Each fall the APA Style Blog Team puts together a “best of” feature, and this year we continue the tradition with an updated set of posts from the APA Style Blog and our parent site, apastyle.org. We hope it will be helpful as new batches of students set upon the task of learning and implementing APA Style. You can get the full story in our sixth edition Publication Manual and our recently released APA Style Guide to Electronic References, plus more information via the links below.
What is APA Style?
Why is APA Style needed?
Basics of APA Style Tutorial
FAQs about APA Style
Sample Paper 1
Sample Paper 2
Sample meta-analysis paper
Sample published APA article
General Reference Help
How in-text citations work
How to find the example you need in the Publication Manual
How to deal with missing reference information
“How-To” Citation Help
Legal references (constitutions, etc.)
PsycTESTS test database
Secondary sources (sources you found in another source)
Social media (Twitter, Facebook)
A versus an with acronyms and abbreviations
All versus none
Datais versus dataare
Since versus because
That versus which
While versus although and whereas
Who versus that
Lists (lettered, numbered, or bulleted)
Keep in Touch!
We hope that these resources will be helpful to you as you write using APA Style. If you are interested in receiving tips about APA Style as well as general writing advice, we encourage you to follow us on social media. You can find us (and tell your friends) on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.
National Institute of Mental Health. (1990). Clinical training in serious mental illness (DHHS Publication No. ADM 90-1679). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
For information about citing legal sources in your reference list, see theUniversity of Nebraska, Kearney page on Citing Legal Materials in APA Style.
Report From a Private Organization
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Practice guidelines for the treatment of patients with eating disorders (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Schnase, J. L., & Cunnius, E. L. (Eds.). (1995). Proceedings from CSCL ’95: The First International Conference on Computer Support for Collaborative Learning. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Reference List: Electronic Sources (Web Publications)
Please note: There are no spaces used with brackets in APA. When possible, include the year, month, and date in references. If the month and date are not available, use the year of publication. Please note, too, that the OWL still includes information about print sources and databases for those still working with these sources.
Article From an Online Periodical
Online articles follow the same guidelines for printed articles. Include all information the online host makes available, including an issue number in parentheses.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number(issue number if available). Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Bernstein, M. (2002). 10 tips on writing the living Web. A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 149. Retrieved from http://www.alistapart.com/articles/writeliving
Online Scholarly Journal Article: Citing DOIs
Please note: In August of 2011 the formatting recommendations for DOIs changed. DOIs are now rendered as an alpha-numeric string which acts as an active link. According to The APA Style Guide to Electronic References, 6th edition, you should use the DOI format which the article appears with. So, if it is using the older numeric string, use that as the DOI. If, however, it is presented as the newer alpha-numeric string, use that as the DOI. The Purdue OWL maintains examples of citations using both DOI styles.
Because online materials can potentially change URLs, APA recommends providing a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), when it is available, as opposed to the URL. DOIs are an attempt to provide stable, long-lasting links for online articles. They are unique to their documents and consist of a long alphanumeric code. Many-but not all-publishers will provide an article’s DOI on the first page of the document.
Note that some online bibliographies provide an article’s DOI but may “hide” the code under a button which may read “Article” or may be an abbreviation of a vendor’s name like “CrossRef” or “PubMed.” This button will usually lead the user to the full article which will include the DOI. Find DOI’s from print publications or ones that go to dead links with CrossRef.org’s “DOI Resolver,” which is displayed in a central location on their home page.
Article From an Online Periodical with DOI Assigned
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. doi:0000000/000000000000 or http://dx.doi.org/10.0000/0000
Brownlie, D. (2007). Toward effective poster presentations: An annotated bibliography. European Journal of Marketing, 41, 1245-1283. doi:10.1108/03090560710821161
Wooldridge, M.B., & Shapka, J. (2012). Playing with technology: Mother-toddler interaction scores lower during play with electronic toys.Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 33(5), 211-218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.appdev.2012.05.005
Article From an Online Periodical with no DOI Assigned
Online scholarly journal articles without a DOI require the URL of the journal home page. Remember that one goal of citations is to provide your readers with enough information to find the article; providing the journal home page aids readers in this process.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number. Retrieved from http://www.journalhomepage.com/full/url/
Kenneth, I. A. (2000). A Buddhist response to the nature of human rights.Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 8. Retrieved from http://www.cac.psu.edu/jbe/twocont.html
Article From a Database
Please note: APA states that including database information in citations is not necessary because databases change over time (p. 192). However, the OWL still includes information about databases for those users who need database information.
