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Understanding APA. Or the Basics of APA Style Karen E. Frenn MSN., RN. Division of Nursing . What is APA?.

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understanding apa

Understanding APA

Or the Basics of APA Style

Karen E. Frenn MSN., RN.

Division of Nursing

what is apa
What is APA?
  • APA stands for American Psychological Association. It is a documentation style used for organizing research papers, manuscripts, essays, and other writing assignments in scientific, academic or professional settings.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 5th Edition is the resource for information on this writing style. This text also includes a review of grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, citations, tables and references including online sources.
basic guide
Basic Guide
  • Pagination: Allpages are numberedbeginning with the title page. Numbers are put in the upper right hand corner. The manuscript page header (first 2 or 3 words of the title) appears 5 spaces to the left of the page number on every page.
  • Margins:One inch on all sides.
  • Font: 12 pt- Times Roman or Courier are acceptable typefaces.

Double space throughout the paper without exception. Paragraphs are indented 5-7 spaces.

  • Alignment

Flush left, uneven right margin.

  • Order of Pages

Title page, Abstract, Body, References, Appendixes, Footnotes, Tables, Figure Captions, Figures

title page
Title Page
  • Numbered as page 1.
  • Contains the title, author’s name, and affiliation. It may also include the faculty member’s name and the date. Check with faculty for specifics.
  • Running Head – A short title, no more than 50 characters, typed flush left, all uppercase following the words “Running head: ____”
sample title page
Sample Title Page

Individual Differences 1


Individual Differences in Bimodal Processes

Al Done

University of Michigan

  • An abstract is a short summary of the main points contained in the paper or study.
  • Consult with your faculty member as to whether an abstract is required for your paper. It may be optional.
  • Generally an abstract is only required for major research papers or manuscripts.
  • The title of the paper (in upper and lower case letters) is centered on the first line below the page header on the first page of the body of the paper.

My Life 2

My Life Story

I was born in a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan on a cold, November morning. My parents had settled in Michigan after my father had come home from fighting in World War I.

  • Headings are used to organize the paper and follow a complex set of rules. Most papers require only 3 levels of headings. See APA Manual for more information on headings.
three level headings
Three Level Headings

Level A: Centered And Set In Caps

Level B: Left Margin, Italicized, Caps

Level C: indented, italicized, sentence caps with a period at end.

text citations
Text Citations
  • Source material must be documented in the body of the paper by citing author and date of the source. Ideas and words of others must be acknowledged. Failure to give credit for words is known as plagiarism.
  • Citations within a sentence:

Wirth and Mitchell (1994) found that….

When the authors are not part of the sentence, authors and dates appear in parentheses, separated by a semicolon as below.

Reviews of research on religion and health have concluded that at least some behavior is related to a higher level of physical health (Gartner, Larson, & Allen, 1991; Koenig, 1990; Levin, 1991).

When a source has 2 authors both are always cited.
  • When a source has 3 or more authors, all authors are included the first time and thereafter the first author’s name is given followed by “et al.”
  • When a source has 6 or more authors, the first author’s name and “et al.” is used each time (including the first time).

Payne et al. (1991) showed that …

personal communication
Personal Communication
  • To cite a personal communication (as in letters, emails, telephone interviews) include initials, name and date. It is not included in the reference section.

A.K. Smith (personal communication, March 5, 2003) claimed that……

  • When a quotation is used always include the author, year, and page number with the quotation.
  • A quotation of fewer than 40 words is incorporated into the paper.
  • Patients receiving prayer had “less congestive heart failure, required less diuretic and antibiotic therapy, fewer episodes of pneumonia, and were less frequently intubated and ventilated” (Byrd, 1998, p. 829).
A quotation that is more than 40 words should appear in a block format with each line indented 5 spaces from the left margin (in the same position as a new paragraph).
example of a block quotation
Example of a Block Quotation

Jones’s 1993 study found the following:

Students often had difficulty using

APA style, especially citing sources.

This difficulty could be attributed to

the fact that many students failed to

purchase the text (p. 234).

  • The word References is centered on the first line below the page header.
  • The reference list appears at the end of your paper.
  • Each source you cite in the paper MUST appear in your reference list; and likewise each entry on your reference list MUST be cited in the text of your paper.
references continued
References Continued
  • References are alphabetized using the surname of the first author.
  • If you have more than one article by the same author (s) list them in order by the year of the publication starting with the earliest.
  • A hanging indent is used. This means the first line is flush left and the second line is indented (seven spaces or ½ inch).
references continued23
References Continued
  • References are double spaced.
  • When referencing material obtained by searching a database follow the format appropriate to the work retrieved and add a statement that gives the date of retrieval and the proper name of the database. See APA Manual p. 268 for further information regarding electronic sources.
reference samples
Reference Samples


Murzynski, J., & Degelman, D. (1996). Body

language of women and judgments of

vulnerability to sexual assault. Journal

of Applied Social Psychology, 26, 1617-



Paloutzian, R. F. (1996). Invitation to the

psychology of religion. (2nd ed.).

Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

  • For further examples see APA Manual.
important tips
Important Tips
  • Avoid abbreviations. If you do use one explain it the first time it occurs. American Psychological Association (APA).
  • Use commas before “and” in lists, and for seriation within a sentence as in, “three choices are (a) yes, (b) no, and (c) maybe.”
Spell out numbers which are below 10 and use numerals for numbers 10 and above or numerals grouped with 10 or above (for example, from 5 to 12 hours of sleep).
  • If a heading ends up at the bottom of a page go to the next page.
Avoid biased language
  • Do not use and/or. Write it out. For example, “Monday, Tuesday or both.”
  • Remember that APA is an exact format and should be followed closely.
additional resources
Additional Resources
  • APA Style Essentials


  • There is also computer software available (Reference Point Software and others) which can format papers using APA style.
  • Always make sure if you use a text or a website for assistance with APA format, that it is updated and is using the 5th edition.
  • www.rivier.edu(go to support services, writing center, online resources, APA format