Cite UN SDGs APA Style: Quick Reference Guide

Navigating the APA citation format can be tricky, especially when you’re dealing with authoritative sources like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You want your research to shine, and that means getting your citations spot on. Whether you’re a student, researcher, or policy analyst, mastering the art of citation is crucial to your work’s credibility.

Understanding how to properly reference the SDGs in your writing not only reflects your attention to detail but also shows respect for the original source. Let’s dive into the specifics of APA citation for the UN’s SDGs, ensuring your academic and professional documents are up to the mark.

Why cite United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in APA style?

Citing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in APA style lends credibility to your work. When you reference the SDGs, you’re drawing on a globally recognized framework for sustainability. These goals are integral in guiding nations and organizations towards a more equitable and sustainable future. By citing them accurately, you showcase your engagement with current global initiatives and your understanding of their relevance to your topic.

The APA citation format is widely used in academia and research. It is known for its precise and structured approach to citation, ensuring that readers can locate original sources easily. In fields related to social sciences, education, and environmental studies, following APA guidelines is crucial. It signals that you’re adhering to the professional standards of your field, thus enhancing the trust and authority of your document.

When dealing with subjects such as climate action, quality education, or gender equality, it’s likely that you’ll encounter the SDGs. Citing them correctly:

  • Helps readers verify your claims
  • Ensures you’re not plagiarizing the work of the United Nations
  • Facilitates broader understanding and awareness of these goals

The SDGs are a comprehensive set of targets that are shaping policy and research across the globe. Your ability to cite them accurately in APA style demonstrates your thoroughness and dedication to scholarly rigour. It’s not just about giving credit where it’s due; it’s also about contributing to a culture of accountability and precision in research and reporting.

Remember, the way you cite sources can greatly impact the perception of your work. As the SDGs continue to influence global agendas, understanding how to reference them correctly is more than a technical skill; it’s a vital part of engaging with the global conversation on development.

What is APA citation style?

When you’re dealing with academic writing, it’s likely you’ll encounter the APA citation style. APA stands for the American Psychological Association, which developed this style to standardize scientific writing. It’s predominantly used in social sciences to ensure clarity and uniformity across a wide array of documents.

This citation style is guided by the principle that readers must be able to find and retrieve any source you’ve mentioned. Therefore, in APA style, each citation includes various elements such as the author’s name, publication year, title, and source. Whether you’re citing a book, journal article, or online resource, APA requires you to follow specific formatting rules.

For instance, when you’re referencing a journal article in APA format, you’ll arrange the citation with the author’s last name followed by their initials, the date of publication in parentheses, the title of the article, the title of the journal (in italics), the volume number (also in italics), the issue number (in parentheses), and the page range of the article. Here’s an example:

Doe, J. (2021). The Effect of Climate Change on Marine Biology. Journal of Marine Science, 31(2), 234-245.

Notably, APA style also has clear rules for in-text citations. As you mention ideas or facts from a source, you’ll need to include the author’s last name and the year of publication in parentheses right after the referenced material.

But it’s not just about following a format; it’s about maintaining academic integrity. Adhering to APA style ensures that you’re giving proper credit to the original authors, thereby avoiding plagiarism. It also allows your audience to assess and follow up on your research sources, reinforcing the trustworthiness of your work.

Elements of APA citation for United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

When you’re incorporating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals into your work, it’s essential to understand the elements that make up an APA citation. Each part plays a crucial role in guiding your readers directly to the source material, ensuring your work is both credible and well-researched.

Author or Entity

Start with the United Nations as the author since the SDGs are published and maintained by this organization. In cases where a specific department or agency has authored the document, include that detail as well.

Publication Year

Following the author, the year of publication comes next. APA style places high importance on the date because the timeliness of information is critical in research. Make sure you’re referring to the most current version of the SDGs.

Title of the Document

The title of the document should reflect the specific Goal or report you’re citing. For SDGs, you’d often include the goal number and its title. Titles should be italicized to stand out from the rest of the citation.