When referencing a print article obtained from an online database (such as a database in the library), provide appropriate print citation information (formatted just like a “normal” print citation would be for that type of work). By providing this information, you allow people to retrieve the print version if they do not have access to the database from which you retrieved the article. You can also include the item number or accession number or database URL at the end, but the APA manual says that this is not required.
If you are citing an article from a database that is available in other places, such as a journal or magazine, include the homepage’s URL. You may have to do a web search of the article’s title, author, etc. to find the URL.
For articles that are easily located, do not provide database information. If the article is difficult to locate, then you can provide database information. Only use retrieval dates if the source could change, such as Wikis. For more about citing articles retrieved from electronic databases, see pages 187-192 of the Publication Manual.
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number, page range. Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Smyth, A. M., Parker, A. L., & Pease, D. L. (2002). A study of enjoyment of peas. Journal of Abnormal Eating, 8(3), 120-125. Retrieved from http://www.articlehomepage.com/full/url/
If you only cite an abstract but the full text of the article is also available, cite the online abstract as any other online citations, adding “[Abstract]” after the article or source name. However, if the full text is not available, you may use an abstract that is available through an abstracts database as a secondary source.
Paterson, P. (2008). How well do young offenders with Asperger Syndrome cope in custody?: Two prison case studies [Abstract]. British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(1), 54-58.
Hendricks, J., Applebaum, R., & Kunkel, S. (2010). A world apart? Bridging the gap between theory and applied social gerontology.Gerontologist, 50(3), 284-293. Abstract retrieved from Abstracts in Social Gerontology database. (Accession No. 50360869)
Author, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Newspaper. Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Parker-Pope, T. (2008, May 6). Psychiatry handbook linked to drug industry. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://well.blogs.nytimes.com
Electronic books may include books found on personal websites, databases, or even in audio form. Use the following format if the book you are using is only provided in a digital format or is difficult to find in print. If the work is not directly available online or must be purchased, use “Available from,” rather than “Retrieved from,” and point readers to where they can find it. For books available in print form and electronic form, include the publish date in parentheses after the author’s name. For references to e-book editions, be sure to include the type and version of e-book you are referencing (e.g., “[Kindle DX version]”). If DOIs are available, provide them at the end of the reference.
De Huff, E. W. (n.d.). Taytay’s tales: Traditional Pueblo Indian tales. Retrieved fromhttp://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/dehuff/taytay/taytay.html
Davis, J. (n.d.). Familiar birdsongs of the Northwest. Available from http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=1-9780931686108-0
To cite Kindle (or other e-book formats) you must include the following information: The author, date of publication, title, e-book version, and either the Digital Object Identifer (DOI) number, or the place where you downloaded the book. Please note that the DOI/place of download is used in-place of publisher information.
Here’s an example:
Stoker, B. (1897). Dracula [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Chapter/Section of a Web Document or Online Book Chapter
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. InTitle of book or larger document (chapter or section number). Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
Engelshcall, R. S. (1997). Module mod_rewrite: URL Rewriting Engine. InApache HTTP Server version 1.3 documentation (Apache modules). Retrieved from http://httpd.apache.org/docs/1.3/mod/mod_rewrite.html
Peckinpaugh, J. (2003). Change in the Nineties. In J. S. Bough and G. B. DuBois (Eds.), A century of growth in America. Retrieved from GoldStar database.
NOTE: Use a chapter or section identifier and provide a URL that links directly to the chapter section, not the home page of the Web site.
Online Book Reviews
Cite the information as you normally would for the work you are quoting. (The first example below is from a newspaper article; the second is from a scholarly journal.) In brackets, write “Review of the book” and give the title of the reviewed work. Provide the web address after the words “Retrieved from,” if the review is freely available to anyone. If the review comes from a subscription service or database, write “Available from” and provide the information where the review can be purchased.
Zacharek, S. (2008, April 27). Natural women [Review of the book Girls like us]. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/27/books/review/Zachareck
Castle, G. (2007). New millennial Joyce [Review of the books Twenty-first Joyce, Joyce’s critics: Transitions in reading and culture, and Joyce’s messianism: Dante, negative existence, and the messianic self]. Modern Fiction Studies, 50(1), 163-173. Available from Project MUSE Web site: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/modern_fiction_studies/toc/mfs52.1.html
Dissertation/Thesis from a Database
Biswas, S. (2008). Dopamine D3 receptor: A neuroprotective treatment target in Parkinson’s disease. Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3295214)
Online Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Often encyclopedias and dictionaries do not provide bylines (authors’ names). When no byline is present, move the entry name to the front of the citation. Provide publication dates if present or specify (n.d.) if no date is present in the entry.
