Here's how to use APA style without issue numbers in Zotero

Zotero is a major part of my workflow from gathering research to the final, written output. One major annoyance, though, is its interpretation of APA reference style. It’s all correct, of course, with one exception: It adds the issue number to every journal citation.

APA style holds that you should not include the issue numbers. The sole exception to this rule, which is admittedly asinine, are journals which paginate by issue rather than volume1. That is, some journal start every issue at page 1, so the page numbers of any given article are not all that helpful without knowing the issue. Unfortunately, the vast majority of journals in the fields that use APA style do not paginate by issue, so the vast majority of the time you do not need to include the issue number2.

Zotero has made the decision to always include the issue number in the official APA style included with the default installation. There’s no reasonable way for the format to know which journals do and don’t paginate this way, but for most users of the style it means the outputted format will almost always be technically incorrect since most will only be citing journals that do not need the issue number included.

I had been just deleting the issue numbers in my Zotero library to fix this before I realized there’s a better way of dealing with it without ruining my library for the time that issue numbers become required again (like they were for a time at the end of the APA 5th edition era).

I’ve just made a slight tweak to the style that prevents it from outputting the issue numbers. You can download the modified style by clicking here.

To add it to Zotero, go to preferences, then the “Cite” tab, and click the plus sign. Navigate to the apa-no-issue-numbers.csl file you just downloaded and add the style. Next time you use Zotero to format the references in a document, just choose that style instead of the regular APA version.

  1. See the comments here for more back and forth on the terrible-ness of this aspect of the APA 6th style guide. ^
  2. Unless of course you come from one of the fields that predominantly uses journals paginated by issue, in which case I wonder how you ended up on this blog post. ^