This presentation is brought to you by the Daytona State College-University of Central Florida Writing Center. Its purpose is to give an introduction to reading and writing research papers in APA style.
To begin with, APA stands for the American Psychological Association. The APA style first emerged in 1928 from the U.S. National Research Council to create stylistic standards for publishing manuscripts in anthropological and psychological journals. In 1952, the first Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association was published. Currently, we use the 6th edition, which was published in 2009. Disciplines that typically use APA include psychology, social welfare, nursing, business, education, and science.
The reason we use citation styles in the first place is to give credit to others’ ideas and work to avoid plagiarism. A reader is more likely to believe an argument or statement if it is followed by a citation that can be verified. Using the most current sources is important in disciplines like social and behavioral sciences because new findings can make previous studies less relevant or accurate. Generally, the past five years is a good cut off date when searching for material.
When you begin your research, many of your scholarly sources, such as academic journals and books, will follow APA style or something similar to it. These sources generally follow a specific structure, especially if a study has been performed. Let’s look at the main parts of a research article.
The abstract is typically the first piece of text you will read in the article, and it’s generally a single paragraph of about 200 words that summarizes the entire paper, including the methods and results of the study. In research databases, often the abstract is available to preview before opening an article. The introduction announces the topic and explains its importance. Previous research may be briefly described, and the goal of the article is announced.
A literature review is what it sounds like: a summary (or review) of research (or literature) on a topic. Current studies as well as well-known research are synthesized, or brought together. After discussing current research, often gaps or problems with the current research will be presented, along with suggestions for future research.
The sections where the research is presented can be intimidating and full of numbers, tables, and figures. Typically, the research is broken into Methods, Results, and Discussion. If you are unfamiliar with research articles, read the Introduction and Discussion or Conclusion sections more closely and don’t worry as much about the sections that are full of statistics. You will better learn how to read and understand the studies as you continue on in your academic work.
As you read your research, notice if the citations in the text are in APA format. As you read sources that are in APA, you’ll pick up on the style and how to use it in your own writing. Let’s talk about what APA citations in the text look like.
As mentioned earlier, you must cite your sources to build your credibility and avoid plagiarism. Any time you directly use material word-for-word from any source, you must place those words in quotation marks and cite the source.
However, even if you paraphrase an idea and put it in your own words, you need to give credit to that source as well. Paraphrasing is also more than changing one or two words—more than just moving words around in the sentence, changing tenses of the verbs, or right clicking to find synonyms. You must take the text and put it in your own words.
When you summarize, or explain the overall main idea, you still need to give credit to the source as well.
When you take several ideas from different sources and compare or contrast them, you are synthesizing. You can cite more than one source in a sentence, and if the citation is parenthetical, separate the sources with semi-colons and arrange them in alphabetical order.
When you cite your sources, you can either cite them in the sentence or at the end of the sentence. Generally, the best way to integrate your sources into your writing is to introduce them with signal phrases. A signal phrase lets the reader know that the following information is coming from a source.
Sources can also be cited parenthetically at the end of sentences. The period will go outside the parentheses at the end of the sentence.
This table is from the APA Manual and illustrates how citations work both inside the sentences and at the end of sentences. A mistake students frequently make is only listing the first author they see on the article, rather than checking to see if there are additional authors. Make sure you are following style on how to cite each number of authors. Notice this table does not discuss what to do if you do not know who the author is. We will discuss that soon.
APA also has some specific rules when it comes to how you write. These rules are most relevant when you are in upper-level courses or writing manuscripts for publication. In general though, the rules are good to observe and know about.
Verb tense can be very tricky. The most important thing is to be consistent. Past tense is used when you cite your sources, but present tense is used for general truths and ideas. For example, “Jones (2005) noted that 75% of the participants failed the test on the second attempt due to fatigue. Fatigue causes a variety of problems.”
Active and passive voice is important when describing research methods. Passive voice makes the action happen to the participant without any agency on their part. Active voice shows that the participants chose to participate and had agency in their roles.
APA style requires people to be represented fairly and objectively, using person-first language that recognizes the individual first and the difference second. Refer to examples from current research and to participants to choose how to describe people, and be consistent.
It is awkward to use his/her and he/she to represent a person who may be male or female, so unless you are referring to a specific person, it’s often easiest to avoid the singular pronoun altogether. Often the easiest solution is to make the antecedent (which is the word the pronoun describes) plural so that you can use a plural pronoun. (Change student to students, participant to participants so that you can use they, their).
APA format applies to the cover page, headers, typeface, line spacing, headings, and references. Your professor may provide sample papers or have requirements that do not directly follow APA style; always defer to your teacher’s preferences and ask for clarification as necessary.
The cover page of an APA paper includes a running head with short title and page number, the title of the paper, your name, the college’s name, and an Author Note, if necessary, which gives additional information about the paper.