Feminism. (n.d.). In Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/724633/feminism
Online Bibliographies and Annotated Bibliographies
Jürgens, R. (2005). HIV/AIDS and HCV in Prisons: A Select Annotated Bibliography. Retrieved from http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/alt_formats/hpb-dgps/pdf/intactiv/hiv-vih-aids-sida-prison-carceral_e.pdf
Point readers to raw data by providing a Web address (use “Retrieved from”) or a general place that houses data sets on the site (use “Available from”).
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. (2008).Indiana income limits [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.huduser.org/Datasets/IL/IL08/in_fy2008.pdf
Graphic Data (e.g. Interactive Maps and Other Graphic Representations of Data)
Give the name of the researching organization followed by the date. In brackets, provide a brief explanation of what type of data is there and in what form it appears. Finally, provide the project name and retrieval information.
Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment. (2007). [Graph illustration the SORCE Spectral Plot May 8, 2008]. Solar Spectral Data Access from the SIM, SOLSTICE, and XPS Instruments. Retrieved from http://lasp.colorado.edu/cgi-bin/ion-p?page=input_data_for_ spectra.ion
Qualitative Data and Online Interviews
If an interview is not retrievable in audio or print form, cite the interview only in the text (not in the reference list) and provide the month, day, and year in the text. If an audio file or transcript is available online, use the following model, specifying the medium in brackets (e.g. [Interview transcript, Interview audio file]):
Butler, C. (Interviewer) & Stevenson, R. (Interviewee). (1999). Oral History 2 [Interview transcript]. Retrieved from Johnson Space Center Oral Histories Project Web site: http:// www11.jsc.nasa.gov/history/oral_histories/oral_histories.htm
Online Lecture Notes and Presentation Slides
When citing online lecture notes, be sure to provide the file format in brackets after the lecture title (e.g. PowerPoint slides, Word document).
Hallam, A. Duality in consumer theory [PDF document]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site: http://www.econ.iastate.edu/classes/econ501/Hallam/index.html
Roberts, K. F. (1998). Federal regulations of chemicals in the environment[PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://siri.uvm.edu/ppt/40hrenv/index.html
Nonperiodical Web Document, Web Page, or Report
List as much of the following information as possible (you sometimes have to hunt around to find the information; don’t be lazy. If there is a page like http://www.somesite.com/somepage.htm, and somepage.htm doesn’t have the information you’re looking for, move up the URL to http://www.somesite.com/):
Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of document. Retrieved from http://Web address
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderland, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/
NOTE: When an Internet document is more than one Web page, provide a URL that links to the home page or entry page for the document. Also, if there isn’t a date available for the document use (n.d.) for no date.
Computer Software/Downloaded Software
Do not cite standard office software (e.g. Word, Excel) or programming languages. Provide references only for specialized software.
Ludwig, T. (2002). PsychInquiry [computer software]. New York: Worth.
Software that is downloaded from a Web site should provide the software’s version and year when available.
Hayes, B., Tesar, B., & Zuraw, K. (2003). OTSoft: Optimality Theory Software (Version 2.1) [Software]. Available from http://www.linguistics.ucla.edu/people/hayes/otsoft/
E-mails are not included in the list of references, though you parenthetically cite them in your main text: (E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).
Online Forum or Discussion Board Posting
Include the title of the message, and the URL of the newsgroup or discussion board. Please note that titles for items in online communities (e.g. blogs, newsgroups, forums) are not italicized. If the author’s name is not available, provide the screen name. Place identifiers like post or message numbers, if available, in brackets. If available, provide the URL where the message is archived (e.g. “Message posted to…, archived at…”).
Frook, B. D. (1999, July 23). New inventions in the cyberworld of toylandia [Msg 25]. Message posted to http://groups.earthlink.com/forum/messages/00025.html
Blog (Weblog) and Video Blog Post
Include the title of the message and the URL. Please note that titles for items in online communities (e.g. blogs, newsgroups, forums) are not italicized. If the author’s name is not available, provide the screen name.
J Dean. (2008, May 7). When the self emerges: Is that me in the mirror? [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.spring.org.uk/the1sttransport
Psychology Video Blog #3 [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqM90eQi5-M
Please note that the APA Style Guide to Electronic References warns writers that wikis (like Wikipedia, for example) are collaborative projects that cannot guarantee the verifiability or expertise of their entries.
OLPC Peru/Arahuay. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2011 from the OLPC Wiki: http://wiki.laptop. org/go/OLPC_Peru/Arahuay
For all podcasts, provide as much information as possible; not all of the following information will be available. Possible addition identifiers may include Producer, Director, etc.
