specific reference to either music or video content in music video).
  2. Many YouTube videos do not have credits, and there is a distinct possibility that people might post videos they did not create, such as the Slingshot Fun video in McConnell Library's example (McConnell Library, 2007) so that it might be best not to attribute to the YouTube member who posted it [and in this case cite and reference by the title], however:
  3. The personal web-cam style videos, apparently home-made by the one who posts them to YouTube - can they be credited to that one? If 'apparently' is not enough, what if the video's description contains a claim of creation? [I think if you believe the one who uploaded made the video, then cite their screen-name if they don't provide a proper name]
  4. What then about YouTube's "director" videos?
Perhaps I should test some... what about ....

Credit given in video:

If I comment upon Mike Spiff Booth's video content... maybe:
Apparently no monkeys were harmed in the making of Mike Spiff Booth's video Code Monkey (2006, 3:36).
to list in the reference list:
Booth, M. S. (Producer). (2006, September 23) Code Monkey [music video]. Retrieved May 18, 2007 from

however, would I cite songwriter and video producer both if I wrote something like:
The way Mike Spiff Booth shows it (Coulter & Booth, 2006) one is left uncertain whether Code Monkey gets the girl or just imagines he does "one day".
with a reference:
Coulter, J. (Songwriter & Performer) & Booth, M. S. (Videoproducer). (2006). Code Monkey [music video]. Retrieved May 18, 2007 from

Credit/responsibility appearing to belong to YouTube member/poster:

in text:
...when tipping in a loose page, only a minute amount of pva is required (molly1216, 2006, 0:17)...

molly1216. (2003). How to tip in a loose page [video]. Retrieved May 18, 2007 from

But what about characters:

Might one do this?
in text:
According to Ol'Chumbucket and Cap'n Slappy (2003, 0:47) "Avast" means 'stand and give attention'.
Ol'Chumbucket & Cap'n Slappy. (2003). Talk Like a Pirate Day: The Five A's [video]. Retrieved May 18, 2007 from


American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Americal Psychological Association.
McConnell Library, Radford University. (2007, March 1). Citation Style Guides. Retrieved May 18, 2007 from


  1. Here is another example of a direct quote from a video:

    "As a librarian you cannot sit behind the desk waiting for people to walk up and ask you a question any more. That is just not going to happen. You have to be out in the stacks. You have to be out in the community. You have to be out there online, providing services where the users are, being where it is convenient for them. And if you sit behind that desk you are going to wither there. Because that is not how the world works anymore." (Levine, 2010, 3:27)

    I would probably blockquote that but that html tag is not allowed in comments here.

    And in Reference List:

    Levine, J. (2010). Conversation: Jenny Levine [video]. Fort Wayne, IN: Allen County Public Library. Retrieved March 6, 2010 from

    Notes about this reference:
    *The words were Jenny's so I cite her as author.

    *I counted Allen County Public Library as publisher although perhaps it ought to be their production facility Access Fort Wayne. Helpfully they claimed production credit at the end of video, but I would have felt safe assuming so from the nature of their (askacpl) uploads.

    *I did not include the full date of upload to YouTube as the publication date, because Jenny's authorship of her words I would count as the date the video was first broadcast which I do not know but guess as this year. Perhaps the conversation was edited after broadcast to produce this shorter video making upload the date of this edition, what do you think? Should it be (2010, March 1) in the reference list?.

  2. With APA 6, the retrieved date is no longer needed.

  3. This kind of saved part of the paper I'm writing. THANK YOUUUUUU

  4. I am *not* a referencing guru at all (sadly) ... but I have always been interested to note that Zotero does not automatically add the profile owner's name to the citation, instead citing something like Michael Wesch's The Machine is (Us)ing us like this (but with italicised title)

    The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version). (2007). . Retrieved from

    (also adding in the "feature=...player" bit that I always delete)

    It seemed to me that this was reasonable as the person who uploads is not always the producer or even associated with the creative output, and as you point out in the Jenny Levine example sometimes it is better to attribute differently.

    What do you think, should you seek to discover the producer by examining the credits of the work (if there are any), or play it safe and cite without an "author". I feel bad about not crediting Michael Wesch, however most of my videos uploaded to YouTube are loaded as either "sirexkat" or "infoventurer", and it would be odd to use that in the citation.

    What do you think?

  5. :D Thank you Kathryn, I'm so pleased to receive your perspective and questions. I hope my joyful reply comes clearly through my wonderful fuzzy Amarula-soaked relaxation (read how to fight back pain when codeine makes me nauseous)...

    First: shoulds usually meet dependses, and such is the case here: it will depend on the audience for which our citation list is destined, the purpose of the work supported by our citations, the purpose of our citations, and the relative importance of accuracy or detail in an individual citation for any of those.