There is more than one way to insert headers. To create the header for the title page, right click at the top of the page in the margin area. Select Edit Header. When the Header & Footer tool ribbon appears, check Different First Page in the middle of the tool ribbon. Then on the far left, where the cursor is blinking, type “Running head:” and the short title of your paper (<50 characters) in CAPITAL LETTERS. Hit tab twice. You should be on the far right hand side of the margin. Now click the Page Number drop down button, select Current Position, then Plain Number.
The headers on all the other pages are not the same as the title page. We follow a similar process to insert this header. Right click in the header area and select “Edit header.” The cursor should appear on the far left. Type in ALL CAPS the short title that you typed in ALL CAPS on the first page (do not type “Running head:” first). Hit tab twice until you’re at the far right position, then click on the Page Number drop-down button, Select Current Position, then Plain Number.
The overall format for your text is Times New Roman, 12 pt, double spaced, left aligned, with 0 points of space above and below paragraphs, and ½” indents to begin paragraphs.
To change line spacing, click the small arrow in the corner of the Paragraph section of the tool ribbon. It will open the Paragraph dialog box, where you can change the space above and below the paragraph to 0 points and the line spacing to double.
APA has specific format when headings are used. Most college papers don’t require headings, but if they do, the headings follow this format according to the heading’s level of importance.
To always begin the References page on a new page, create a page break with ctrl + enter on your last page of text. “References” should be centered at the top of the page. Your citations should be in alphabetical order with a hanging indent—that is, the first line of the reference is left aligned, and all lines that follow the first line are indented ½”. To get the hanging indent, open the Paragraph dialogue box from the Home tab, and under Special, select Hanging. You can alphabetize your sources by highlighting them all and clicking the AZ sort button in the Paragraph section of the Home tool ribbon, but be sure to double check that they are correctly alphabetized. If you have two or more works from the same author, arrange them in chronological order, with the earliest publication first.
Here are examples of the most commonly cited sources in APA: a scholarly journal article, book, website with an organization as an author, and a website with no author. Your job as an author is to use reliable in-text citations that direct your readers to your list of references, and your references should give your readers enough information that the readers can find the sources themselves.
The pattern here is author last name, initials; publication date in parentheses; article title; journal title; volume number; page range. When citing authors, first and middle names are shortened to initials. In article titles, only the first word, proper nouns, and the first word after a colon or em dash is capitalized. Journal titles are capitalized with regular capitalization rules, and “The” is dropped if it is the beginning of the journal title. Notice that the volume number is italicized, but if there were an issue number, it would directly follow the volume number in parentheses, but would not be in italics.
The text is an example of listing all three authors the first time, then using the first author + et al. thereafter. Note also that if you introduce a word with an abbreviation, such as nurse practitioner, you immediately follow it with the abbreviation in parentheses. Once you have given the abbreviation, you do not have spell out the words again.
The pattern here is author last name, initials; publication year in parentheses; book title in italics, capitals for first word and first word after colon; edition number in parentheses; city of publication; state abbreviation; press.
The citation is an example of a block quote, which is over 40 words of directly quoted material, indented ½”, without quotation marks. This is the only time the period goes before the parentheses. If part of the material in the section you are quoting is not as relevant, you can remove it and place ellipses (…) in its place, then continue the quote where the you wish to pick up. If you need to edit or add a word or phrase for clarity, using square brackets around the inserted material.
The pattern here is organization name; publication year; title of webpage in italics; retrieved from; URL. Notice how to abbreviate an organization name in brackets within a parenthetical citation. If no date can be identified on the website, place “n.d.” in parentheses instead of a year.
The pattern here is article title; publication year in parentheses; retrieved from; URL.
Regardless of what type of source it is, if you cannot identify the author, the date will always be the second piece of information in an APA reference. In parentheses when you are citing a source with no author, you use a shortened version of the title in quotation marks, along with the year. Remember, your job is to direct the reader from your parenthetical citation to your reference list, so only the first few words are necessary, but you must enough words to distinguish one source from another.
Wowsers! That was a lot of information on APA! Have questions? Make an appointment with a Learning Specialist at the DSC-UCF Writing Center by calling 386-506-3297, or visit these other helpful resources online. Thanks for looking at our APA presentation, and good look with your research and writing!
Working with APA
Working with APA
APA = American Psychological Association
Stylistic standards for publishing manuscripts in
anthropological and psychological journals.
The current, sixth edition was released in 2009, with most
changes focusing on how to cite electronic sources
Typically, Social and Behavioral Sciences use it:
What is APA?
You must cite others’ ideas and work, especially direct
quotations, to avoid plagiarizing.
As an author, you build your ethos (credibility) by citing your
You further build credibility by citing recent, relevant resources
that your readers can look up if they want to know more.
APA includes the year of the source in the parenthetical citation
and as the second piece of information in the References because
the publication date is equally important as the author.