Bell, T., & Phillips, T. (2008, May 6). A solar flare. Science @ NASA Podcast. Podcast retrieved from http://science.nasa.gov/podcast.htm
For all podcasts, provide as much information as possible; not all of the following information will be available. Possible addition identifiers may include Producer, Director, etc.
Scott, D. (Producer). (2007, January 5). The community college classroom [Episode 7]. Adventures in Education. Podcast retrieved from http://www.adveeducation.com
For more help with citing electronic sources, please use these links:
Reference List: Other Non-Print Sources
Interviews, Email, and Other Personal Communication
No personal communication is included in your reference list; instead, parenthetically cite the communicator’s name, the phrase “personal communication,” and the date of the communication in your main text only.
(E. Robbins, personal communication, January 4, 2001).
A. P. Smith also claimed that many of her students had difficulties with APA style (personal communication, November 3, 2002).
Basic reference list format:
Producer, P. P. (Producer), & Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of publication). Title of motion picture [Motion picture]. Country of origin: Studio or distributor.
Note: If a movie or video tape is not available in wide distribution, add the following to your citation after the country of origin: (Available from Distributor name, full address and zip code).
A Motion Picture or Video Tape with International or National Availability
Smith, J. D. (Producer), & Smithee, A. F. (Director). (2001). Really big disaster movie [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.
A Motion Picture or Video Tape with Limited Availability
Harris, M. (Producer), & Turley, M. J. (Director). (2002). Writing labs: A history [Motion picture]. (Available from Purdue University Pictures, 500 Oval Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907)
Television Broadcast or Series Episode
Writer, W. W. (Writer), & Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of broadcast or copyright). Title of broadcast [Television broadcast or Television series]. In P. Producer (Producer). City, state of origin: Studio or distributor.
Single Episode of a Television Series
Writer, W. W. (Writer), & Director, D. D. (Director). (Date of publication). Title of episode [Television series episode]. In P. Producer (Producer), Series title. City, state of origin: Studio or distributor.
Wendy, S. W. (Writer), & Martian, I. R. (Director). (1986). The rising angel and the falling ape [Television series episode]. In D. Dude (Producer), Creatures and monsters. Los Angeles, CA: Belarus Studios.
Important, I. M. (Producer). (1990, November 1). The nightly news hour[Television broadcast]. New York, NY: Central Broadcasting Service.
A Television Series
Bellisario, D.L. (Producer). (1992). Exciting action show [Television series]. Hollywood: American Broadcasting Company.
Songwriter, W. W. (Date of copyright). Title of song [Recorded by artist if different from song writer]. On Title of album [Medium of recording]. Location: Label. (Recording date if different from copyright date).
Taupin, B. (1975). Someone saved my life tonight [Recorded by Elton John]. On Captain fantastic and the brown dirt cowboy [CD]. London, England: Big Pig Music Limited.
For more about citing audiovisual media, see pages 209-210 of the APA Publication Manual 6th Edition, second printing.
For information about citing legal sources in your reference list, see the Westfield State College page on Citing Legal Materials in APA Style.
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).
It’s always best to consult the Publication Manual first for any APA question. If you are using APA style for a class assignment, it’s a good idea to consult your professor, advisor, TA, or other campus resources for help with using APA style—they’re the ones who can tell you how the style should apply in your particular case. For extraordinary questions that aren’t covered clearly in the style manual or haven’t been answered by your teacher or advisor, contact us via email by using our OWL tutor email form.
Here are some print resources for using APA style. Click The Purdue OWL does not make any profit from nor does it endorse these agencies; links are merely offered for information. Most of these books are probably available in your local library. From the American Psychological Association:
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition) (ISBN 13: 978-1-4338-0561-5; ISBN 10: 1-4338-0561-8)
- Mastering APA Style: Instructor’s Resource Guide (ISBN: 1557988900)
- Mastering APA Style: Student’s Workbook and Training Guide(ISBN: 143380557X)
- Presenting Your Findings: A Practical Guide for Creating Tables(ISBN: 143380705X)
- Displaying Your Findings: A Practical Guide for Creating Figures, Posters, and Presentations (ISBN: 1433807076X)
From other publishers:
- Writing With Style: APA Style Made Easy (ISBN: 084003167X)
- Writing With Style: APA Style for Social Work (ISBN: 084003198X)
Online Resources from the APA
Other Online Resources: Documenting and Referencing Sources
Types of APA Papers
There are two common types of papers written in fields using APA Style: the literature review and the experimental report. Each has unique requirements concerning the sections that must be included in the paper.
