Basic Rules Of The APA Format
The APA Style provides a foundation for effective scholarly communication because it helps writers present their ideas in a clear, concise, and inclusive manner. When style works best, ideas flow logically, sources are credited appropriately, and papers are organized predictably. People are described using language that affirms their worth and dignity. Authors plan for ethical compliance and report critical details of their research protocol to allow readers to evaluate findings and other researchers to potentially replicate the studies. Tables and figures present information in an engaging, readable manner. This article shall discuss the basic rules of the APA format.
Are you writing a paper for a psychology class? Then you will need to use APA format to organize your paper and list the references you used. If you’ve never used this format before, you may find that it is quite a bit different from some of the writing styles and guidelines you have used in the past.
While it might take a while to get used to, learning how to write an APA paper is a useful skill that will serve you well whether you are a psychology major or just taking your first social science class.
What Is APA Format?
APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education, and the social sciences. The APA style originated in a 1929 article published in Psychological Bulletin that laid out the basic guidelines. These guidelines were eventually expanded into the APA Publication Manual.
So why is the APA format so important in psychology and other social sciences? By using APA style, researchers and students writing about psychology are able to communicate information about their ideas and experiments in a consistent format. Sticking to a consistent style allows readers to know what to look for as they read journal articles and other forms of psychological writing.
If you have never taken a psychology or social science class before, then you are probably accustomed to using a different style guide such as MLA or Chicago style. New college students are often surprised to find that after spending years having another formatting style drilled into their heads, many university-level classes instead require APA style.
It can be a difficult transition, especially if you have to bounce back and forth between different styles for different classes. Getting a solid grasp of the basics and bookmarking a few key resources can make learning this new format a bit easier.
READ ALSO: HOW TO WRITE TABLE OF CONTENTS IN APA FORMAT
Major Sections of Your Paper
In most cases, your paper should include four main sections: the title page, abstract, main section, and references list.
Your title page should contain a title, author name, and school affiliation. Then the page should display the course number and name, the instructor’s name, and the due date of your paper. The purpose of your title page is to let the reader quickly know what your paper is about and who it was written by.
An abstract is a brief summary of your paper that immediately follows your title page. According to APA format, your abstract should be no more than 100 to 200 words although this can vary depending upon the specific publication or instructor requirements.
For something like an essay, the main body of your paper will include the actual essay itself. If you are writing a lab report, then your main body will be broken down into further sections. The four main components of a lab report include the introduction, method, results, and discussion sections.
The reference section of your paper will include a list of all of the sources that you used in your paper. If you cited any piece of information anywhere in your paper, it needs to be properly referenced in this section.
One handy rule of thumb to remember is that any source cited in your paper needs to be included in your reference section. And any source listed in your reference section must also be mentioned somewhere in your paper.
How to Handle In-Text Citations
As you are writing your paper, it is important to include citations in your text identifying where you found the information you use. Such notations are called in-text citations, and APA format dictates that when citing in APA format in the text of your paper, use the author’s name followed by the date of publication.
For example, if you were to cite Sigmund Freud’s book The Interpretation of Dreams, you would use the following format: (Freud, 1900). The extended information on the source should then appear in your reference section.
Important Tips for Reference Pages
The exact format of each individual reference may vary somewhat depending on whether you are referencing an author or authors, a book or journal article, or an electronic source.
It pays to spend some time looking at the specific requirements for each type of reference before formatting your source list. Here are some useful tips for incorporating reference pages into your document.
- Start a new page for your references.
- Title the new page “References.”
- Center the title text at the top of the page.
- Put all entries in alphabetical order.
- Align the first line of a reference flush with the left margin.
- Indent each additional line (usually accomplished by using the TAB key).
- Make sure the reference section is double-spaced.
- Use italics for titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers.
- Include all sources cited both in the text and on the reference page.
Any reference that appears in the text of your report or article must be cited on the reference page, and any item appearing on your reference page must be also included somewhere in the body of your text.
If you are struggling with APA format or are looking for a good way to collect and organize your references as you work on your research, consider using a free APA citation machine. These online tools can help generate an APA style reference but always remember to double-check each one for accuracy.
Purchasing your own copy of the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is a great way to learn more about the APA format and have a handy resource to check your own work against. Looking at examples of APA format can also be very helpful.
While the APA format may seem complex, it will become easier once you familiarize yourself with the rules and format.
The overall format may be similar for many papers, but your instructor might have specific requirements that vary depending on whether you are writing an essay or a research paper. In addition to your reference page, your instructor may also require you to maintain and turn in an APA format bibliography.
I hope you find this article helpful as well as interesting.