How to Cite Personal Communications in APA 6th Edition

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How to Cite Pseudonyms, Participant ID Numbers, & Personal Communications in APA 6th Edition

Any time you mention information that you obtained through an interview or conversation in person, via e-mail, on the phone, or in some other way, you have to cite this in the text of your document. Such citations should not be included in your references list.

This post shows the basic form, five common mistakes, and also how to handle participant pseudonyms and identification numbers. First, here is the basic example:

In an interview, a CNN news analyst explained that the defendant’s DNA was found at the crime scene (J. T. Smith, personal communication, February 11, 2012).

Formatting Personal-Communication Citations

There things to remember when including your date for personal-communication citations. Incorrect usage is noted in red, bolded text below.

Rule

Correct example

Incorrect example

Include the first initial (and middle initial) of the (J. T. Smith, personal communication, March 5, 2012) (Smith, personal communication, March 5, 2012)
Use the full date of the communication (J. T. Smith, personal communication, March 5, 2012) (J. T. Smith, personal communication, March 2012)
Spell out the month in full (J. T. Smith, personal communication, September 13, 2012) (J. T. Smith, personal communication, Sept. 13, 2012)
Write the date in U.S. style (J. T. Smith, personal communication, May 17, 1998) (J. T. Smith, personal communication,
17 May, 2012)
Do not use ordinal indicators (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.) (J. T. Smith, personal communication, November 12th, 2009) (J. T. Smith, personal communication, November 12th, 2009)

 

An Example With Pseudonyms

Let’s imagine that I have done interviews with participants for a case study. Let’s say that the real name of one of my participant’s is Joe Schmoe.  I certainly don’t want to reveal Joe’s real name in my study, so I have decided to use a pseudonym, Bob.

  • In the interview, Bob reported a high level of self-esteem (personal communication, March 2, 2012).
  • One of the participants said, “I have high self-esteem” (Bob, personal communication, March 2, 2012).

 

An Example With Participant Identification Numbers

The same system can be used if you use participant numbers instead of pseudonyms:

  •     In the interview, Participant 3 reported a high level of self-esteem (personal communication, March 2, 2012).
  •     One of the participants said, “I have high self-esteem” (Participant 3, personal communication, March 2, 2012).

 

Informing the Reader About Permission and Usage

Regardless of whether you are writing a journal article, book, dissertation, or some other document, make sure to mention that you obtained consent from participants and approval to work with human subjects. This is often stated briefly in the Method section of a study.

If you are using pseudonyms or participant number to protect identities, you should explain that in a footnote on the first mention of a personal communication.

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation, most schools will require that you include a copy of your IRB and consent letters in your appendices. Consult your school’s dissertation formatting guide.

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Rocky Citro

Hi, my name is Rocky, and I am a technical academic editor with over a decade experience editing for professors and graduate students in prestigious universities. I have also taught writing at the graduate and undergraduate level and have several years' TEFL teaching experience.