A literature review is a critical summary of what the scientific literature says about your specific topic or question. Often student research in APA fields falls into this category. Your professor might ask you to write this kind of paper to demonstrate your familiarity with work in the field pertinent to the research you hope to conduct.
A literature review typically contains the following sections:
- Title page
- Introduction section
- List of references
Some instructors may also want you to write an abstract for a literature review, so be sure to check with them when given an assignment. Also, the length of a literature review and the required number of sources will vary based on course and instructor preferences.
NOTE: A literature review and an annotated bibliography are notsynonymous. If you are asked to write an annotated bibliography, you should consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for the APA Format for Annotated Bibliographies.
In many of the social sciences, you will be asked to design and conduct your own experimental research. If so, you will need to write up your paper using a structure that is more complex than that used for just a literature review. We have a complete resource devoted to writing an experimental report in the field of psychology here.
This structure follows the scientific method, but it also makes your paper easier to follow by providing those familiar cues that help your reader efficiently scan your information for:
- Why the topic is important (covered in your introduction)
- What the problem is (also covered in your introduction)
- What you did to try to solve the problem (covered in your methods section)
- What you found (covered in your results section)
- What you think your findings mean (covered in your discussion section)
Thus an experimental report typically includes the following sections.
- Title page
- Appendices(if necessary)
- Tables and/or figures (if necessary)
Make sure to check the guidelines for your assignment or any guidelines that have been given to you by an editor of a journal before you submit a manuscript containing the sections listed above.
As with the literature review, the length of this report may vary by course or by journal, but most often it will be determined by the scope of the research conducted.
If you are writing a paper that fits neither of these categories, follow the guidelines about General Format, consult your instructor, or look up advice in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
When submitting a manuscript to a journal, make sure you follow the guidelines described in the submission policies of that publication, and include as many sections as you think are applicable to presenting your material. Remember to keep your audience in mind as you are making this decision. If certain information is particularly pertinent for conveying your research, then ensure that there is a section of your paper that adequately addresses that information.
APA Stylistics: Avoiding Bias
Researchers who use APA often work with a variety of populations, some of whom tend to be stereotyped by the use of labels and other biased forms of language. Therefore, APA offers specific recommendations for eliminating bias in language concerning race, disability, and sexuality.
Make Adjustments to Labels
Although you should avoid labeling whenever possible, it is sometimes difficult to accurately account for the identity of your research population or individual participants without using language that can be read as biased. Making adjustments in how you use identifiers and other linguistic categories can improve the clarity of your writing and minimize the likelihood of offending your readers.
In general, you should call people what they prefer to be called, especially when dealing with race and ethnicity. But sometimes the common conventions of language inadvertently contain biases towards certain populations – e.g. using “normal” in contrast to someone identified as “disabled.” Therefore, you should be aware of how your choice of terminology may come across to your reader, particularly if they identify with the population in question.
You can find an in-depth discussion of this issue and specific recommendations for how to appropriately represent people in your text on the APA website on the following pages:
Avoid Gendered Pronouns
While you should always be clear about the sex identity of your participants (if you conducted an experiment), so that gender differences are obvious, you should not use gender terms when they aren’t necessary. In other words, you should not use “he,” “his” or “men” as generic terms applying to both sexes.
APA does not recommend replacing “he” with “he or she,” “she or he,” “he/she,” “(s)he,” “s/he,” or alternating between “he” and “she” because these substitutions are awkward and can distract the reader from the point you are trying to make. The pronouns “he” or “she” inevitably cause the reader to think of only that gender, which may not be what you intend.
To avoid the bias of using gendered pronouns:
- Rephrase the sentence
- Use plural nouns or plural pronouns – this way you can use “they” or “their”
- Replace the pronoun with an article – instead of “his,” use “the”
- Drop the pronoun – many sentences sound fine if you just omit the troublesome “his” from the sentence
- Replace the pronoun with a noun such as “person,” “individual,” “child,” “researcher,” etc.
For more about addressing gender in academic writing, visit the OWL’s handout on non-sexist language use.
Find Alternative Descriptors
To avoid unintentional biases in your language, look to the parameters of your research itself. When writing up an experimental report, describe your participants by the measures you used to classify them in the experiment, as long as the labels are not offensive.
Example: If you had people take a test measuring their reaction times and you were interested in looking at the differences between people who had fast reaction times and those with slow reaction times, you could call the first group the “fast reaction time group” and the second the “slow reaction time group.”
