Lights, Camera, Action: Manual on Citing YouTube Videos

New times mean new sources of information and knowledge, so in addition to books and articles, students can use websites, online databases, online videos, and even tweets and Instagram posts. Yes, not only influencers but also responsible learners can make use of YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter for their benefit. Fun as it seems, using web-based sources poses a challenge when it comes to credit them. When such sources are incorporated into academic writing, they become academically significant as well. So, first, authors and publishers of such sources need recognition, and second, readers might want to draw upon these sources. Hence, they need to know how to locate these sources. That’s why referencing the sources properly is necessary to avoid charges of plagiarism and to ensure that the flow of information is not interrupted.

Are There Unified Rules of Citing YouTube Videos?

 In this article, we will explore how to cite YouTube videos properly. Websites, online journals, and similar data containers are regularly discussed in blogs and official formatting styles manuals. Videos get less attention since they are considered optional and supporting evidence that is used not that often. However, we believe that videos will have their share of the application. Plus, even if they are used rarely, they deserve to be formatted carefully, and students deserve to get high marks without points deduction for improper format. We will discuss what data to cite about videos and how to cite it in the most popular formats. Yes, the rules for APA and MLA are different, so read carefully and save this post to have it at hand in time of need.

Information About YouTube Video to Mention in Citation

Unlike many academic sources, YouTube videos may have two different authors who perform different functions. Sometimes these authors coincide, but often they do not.

The first author is the one who builds the content of the video. It is a person or entity that produced the video or is reflected as the main character in it. The video may have been uploaded to YouTube by this very person or by another one. This second person (or entity), uploader, is considered a second author of the video. So when citing the video in your paper you have to mention both of them. In different formatting styles, they will be mentioned in different places and in different forms. But to begin with, you have to understand who is who. Reliable video descriptions and titles usually provide this information, so be sure to read them.

Besides authors, you have to name the title of the video and date of its publication. The last but important piece of information is the URL of the video – it helps to find the video without doing lots of web searches.

How to Decide Who Is the Author of the Video

It is easier to begin explanations with the second one – an uploader. The name of the channel where the video is found in the name of the second author. Whether it is the channel of some unknown user, or Pewdiepie, Ariana Grande or NASA, they are second authors (and usually the first ones). Channel name, therefore, is cited as the second author’s screen name, not as a place – the place (container) of all videos is YouTube (we will discuss it in detail later).

Individuals as authors 

The first author may be mentioned in the video title (written right under the video itself), or inside the video (in credits). For example, a video made by Pewdiepie titled “Pewdiepie’s Intro to a New Game Release” is uploaded to CBS or eSports World Convention channel. Video’s first author will be Pewdiepie himself, video’s second author will be CBS or eSports World Convention.

When such recognizable figures as Hillary Clinton or Pewdiepie post videos, it is easy to understand who made them and who posted them (and to see the difference). Pewdiepie is a celebrity now, so when he is in the picture doing his talking he is obviously the first author (even if his name is not mentioned in the title). When this video is uploaded to the Pewdiepie channel, he is the second author as well. If this is some unknown user’s channel and the video does not have any clues to authorship (or is obviously recorded by this user as a witness), then this user also becomes the first and the second author of a video.

Entities and institutions as authors

It gets more complicated with NASA, for example. In their videos, many people talk, including astronauts, scientists, and celebrities, but they do not produce videos. Video is obviously produced by NASA and then uploaded to the NASA channel. So NASA becomes the first and the second author. Only if a specific name of a scientist or journalist is mentioned in the video title, then it is reasonable to cite him/her as the first author, and NASA as the second.

The same applies to official news channels and channels of colleges and educational institutions on YouTube. If no specific journalist/scholar is mentioned in the video title, the first and the second author will be this channel. But if a scholar gives a talk on some problem, like reporting about Notre Dame damage and prospects of restoring, he/she may be credited as the first author, and the official YouTube channel of a news outlet becomes the second author.

If you cite the whole channel, you will treat its name as a title of work (not an author) and cite accordingly (as work without an author).

Citing YouTube Video in APA

When citing YouTube videos in APA follow the same pattern as to when citing written sources. The information will appear in the following order:

  • Author last name and initials (both authors, to be more exact);
  • Date of uploading;
  • Title of video;
  • and URL where it can be found.

In generalized form it will look like the following:

First author name, N.N. [Uploader/second author name]. (Year, month day). Video title [Video file]. Retrieved from

Let us look at the example:

Johnson, B. [BBC] (2019, February 13). Address to the Parliament on the issue of ‘hard’ Brexit [Video file]. Retrieved from

Now about the italics in the title of the video. It may seem that since a video is posted on some channel, it should be treated like an article in a journal. But this is not the case usually. An individual video (i.e. the one that is neither prequel nor sequel of some other video) is treated as a standalone movie. So it is formatted as an individual work, like a book.

If the video is a part of a video blog, and it constitutes a part of a video series, it should be treated as an article, so to say. Then its title will not be italicized.

What if only the uploader name (second author name) is available? Then you cite the video by this second author name. It opens the references entry and goes without brackets (like first author name).

In-text citations will also employ this first author name that opens the reference entry and is used to alphabetize the references list. For example:

References entry: BBC. (2019, April 20). Fashion moguls pledge to give money for Notre Dame restoration. Retrieved from

In-text: (BBC, 2019).

Citing YouTube Video in MLA

If you need to cite a YouTube video in MLA, you will operate in the same way as with APA, but in a different order. You will mention:

  • The first author of the video;
  • Video title;
  • Name of a container (YouTube);
  • Name of the uploader (second author);
  • Date of uploading;
  • URL of the video.

So, in the generalized form it can be shown as follows:

First author surname and name. “Title of the video.” YouTube, uploaded by the second author, date of uploading, URL.

As you see, here in MLA YouTube is treated as a container and its title is italicized. The title of the video, in its turn, is treated as an article, so its title is put into inverted commas.

Let us look at a specific example:

Johnson, Boris. “Second Address to the Parliament.” YouTube, uploaded by BBC, 20 May 2019,

Now the same question: what is there is no first author and only second author/uploader is known? Then you mention only the second author but after the video title. So the reference will begin with the video title, followed by a container, followed by an uploader name. When doing in-text citations, you will use the shortened title and page.

Reference entry: “Prince Harry and Megan Markle to tie the knot soon”, YouTube, uploaded by HappyGirl, March 14, 2018,

In-text: (Prince Harry and Megan Markle, n.p.)

All in all, these are the basic rules and differences that you should keep in mind while citing videos. When deciding upon capitalizing in the video title, take a guide from the corresponding book and article capitalization rules in the formatting style you use. Then you will never miss it.

Or else, if you feel this is too tricky and complicated and you do not have enough time to dabble in all these details, just let us help you. Our experts will do the reference list in full accordance with requirements or will even create a whole paper for you. Just drop a word to us that you need help and be sure to get it inefficient and timely manner!

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