If you want to know how to cite a PDF document on your bibliography, reference, or “works cited” page, you’re in the right place! It’s actually quite simple. All you need to do is cite the PDF based on the original source of the file, with the inclusion of the URL or DOI. Here’s how to cite a PDF in your MLA, APA, or Chicago style paper.

How To Cite a PDFThe Basic Elements of How To Cite a PDF 

Citing a PDF is the same as citing a book, article, and/or an electronic document. Before we get started, here are the basic elements you’ll need to include when citing a source: 

  • Author name(s) 
  • Title of the work
  • The publishing date
  • Creator or publisher 
  • Medium (newspaper, book, presentation), URL or DOI 

Now, let’s look at how to cite a PDF. 

Citing a PDF on Your MLA Paper

When citing a PDF on your MLA (Modern Language Association) paper, you’ll need to follow this format: 

  • Author’s name 
  • Title 
  • Publishing date
  • Creator or publisher (optional)
  • Medium or link

For example: Lyell, Valentine. How to Install a Water Tank. 2004. www.valentinelyell.org/data/tank/25_5.pdf 

Citing a PDF on Your APA Paper

To cite a PDF in APA (American Psychological Association) format, you’ll need to tag the PDF in square brackets. Remember not to place a period after the URL.

  • Author 
  • Date published
  • Title of the work with the inclusion of [PDF File]
  • Creator or publisher in italics
  • Link 

For example: Strokes, Elijah. (2020). Understanding the True Beauty of Nature [PDF File]. New England Journal. Retrieved from www.newej/beautyofnature.org.PDF

Citing a PDF in a Chicago/Turabian Paper 

For a Chicago paper, you’ll need to add the PDF identifier after the title of the document, book, or article. For DOI’s (Digital Object Identifier), you’ll need to add the link as provided from the DOI website.

The format is as follows: 

  • Author name(s)
  • Title of the work. PDF file
  • Date published 
  • Link 

For example: Dasani, Rosanna. Heartbreak and Everything In Between. PDF File. June 14, 2015. http://www.loveadvice.com/amazon.pdf

Citing a PDF With Multiple Authors 

MLA and Chicago use the same format; you should use the word “and” before the last author on the list. If you have more than two authors, add “et al” at the end. “Et al” is a Latin term for “et alia”, which simply means “and others”. 

  • For two authors: Hamilton, Kiyan., and Arroyo, Suhail.
  • For three or more: Hamilton, Kiyan., Arroyo, Suhail. et al. 

With APA style documents, you can note down up to seven authors. Include the names with an ampersand (&) before the last author.

For more than seven authors, add an ellipsis (…) before the final author.

  • For seven or less: Hamilton, Kiyan., Arroyo, Suhail., & Maguire, Eddison.
  • For more than seven: Hamilton, Kiyan., Arroyo, Suhail., Maguire, Eddison., Mora, Layton., Paterson, Dillon., Crossley, Rafferty.,…Gallegos, Arlene.


Although it may seem hard at first, citing a PDF is far from complicated. As long as you follow the format above, you’ll be able to cite a PDF document in your works in no time.