    Personally, I feel that if an idea is, within or associated with its expression, identifiable with the originator of that idea, then its fair / honest / courteous to credit that originator.

    However, even if I (or other readers here) do not feel that personal inclination, then my (their) audience or publisher might still expect credit to be cited where due. Is it a valid suggestion that if a source is worth citing then it is worth identifying the person/s responsible for the value of that source?

    Given the difference between the way Youtube functions (one merely needs authority to upload a video file, not to declare oneself as its creator), and Zotero's metadata needs, I think Zotero has made the right decision in not presuming uploaders or profile owners to be "authors". However this does mean that Zotero is unable to provide a complete citation for Youtube videos. To be honest, much as I love Zotero I doublecheck every single citation it saves for me, as Zotero is dependent upon the quality of data via its sources.

    I think the only time I would "play it safe" in so far as that means not list an "author" is if I could not be reasonably sure who is responsible for the particular idea or expression that I would cite as source, and thus do not wish to make a misattribution. For example: say the uploader disclaims responsibility for the particular aspect to which I refer, or an idea is expressed by an interviewee who is not named or for some other reason I have doubt that the uploader or credited video-producer is personally responsible for the particular idea to which I refer, contained within the video.

    So as a more direct answer: although I guess there may be situations where it is not necessarily a "should", I would indeed search video credits and other material associated with the upload for the identity of the producer or more specific creative entity if relevant. If I am reasonably sure that the uploader is creator of the video I cite then I would also search for the identity of the person behind the screen-name, even (given a real rather than hypothetical scenario) it is also possible that I might contact the uploader through Youtube to query or clarify an appropriate identification for citation. However if no real ID can be found, no other ID given in credits and yet still reasonably sure the uploader is creator, I would use the screen-name under the assumption it is how the creator wishes to be known in this context.

  6. thank goodness someone has addressed this behemoth of a citation. did not know where to begin before reading your blog. still seems loosey goosey, but that is the nature of an informal cite. I will give the citation a stab.

  7. Hey any chance you could give me a hand here? I need to know how to reference this video! and am very confused about how to do so... Could you give me any advice on in-text citations as well as how it should appear in my reference list please?
    Thanks a bunch!!

  8. Hi Anonymous, I hope you have a way to check back:

    An interesting one because of course this video was created in 1997 (noted in description, and in a copyright note at the end of the video).

    Note, the following is just my opinion, based upon the principles of the style to aid your reader to find your source. I'm neither an APA style guardian nor your assessor. If your lecturer/assessor has preferences they override the official style or my opinion.

    Say you're referring to his clarification that it is not necessary to teach things in eight ways just because there are eight intelligences (Gardner, 1997, t=196s).

    I obtained the time location by pausing at that moment, right clicking the tracking ball and selecting "Copy video URL at current time" and extracting it from the end of the URL (which I pasted somewhere temporarily).


    Gardner, H. (1997). Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences [video]. Edutopia. Retrieved from

    I grabbed the shorter URL for the reference list from Share under the video.

    I want to use the above link for my report...what would be the source for youtube video when referencing on word....

    1. Thanks again Anonymous, I needed another excuse to procrastinate :-)

      The film to which you link appears to be a (likely unauthorised) release of a televised broadcast. For the rest of this I assume your use of the video is in relation to the content / the original broadcast. Thus I would combine styles of electronic source with television broadcast. I went first to APAStyle blog to check on citing television broadcasts.

      Luckily David Becker posted on this topic in April 2013.

      A key point he made is that if the responsible person (ie writer/producer...) is not known then the title shifts to author position. I disagree with his rationale about the identity of uploader (who I consider to be irrelevant, unless they appear or claim to also be the creator). Alternatively: the uploader, if also the owner of the channel, might be considered a "publisher".

      Another key point David makes is that whether to use it at all depends how you plan to use it - is the fact of the report the important point you wish to make? Or, is it the only evidence for a fact you wish to discuss? In that case, it could be worth mentioning that the copy you are using is a secondary copy (it has not been uploaded by its creators therefore might have been subsequently edited).

      If there is another, more reliable, source, it might be better to cite the other.

      If I was going to use it, I would most definitely mention in text or footnote that the video was uploaded by someone other than the creator, and for the rest:

      Nightline Special Edition - iFactory: Inside Apple (Foxconn). [videofile]. (n.d). [uploaded by AsianSpecialist]. Retrieved from

      I state (n.d) because I assume it is the content (the original broadcast) that is relevant, and I do not have its air date). If you do know roughly when it went to air then I have seen c2012 (c=circa).

      On the other hand, one might cite this as an example of an unauthorised upload, in which case the uploader is the responsible entity, and the date of upload is relevant.

      Remember: all the above is just my opinion. It would not hurt to discuss it with your educator or student support, to find local preferences.



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