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APA Writing, Citing, and Formatting

What Is the APA Manual and Why Is It Used?

The American Psychological Association publishes a manual that is widely used in academia to specify standards for academic writing. It prescribes formatting details like page margins, font types and sizes, and uniform heading structure. It also details how to cite sources of information.

The attribution of sources consists of narrative citations or parenthetical citations in the paper’s body and the listing of those sources cited in the paper on the references pages at the end of the paper. Sources of information must be acknowledged with citations to avoid plagiarism (explained elsewhere in the Writing Studio website) and to inform readers of student papers where information in the paper came from if they are interested in reviewing those sources.

Citations

A typical narrative citation would be like the following:

According to Smith and Jones (2019), the factors most affecting …

A typical parenthetical citation would be like the following:

… are most affected by those factors (Smith & Jones, 2019).

The citations of quoted material include a page or paragraph number:

… claimed “the factor that cannot be ignored is cost” (Smith & Jones, 2019, p. 43).

Quotations of 40 words or more are formatted somewhat differently. The differences are explained in the APA Manual Seventh Edition in section 8.27.

The specific form of a citation depends on the number of authors, whether there are authors associated with the written work, whether or not there is a year of publication, and whether there is more than one source listed on the References page with the same author(s) and year of publication. There is also a specific way to cite a primary source you found by reading a secondary source during your research. The details for formatting these different kinds of citations are in the APA Manual.

The References Page(s)

Once you have written the paper and cited specific sources in it, create a References section. The sources are listed in alphabetical order and formatted with a “Hanging” indent. The attached PDF contains examples of the basic formats.

Citations and References (Seventh Edition)

Tone

Assume that your audience knows something about your topic but may not know everything that you do. You should write in a way that grabs their interest. Avoid writing in an informal, conversational tone. Use a business-like tone, and try to be concise with your choice of words. In every instance, try to make your point by using as few words as possible.