Also, use adjectives to serve as descriptors rather than labels. When you use terms such as “the elderly” or “the amnesiacs,” the people lose their individuality. One way to avoid this is to insert an adjective (e.g., “elderly people,” “amnesic patients”). Another way is to mention the person first and follow this with a descriptive phrase (e.g., “people diagnosed with amnesia”), although it can be cumbersome to keep repeating phrases like this.
APA Stylistics: Basics
Writing in APA is more than simply learning the formula for citations or following a certain page layout. APA also includes the stylistics of your writing, from point of view to word choice.
Point of View and Voice
When writing in APA Style, you can use the first person point of view when discussing your research steps (“I studied …”) and when referring to yourself and your co-authors (“We examined the literature …”). Use first person to discuss research steps rather than anthropomorphising the work. For example, a study cannot “control” or “interpret”; you and your co-authors, however, can.
In general, you should foreground the research and not the researchers (“The results indicate … “). Avoid using the editorial “we”; if you use “we” in your writing, be sure that “we” refers to you and your fellow researchers.
It is a common misconception that foregrounding the research requires using the passive voice (“Experiments have been conducted …”). This is inaccurate. Rather, you would use pronouns in place of “experiments” (“We conducted experiments …”).
APA Style encourages using the active voice (“We interpreted the results …”). The active voice is particularly important in experimental reports, where the subject performing the action should be clearly identified (e.g. “We interviewed …” vs. “The participants responded …”).
Consult the OWL handout for more on the distinction between passive and active voice.
Clarity and Conciseness
Clarity and conciseness in writing are important when conveying research in APA Style. You don’t want to misrepresent the details of a study or confuse your readers with wordiness or unnecessarily complex sentences.
For clarity, be specific rather than vague in descriptions and explanations. Unpack details accurately to provide adequate information to your readers so they can follow the development of your study.
Example: “It was predicted that marital conflict would predict behavior problems in school-aged children.”
To clarify this vague hypothesis, use parallel structure to outline specific ideas:
“The first hypothesis stated that marital conflict would predict behavior problems in school-aged children. The second hypothesis stated that the effect would be stronger for girls than for boys. The third hypothesis stated that older girls would be more affected by marital conflict than younger girls.”
To be more concise, particularly in introductory material or abstracts, you should pare out unnecessary words and condense information when you can (see the OWL handout on Conciseness in academic writing for suggestions).
Example: The above list of hypotheses might be rephrased concisely as: “The authors wanted to investigate whether marital conflict would predict behavior problems in children and they wanted to know if the effect was greater for girls than for boys, particularly when they examined two different age groups of girls.”
Balancing the need for clarity, which can require unpacking information, and the need for conciseness, which requires condensing information, is a challenge. Study published articles and reports in your field for examples of how to achieve this balance.
You should even be careful in selecting certain words or terms. Within the social sciences, commonly used words take on different meanings and can have a significant effect on how your readers interpret your reported findings or claims. To increase clarity, avoid bias, and control how your readers will receive your information, you should make certain substitutions:
- Use terms like “participants” or “respondents” (rather than “subjects”) to indicate how individuals were involved in your research
- Use terms like “children” or “community members” to provide more detail about who was participating in the study
- Use phrases like “The evidence suggests …” or “Our study indicates…” rather than referring to “proof” or “proves” because no single study can prove a theory or hypothesis
As with the other stylistic suggestions here, you should study the discourse of your field to see what terminology is most often used.
Avoiding Poetic Language
Writing papers in APA Style is unlike writing in more creative or literary styles that draw on poetic expressions and figurative language. Such linguistic devices can detract from conveying your information clearly and may come across to readers as forced when it is inappropriately used to explain an issue or your findings.
Therefore, you should:
- minimize the amount of figurative language used in an APA paper, such as metaphors and analogies unless they are helpful in conveying a complex idea
- avoid rhyming schemes, alliteration, or other poetic devices typically found in verse
- use simple, descriptive adjectives and plain language that does not risk confusing your meaning
APA Headings and Seriation
APA Style uses a unique headings system to separate and classify paper sections. There are 5 heading levels in APA. The 6th edition of the APA manual revises and simplifies previous heading guidelines. Regardless of the number of levels, always use the headings in order, beginning with level 1. The format of each level is illustrated below:
|1||Centered, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Headings|
|2||Left-aligned, Boldface, Uppercase and Lowercase Heading|
|3||Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period. Begin body text after the period. |
|4||Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period.Begin body text after the period. |
|5||Indented, italicized, lowercase heading with a period. Begin body text after the period. |
Thus, if the article has four sections, some of which have subsections and some of which don’t, use headings depending on the level of subordination. Section headings receive level one format. Subsections receive level two format. Subsections of subsections receive level three format. For example:
Method (Level 1)
Site of Study (Level 2)
Participant Population (Level 2)
Teachers. (Level 3)
Students. (Level 3)
Results (Level 1)
Spatial Ability (Level 2)
Test one. (Level 3)
Teachers with experience. (Level 4)
Teachers in training. (Level 4)
Test two. (Level 3)
Kinesthetic Ability (Level 2)
In APA Style, the Introduction section never gets a heading and headings are not indicated by letters or numbers. Levels of headings will depend upon the length and organization of your paper. Regardless, always begin with level one headings and proceed to level two, etc.
