I use APA citation style. When I cite a government agency as the author or publisher of a work, should I include "United States", "U.S.", or omit the country entirely? Is it ever appropriate to include a country in brackets or parentheses when it isn't part of the agency name?

Some agencies have United States as part of their formal name, even if they don't often use it, eg. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Other agencies don't have "United States" as part of their formal name, eg. the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If there is potential for confusion with the agency of another country with a similar name, can I put the country name in parentheses or brackets, eg "Federal Bureau of Investigations [U.S.]. (2019). ..."?

I'm in the United States in a context where documents from the executive agencies of other countries are unlikely to be cited, so I tend to omit the country. However, if I do cite, say the Department of Education of South Africa, do I need to add U.S. to my references to disambiguate them? This is not a minor change, as it effects alphabetization.

What I found online:

The Pen and the Pad uses examples which omit U.S.

Washington & Lee University library guide uses this example:

United States. Department of Justice.  Office of 
     Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice.
     (1998). High school youths, weapons, and violence:
     A national survey by J.F. Sheley and J.D. Wright.
     Washington DC: National Institute of Justice.  
     (Research in brief)   (J 28.24:Y 8)

All those periods in an author sure seems clumsy to me. I probably would have done "National Institute of Justice [U.S.]. (1998)." or "United States Department of Justice. (1998)."

1 Answer 1


My preference would be to just use "U.S." inline versus omission, spelling it out, or using parentheses. Think this is adequate to give the information but is tight and doesn't look awkward.

I would use this both in text (for example funding acknowledgements) or citations. Also spell out agencies. Not CIA or BUPERS but whole name. Note, it is fine in normal conversation, emails, etc. to use the acronyms if context and audience make it clear [for example in a question here about U.S. specific funding agencies I could say "NSF" in an answer]. But not in peer reviewed literature heading out to the world.

P.s. There is some fussiness about U.S. versus US. I would stick with U.S. as the more traditional and common spelling. (But let copy editors do what they want--this is minutia.) US is preferred in the context of the military and in some newer style guides. U.S. is still more traditional in grammar texts, newspaper style guides, and civilian parts of U.S. government.

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