Friday, 24 September 2021

Referencing an abstract

I had an interesting question from a student the other day: how do we cite and reference an abstract in APA 7th ed.?

"Well," I said, "citing we would do as normal, but I am not sure about the referencing". I suggested that the student was to have a go at referencing it, email the result to me, and I would review it.

It is funny, but I have never referenced an abstract before: I have always gone the whole hog and got the paper. But yes, where there is a huge cost to purchase a paper, or the paywall is impenetrable, sometimes the abstract is all we can get.

The student sent me the following: 

Elley-Brown, M. J., Pringle, J. K., & Harris, C. (2015). How some women are opting in: A new perspective on the kaleidoscope career model. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2015(1), 11825.

I went and checked out this Academy of Management Proceedings paper, and found that the reference looked bang on to me . There is only one page, because this is an abstract only. This was a paper presented at the AOM conference, and there is nothing but the abstract online.

Having checked the APA 7th ed manual, I knew it was silent on abstracts. I also did a search to see if someone else had explored how to reference an abstract in 7th ed., and found the following advice from Lorain County Community College (2021):

"APA 7th edition does not provide guidance on how to cite abstracts. However, if you only use information from the abstract but the full text of the article is also available, [the Purdue Online Writing Lab] advise you to add "[Abstract]" after the article or source name. If the full text is not available, you may use an abstract that is available through an abstracts database as a secondary source"

I advised the student that they did not need to change their reference, as in my opinion (a) there was only an abstract, so this reference was providing a map back to the source of the 'full' version, and (b) the DOI clearly shows this is the abstract. No need to clarify further.

An interesting issue. Further, I have decided to email APA to get a definitive answer. I will update this when I hear back.




  • American Psychological Association (2019). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association: The official guide to APA style (7th ed.). Author
  • Lorain County Community College (2021). Q. Can you cite information you got from within an Abstract?

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