APA also allows for seriation in the body text to help authors organize and present key ideas. For numbered seriation, do the following:
On the basis of four generations of usability testing on the Purdue OWL, the Purdue OWL Usability Team recommended the following:
- Move the navigation bar from the right to the left side of the OWL pages.
- Integrate branded graphics (the Writing Lab and OWL logos) into the text on the OWL homepage.
- Add a search box to every page of the OWL.
- Develop an OWL site map.
- Develop a three-tiered navigation system.
For lists that do not communicate hierarchical order or chronology, use bullets:
In general, participants found user-centered OWL mock up to be easier to use. What follows are samples of participants’ responses:
- “This version is easier to use.”
- “Version two seems better organized.”
- “It took me a few minutes to learn how to use this version, but after that, I felt more comfortable with it.”
Authors may also use seriation for paragraph length text.
For seriation within sentences, authors may use letters:
On the basis of research conducted by the usability team, OWL staff have completed (a) the OWL site map; (b) integrating graphics with text on the OWL homepage; (c) search boxes on all OWL pages except the orange OWL resources (that is pending; we do have a search page); (d) moving the navigation bar to the left side of pages on all OWL resources except in the orange area (that is pending); (e) piloting the first phase of the three-tiered navigation system, as illustrated in the new Engagement section.
Authors may also separate points with bullet lists:
On the basis of the research conducted by the usability team, OWL staff have completed
- the OWL site map;
- integrating graphics with text on the OWL homepage;
- search boxes on all OWL pages except the orange OWL resources (that is pending; we do have a search page);
- moving the navigation bar to the left side of pages on all OWL resources except in the orange area (that is pending);
- piloting the first phase of the three-tiered navigation system, as illustrated in the new Engagement section.
APA PowerPoint Slide Presentation
Select the APA PowerPoint Presentation link in the Media box above to download slides that provide a detailed review of the APA citation style.
APA Sample Paper
Click on the link above in the Media box to download the pdf handout, APA Sample Paper.
APA Tables and Figures 1
The purpose of tables and figures in documents is to enhance your readers’ understanding of the information in the document. Most word processing software available today will allow you to create your own tables and figures, and even the most basic of word processors permit the embedding of images, thus enabling you to include tables and figures in almost any document.
- Visual material such as tables and figures can be used quickly and efficiently to present a large amount of information to an audience, but visuals must be used to assist communication, not to use up space, or disguise marginally significant results behind a screen of complicated statistics. Ask yourself this question first: Is the table or figure necessary? For example, it is better to present simple descriptive statistics in the text, not in a table.
Relation of Tables or Figures and Text. Because tables and figures supplement the text, refer in the text to all tables and figures used and explain what the reader should look for when using the table or figure. Focus only on the important point the reader should draw from them, and leave the details for the reader to examine on her own.
- If you are using figures, tables and/or data from other sources, be sure to gather all the information you will need to properly document your sources.
Integrity and Independence. Each table and figure must be intelligible without reference to the text, so be sure to include an explanation of every abbreviation (except the standard statistical symbols and abbreviations).
Organization, Consistency, and Coherence. Number all tables sequentially as you refer to them in the text (Table 1, Table 2, etc.), likewise for figures (Figure 1, Figure 2, etc.). Abbreviations, terminology, probability level values must be consistent across tables and figures in the same article. Likewise, formats, titles, and headings must be consistent. Do not repeat the same data in different tables.
- Is the table necessary?
- Is the entire table single- or double-spaced (including the title, headings, and notes)?
- Are all comparable tables presented consistently?
- Is the title brief but explanatory?
- Does every column have a column heading?
- Are all abbreviations; special use of italics, parentheses, and dashes; and special symbols explained?
- Are all probability level values correctly identified, and are asterisks attached to the appropriate table entries? Is a probability level assigned the same number of asterisks in all the tables in the same document?
