Master the Skills of Citing Business Sources in APA Style

Style guides provide guidelines for citations and references depending on the discipline. The American Psychological Association (APA) is one organization that provides the format for those writing papers in the behavioral sciences. The guide provides both students and researchers with the tools necessary to attribute text in the APA citation style. Its online resource, APA Style CENTRAL, is a one-of-a-kind compilation of instructions for writers to ensure accurate citations and references.

For any writing, it is important to avoid plagiarism by ensuring that your citations and references are included and formatted correctly. Attributions to any author’s work used in your papers must appear both within the text (citation) and at the end of the paper (reference). We focus here on citing business databases and sources, such as annual reports, census data, and financial statements, using the APA citation format.

APA Style

Generally, the APA style for in-text citations is to provide the author’s name and the year that the piece was published, separated by a comma, in parentheses (e.g., [Smith, 2016]). If using the author’s name in the sentence, the format is to put the date in parentheses (e.g., “Smith [2016] reported that….”). For in-text citations of multiple authors, an ampersand (&) is used before the last name. With author names as part of the sentence, “and” is used before the last name. One exception is when using a direct quote. In this case, the page number(s) is included after the publication date. In the APA style quoted text less than 40 words are enclosed in quotation marks. If more than 40 words, then the text is indented and blocked with a space between that and the last line of the previous paragraph. No quotation marks are used in blocked quotations. Citations are noted in parentheses.

All citations are included in a reference or literature cited list in alphabetical order by author and double-spaced, using a Times New Roman 12-point font, no quotation marks, and no boldface type. Book and journal titles are italicized and the text is set in “sentence case” (i.e., only the first word is initial capped) unless proper nouns are included. The “hanging indent” is used for each listing. Citing business-related text might not be so standard, especially business databases. The following provides information to help you with this.

How Do I Cite Business Sources in APA Style?

Business reports include annual profit and loss statements, investment accounting, and marketing campaigns, but there are also databases that include reports issued by the government, such as annual censuses. When referring to these databases or statistics, they need to be cited correctly. Below are a few examples of how to cite a company website and their reports (note that this is a protocol only; the font, line spacing, and hanging indent should be used in your papers as indicated above).

Annual Reports

In text: (Canadian Tire Corporation, 2012)

Reference: Canadian Tire Corporation. (2012). Annual report. Retrieved from http://corp.canadiantire.ca/EN/Investors/FinancialReports/Annual%20Reports%20Library/CTC_AR_2012.pdf.

Company Reports

In text: (Mergent, 2013)

Reference: Mergent. (2013). Apple Inc. general company information report. Retrieved June 21, 2013, from Mergent Online database.

Government Reports

  • In text: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013)

Reference: U.S. Census Bureau. (2013). Hennepin County, Minnesota–Income in the Past 12 Months. [Table]. Retrieved from http://factfinder.census.gov/.

  • In text: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2008

Reference: U.S. Census Bureau. (2008). Schedule B 2008, Chapter 60. Retrieved from https://www.usitc.gov/publications/docs/tata/hts/bychapter/0800c60.pdf.

Note the difference between the two government references. The first refers to a table; the second refers to a report. The report name in the second reference is italicized.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT is an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” These are four elements considered important in any organization and are evaluated for planning purposes. SWOT reports are cited as follows:

In text: (MarketLine. 2014, November)

Reference: MarketLine. (2014, November). Apple, Inc. SWOT Analysis. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?authtype=uid&user=s8451054&password=password&profile=bsi.

Note that in the SWOT citation and reference, the month is given in addition to the year, and the report name is italicized.

Consumer Expenditure Surveys

In text: (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).

Reference: Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2013. Race of reference person: Shares of average annual expenditures and sources of income, Consumer Expenditure Survey [Table]. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cex/.


In text: (Pew Hispanic Center, 2004)

Reference: Pew Hispanic Center. (2004). Changing channels and crisscrossing cultures: A survey of Latinos on the news media [data file and code book]. Retrieved from http://pewhispanic.or/datasets/.

SEDAR/EDGAR (Company Filings)

In text: (Royal Bank of Canada, 2013)

Reference: Royal Bank of Canada. (2013, September 5). Prospectus supplement.   Retrieved from http://www.sedar.com

There aren’t many differences in how these references are formatted, but be aware of some small changes and heed the tips presented here.

Helpful Tips

The following provides additional help with citations and references.

  • Can’t find an example: If you have one of those odd sources that you are not sure how to cite, use an example that would best fit.
  • Articles in databases: Some articles, such as those in ABI/INFORM Global database, are published in other media. For these, include the database name, digital object identifier (DOI) or uniform resource locator (URL).


E.g.: Epstein, M. J., Buhovac, A. R., & Yuthas, K. (2010). Why Nike kicks butt in sustainability. Organizational Dynamics, 39(4), 353-356. doi:10.1016/j.orgdyn.2010.07.007.

Note the “doi” in the above reference.

  • Retrieval date: No need to include a retrieval date for an online citation. Use the date only if the reference information is regularly updated.
  • Automatic citation generators: There are tools that automatically provide citations. Review the text of any auto-generated citations for any misspelled words and typos.
  • Figures & tables: Those taken from another source must be cited (see example above).
  • No author: Use the corporate name or group as the author.
  • No publication date: Use “n.d.”


If you are still unsure and can’t find a fitting example of what you need, many librarians can assist you. APA also offers helpful links, including online courses and publications that provide resources for writing and publishing. It would be well worth your time to take advantage of all that is offered.



  1. Western Libraries (2013, September) Citing Business Sources – APA Style. Retrieved from https://www.lib.uwo.ca/business/citingbusinesssourcesapaformat.html.
  2. University of St. Thomas Libraries (2017, March 20) APA Citation Style: Business Sources. Retrieved from http://libguides.stthomas.edu/APAstyle/CitingBusinessSources.
  3. BCIT Library Services (2016, August) APA Style Guide for Business Sources. Retrieved from http://www.bcit.ca/files/library/pdf/bcit-apabusinessstyle.pdf.
  4. PSTCC Libraries. MLA & APA Citation: Business Sources. Retrieved from http://lib.pstcc.edu/c.php?g=106731&p=693778#dataset.
  5. Sauder School of Business Library. David Lam Library Business Citation Examples APA Style. Retrieved from http://lambranch.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2013/01/Business_Citation_Examples_Jan2013.pdf

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