What is "APA"?
The American Psychological Association (APA) has produced a publication manual that includes all of the rules that you need to know to produce a manuscript that conforms to their standards. This manual, now in the 5th edition, has been accepted as the gold standard by many academic disciples. Other common academic style manuals include The Chicago Manual of Style and The Modern Language Association Style Manual, (also known as "Chicago" and "MLA"). If you are a graduate student, it is a really good idea to purchase the style manual accepted by the majority of the faculty in your department. In Special Education at UNM, you should purchase the APA manual. It is available in the campus bookstore. Make sure you get the most recent (5th) edition.
Actually, these manuals have a real reason for being, other than driving students crazy. By providing a uniform way of presenting information, these style guides assist the writer in preparing their papers in a manner that will be understood by most readers. For example, because the information needed for a reference to be complete is specified, readers are assured that they can obtain a copy of a particular cited work themselves, if they are interested. Without ALL of the parts of a citation, references can be near impossible to track down.
What’s really important?
Each style manual has many, many rules, most of which the vast majority of students do not need to learn in detail. There are, however, a few major areas that you should pay attention to:
- page margins
- type styles and fonts
- citations of sources
- reducing bias in language
Just the Facts, Ma’am
The following are just a FEW of the most important rules. For more information, check out the manual (make sure you get the 6th edition) and/or go to the APA website.
Format: All papers should be double-spaced throughout, (including the reference section) with one inch margins all around. Do not add extra lines between paragraphs or sections. The font should be 12 pt and you need to use a "serif" type style (with the hooks and curly-cues), such as Times or Courier. All paragraphs should be indented half an inch, NOT five spaces. Only one space should be added between the period at the end of a sentence and the first letter of the next.
Headings: These tell the reader how your text is organized -- they are VERY important. You need to decide how many levels of headings you will need, before you can figure out what they look like. For example, many college papers will have at least two levels. The first level includes the major categories, such as the introduction, whatever you name the body of your paper, and the conclusion or discussion (or both). You may then also want several sub-categories in the body of your text. For example, if you are writing about theories of second language development, you would use a sub heading for each of the major theories you discuss. If you then break any of these categories into smaller groups, you would need at least one additional level.
If you are using only two levels, the first level of heading (i.e. introduction) should be centered in upper and lower case letters. The next level should be flush to the left margin (NOT indented), italicized, in upper and lower case letters. If you use a third level, that heading should be indented, italicized, with only the first letter of the first word in upper case AND it should be followed with a period, after which you write your first sentence, without using a paragraph return. If you use more than three levels of headings, you need to check the APA manual for the correct format.
Quotations and citations are extremely important. These rules help you to clearly identify where you got your information. The reader needs to know whether you obtained the information from some source or whether that provided is your own interpretation. If you do not make this clear, you could run into concerns about plagiarism. To avoid this, you absolutely need to indicate WHO said WHAT, WHEN and WHERE.
When you include information from an outside source, you will typically either 1) paraphrase the original author’s words or 2) use a direct quote, writing down EXACTLY what was written in the original text. To avoid plagiarizing when you paraphrase, you need to change both the content AND form of the information you read -- it is not enough to shuffle the words around (from passive to active voice, for example) or substitute synonyms within the same sentence structure. If you are having difficulty paraphrasing something without falling into this trap, you should consider including direct quotes, (which you indicate with quotations marks), from the material in question.
With direct quotes you MUST include the page number(s) of the original source, along with the author(s) last name(s) and the year of the publication. The full reference then must be included in the reference section. If you are able to paraphrase the information, or you just want to refer to a work in general, you only need to include the author(s) last name(s) and the year of publication (and then, of course, include the full citation in the reference section too). There are several ways you can do in-text citations, such as in the following examples:
- According to Smith (1989), life can be pretty exciting.
- Life can sometimes be pretty exciting (Smith, 1989).
- "Yahoo!" (Smith, 1989, p. 3).
- Talking about life, Smith (1989) said "Yahoo!" (p. 3).
Formatting your references: Your reference list starts on a new page and should have the word 'References' centered at the top of the page (not bold, not underlined, and only the first letter capitalized). All references must be double spaced. Do not add an extra line in between references. The new (6th) edition of the APA manual has gone back to the old style of using "hanging indents," which means that the first line of each reference goes all the way to the left margin, with the following lines of each reference indented. You can set this up on your computer by using the ruler at the top of your screen. Drag the bottom triangle to the right by 1/2 an inch, leaving the top triangle all the way to the left (the opposite of how you set your paragraph indents). That should make all of your author names stick out to the left, while indenting the rest of each reference.
Where do I put the periods and commas? The APA manual provides the format for each kind of citation you might use, such as journal articles, web sites, conference presentations, etc. You need to look up the correct format in the manual.It is really important for students taking graduate level classes to own a current copy of the APA manual. For an example of a reference section formatted in APA that includes journal articles, chapters from edited books, and authored books, click here* For up-to-date information about citating electronic sources (i.e. web pages) follow this link: http://www.apastyle.org/elecref.html. This does not, however, replace the need to own your own copy of the APA manual.
Additional resources can be found at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (see this specific page on using APA format).
** To view PDF documents you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:54:13
Your reference list should appear at the end of your paper. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text.
Your references should begin on a new page separate from the text of the essay; label this page "References" centered at the top of the page (do NOT bold, underline, or use quotation marks for the title). All text should be double-spaced just like the rest of your essay.
- All lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list should be indented one-half inch from the left margin. This is called hanging indentation.
- Authors' names are inverted (last name first); give the last name and initials for all authors of a particular work for up to and including seven authors. If the work has more than seven authors, list the first six authors and then use ellipses after the sixth author's name. After the ellipses, list the last author's name of the work.
- Reference list entries should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each work.
- For multiple articles by the same author, or authors listed in the same order, list the entries in chronological order, from earliest to most recent.
- Present the journal title in full.
- Maintain the punctuation and capitalization that is used by the journal in its title.
- For example: ReCALL not RECALL or Knowledge Management Research & Practice not Knowledge Management Research and Practice.
- Capitalize all major words in journal titles.
- When referring to books, chapters, articles, or webpages, capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a title and subtitle, the first word after a colon or a dash in the title, and proper nouns.
- Italicize titles of longer works such as books and journals.
- Do not italicize, underline, or put quotes around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles or essays in edited collections.
- Please note: While the APA manual provides many examples of how to cite common types of sources, it does not provide rules on how to cite all types of sources. Therefore, if you have a source that APA does not include, APA suggests that you find the example that is most similar to your source and use that format. For more information, see page 193 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed., 2nd printing.