Source Details

Include additional details like the document number if available. This often applies to reports or policy papers. For citing the online version of the SDGs, which is common, provide the URL. When you’re working with a print document, the publisher’s location and name would be necessary.

Here’s the structure you should follow:

  • United Nations (or specific agency). (Year of publication). Title of the document. URL if online or Publisher if print.

Ensure each component is correctly formatted and placed in your citation. By paying attention to these details, you’ll avoid common errors and present a polished, authoritative work. Remember, proper citation not only respects the original source but it also enables your peers to consult the material you’ve based your arguments on, strengthening the collective knowledge base.

In-text citations for United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

When you’re weaving the SDGs into the narrative of your research or writing, in-text citations are essential to attribute credit succinctly within your content. The key is to keep in-text citations brief, allowing your audience to easily find the full reference in your work.

For a direct quotation, ensure you include the page number, or for a document without pages, provide a heading or section name. This could look like (United Nations, 2015, p. 14) or (United Nations, 2015, “Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being”).

If you’re summarizing or paraphrasing information about a particular goal, the mention of the United Nations as the author and the year of publication are typically sufficient. An example would be (United Nations, 2015). Remember, every in-text citation must correspond to a full reference entry in your reference list.

With 17 goals to choose from, referencing multiple SDGs might be a necessity. If you discuss several goals in a single section, your in-text citation can reference more than one goal at a time. For instance, in referencing the goals related to education and clean water, you might write (United Nations, 2015, Goals 4 and 6).

To maintain readability, use the abbreviation ‘UN’ after the first full citation of the United Nations in your paper. So, your first citation will appear as (United Nations, 2015) and subsequent citations should be shortened to (UN, 2015).

Be vigilant about the specific details of each goal when you’re citing; the SDGs are comprehensive, and each has specific targets and indicators. Treating these details with accuracy in your in-text citations reflects the precision and reliability of your research.

  • Include author (United Nations), year of publication (2015), and specific details like page number or goal.
  • Summarize or paraphrase by using just the author and year in parentheses.
  • Reference multiple goals in one citation if applicable.
  • Use “UN” as an abbreviation after the first citation within your paper.

How to cite United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in APA reference list?

When compiling your APA reference list, each Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) requires proper citation to ensure readers can locate the original sources of information. You’ll find that citing the UN SDGs is similar to citing reports published by organizations.

For each SDG, you should include the following elements:

  • Author: The United Nations is considered the author of the SDGs.
  • Publication year: Note the year the goal or report was published.
  • Title: Include the full name of the specific goal or report.
  • Publisher: The United Nations is also the publisher.
  • DOI or URL: If the document was found online, provide the direct DOI or the URL where the document can be accessed.

Here’s a general format to guide your citations:

Author. (Year). Title of the report (italicized). Publisher. DOI/URL

For instance, if you’re citing the third SDG related to health and well-being, your reference entry might look like this:

United Nations. (2015). Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure Healthy Lives and Promote Well-Being for All at All Ages. United Nations.

When there are specific reports or documents associated with the SDGs, ensure that you use the title of the report rather than the general goal. For example:

United Nations. (2016). Global Health and Foreign Policy: Strategic Opportunities and Challenges. United Nations.

While crafting your reference list, remember to:

  • Double-space your reference list entries.
  • Use a hanging indent for each new entry.
  • Present your references in alphabetical order by the author’s surname.

Keep in mind that proper citation not only lends credibility to your work but also allows you to avoid plagiarism. By adhering to the precise structure for each entry, your readers can effortlessly trace back the origin of the UN SDGs information you’ve incorporated in your research or report.


Mastering APA citation for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals helps ensure your work is both credible and respectful of intellectual property. Remember to cite the specific report title associated with each SDG and adhere to the APA formatting guidelines. With these tips, you’re now equipped to accurately reference the SDGs, enhancing the scholarly impact and integrity of your research or academic writing. Your attention to detail in citations reflects the care you put into your work, setting a high standard for your contributions to global discussions on sustainability.


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