- Are the notes organized according to the convention of general, specific, probability?
- Are all vertical rules eliminated?
- If the table or its data are from another source, is the source properly cited?
- Is the table referred to in the text?
Data in a table that would require only two or fewer columns and rows should be presented in the text. More complex data is better presented in tabular format. In order for quantitative data to be presented clearly and efficiently, it must be arranged logically, e.g. data to be compared must be presented next to one another (before/after, young/old, male/female, etc.), and statistical information (means, standard deviations, N values) must be presented in separate parts of the table. If possible, use canonical forms (such as ANOVA, regression, or correlation) to communicate your data effectively.
Image Caption: Table 1
The following image illustrates the basic structure of tables.
Image Caption: Table 2
- Number all tables with arabic numerals sequentially. Do not use suffix letters (e.g. Table 3a, 3b, 3c); instead, combine the related tables. If the manuscript includes an appendix with tables, identify them with capital letters and arabic numerals (e.g. Table A1, Table B2).
- Like the title of the paper itself, each table must have a clear and concise title. When appropriate, you may use the title to explain an abbreviation parenthetically.
Example: Comparison of Median Income of Adopted Children (AC) v. Foster Children (FC)
- Keep headings clear and brief. The heading should not be much wider than the widest entry in the column. Use of standard abbreviations can aid in achieving that goal. All columns must have headings, even the stub column (see example structure), which customarily lists the major independent variables.
- In reporting the data, consistency is key: Numerals should be expressed to a consistent number of decimal places that is determined by the precision of measurement. Never change the unit of measurement or the number of decimal places in the same column.
Specific Types of Tables
Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) Tables. The conventional format for an ANOVA table is to list the source in the stub column, then the degrees of freedom (df) and the F ratios. Give the between-subject variables and error first, then within-subject and any error. Mean square errors must be enclosed in parentheses. Provide a general note to the table to explain what those values mean (see example). Use asterisks to identify statistically significant F ratios, and provide a probability footnote.
Image Caption: Table 3 ANOVA Table
- Conventional reporting of regression analysis follows two formats. If the study is purely applied, list only the raw or unstandardized coefficients (β). If the study is purely theoretical, list only the standardized coefficients (beta). If the study was neither purely applied nor theoretical, then list both standardized and unstandardized coefficents. Specify the type of analysis, either hierarchical or simultaneous, and provide the increments of change if you used hierarchical regression.
Image Caption: Table 4 Regression Table
Notes in Tables
There are three types of notes for tables: general, specific, and probability notes. All of them must be placed below the table in that order.
General notes explain, qualify or provide information about the table as a whole. Put explanations of abbreviations, symbols, etc. here.
Example: Note. The racial categories used by the US Census (African-American, Asian American, Latinos/-as, Native-American, and Pacific Islander) have been collapsed into the category “non-White.” E = excludes respondents who self-identified as “White” and at least one other “non-White” race.
Specific notes explain, qualify or provide information about a particular column, row, or individual entry. To indicate specific notes, use superscript lowercase letters (e.g. a, b, c), and order the superscripts from left to right, top to bottom. Each table’s first footnote must be the superscript a.
Example: a n = 823. b One participant in this group was diagnosed with schizophrenia during the survey.
Probability notes provide the reader with the results of the texts for statistical significance. Asterisks indicate the values for which the null hypothesis is rejected, with the probability (p value) specified in the probability note. Such notes are required only when relevant to the data in the table. Consistently use the same number of asterisks for a given alpha level throughout your paper.
Image Caption: Sample Table Notes
If you need to distinguish between two-tailed and one-tailed tests in the same table, use asterisks for two-tailed p values and an alternate symbol (such as daggers) for one-tailed p values.
Image Caption: More Table Notes
Tables from Other Sources
If using tables from a source, copy the structure of the original exactly, and cite the source in accordance with APA style.
APA Tables and Figures 2
- Is the figure necessary?
- Is the figure simple, clean, and free of extraneous detail?
- Are the data plotted accurately?
- Is the grid scale correctly proportioned?
- Is the lettering large and dark enough to read? Is the lettering compatible in size with the rest of the figure?
- Are parallel figures or equally important figures prepared according to the same scale?
- Are terms spelled correctly?
- Are all abbreviations and symbols explained in a figure legend or figure caption? Are the symbols, abbreviations, and terminology in the figure consistent with those in the figure caption? In other figures? In the text?
- Are the figures numbered consecutively with Arabic numerals?
- Are all figures mentioned in the text?
As tables supplement the text, so should each figure.
Types of Figures