Why do we use APA?
150250 word, single paragraph that summarizes the paper.
A reader should be able to decide if the paper is relevant to
their research by skimming an abstract.
Describes the topic or the problem being researched.
The thesis or goal of the research is presented.
The importance and relevance of their article is described.
Brief literature review may be included.
APA § 2.04–2.05
Summarizes and synthesizes current literature on
Cites main authors and studies that appear
repeatedly throughout others’ work (to build
Presents possible gaps or problems with current
Suggests future research.
APA § 1.02
Provides detailed info on the research design, participants, equipment,
materials, variables, and actions taken by the participants.
Should provide enough detail to allow someone else to repeat the process.
Summarizes the findings using text, tables, charts, and graphs;
lots of statistics: p-values, ANOVAs, etc.
Explains authors’ thoughts about the findings, any potential
problems with their research, and how their findings relate to
APA § 2.06–2.08
Directly Quote – copying and pasting, word for word, from
another text: Use quotation marks and cite the source,
either as part of the sentence or parenthetically.
Paraphrase – more than changing just one or two words:
Put a sentence or chunk of text into your own words and
cite, but do not use quotation marks.
Summarize – explain the main idea(s) of a text: Cite.
Synthesize – compare and contrast several sources: Cite
more than one source in a sentence (sources are
separated by semi-colons).
APA § 1.10, 6.01–6.10
The best way to integrate sources into your writing is to
introduce them in the sentence with signal phrases. A signal
phrase is the last name(s) of the author(s), the publication
date in parentheses, and a past tense verb. For example:
As Jones (2013) noted, “Students often had difficulty using
APA style, especially when it was their first time” (p. 199).
Jones (2013) found “students often had difficulty using APA
style” (p. 199); what implications does this have for
According to Jones (2013), APA style is a difficult citation
format for first-time learners.
No page number
is necessary when
APA § 6.03–6.09
Readers will expect citations for statistics, facts, definitions, and
phrases like “research shows” or “studies suggest.” These sentences
are ideal for parenthetical citations at the end of the sentence,
which include the last name of the author(s) and the publication
“Approximately 78% of all statistics are made up”
(Smith, O’Doole, & Jones, 2013).
APA style is proven to increase your social skills and
sharpen your wit (Smith et al., 2013). For sources with 1-5 authors, list all authors
the first time you cite that source. For 3-5
authors, the subsequent citations will be the
first author + et al. For 6+ authors, the citation
will always be first author + et al.
Note that the
APA § 6.11–6.21
Use past tense in literature review and to present your results:
Sanchez (2004) reported that…
We found that 65% of the participants adopted more formal speech…
Use present tense to discuss or synthesize:
Overall analysis suggests that…
The majority of researchers seem to support the hypothesis…
Use active voice:
When you write about roles of the participant, use active voice that portrays
them as active participants, rather than passive recipients:
“The students completed the survey” instead of “The survey was completed
by the students”
APA § 3.06
Use appropriate level of specificity:
Avoid non-specific: “at-risk children”
Be specific: “children at risk for early dropout”
Avoid non-specific: “over 18 years of age”
Be specific: “18- to 35-year-olds”
Avoiding Biased Language
Be sensitive to labels:
Ask how participants prefer to be described
Person-first language: “child with autism” rather than “autistic child” or
“person who lives with bi-polar” instead of “bi-polar person”
Capitalize racial and ethnic groups: “Black” or “White” or “African-
American” or “Caucasian-American”
APA § 3.11; blog.apastyle.org
Only use gendered pronouns when you are referring to a
specific person; otherwise, avoid the bias of gendered
Rephrasing the sentence
Using plural nouns or plural pronouns - "they" or "their”
Replacing the pronoun with an article - instead of "his," use "the”
Dropping the pronoun - many sentences sound fine if you just omit
the troublesome "his" from the sentence
Replacing the pronoun with a noun such as "person," "individual,”
"child," "researcher," etc.
“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.”
APA § 3.12
APA Title Page
Style: Times New Roman, 12 pt,
double spaced, 1” margins
Title, Name, School: Centered
Author’s Note: Info about
paper: class, professor, & date
APA § 8.03
Title Page Header
1. Right click in the top margin of the paper.
2. Select Edit Header.
3. Check Different First Page in the Header & Footer tool ribbon.
4. Type Running head: and a short title for your paper in CAPS.
5. Hit tab twice, then click the Page Number drop down button, select Current Position, then Plain
APA § 8.03
1. After completing your title page, hit enter after
the Author Note until you’re on a new page.
2. Right click in the heading area of the page and
select Edit header. Type your short title in all
CAPS in the far left column.
3. Hit tab twice. In the tool bar, in the far right
column, click on the Page Number drop-down
button Current Position Plain Number
4. If your teacher does not want a page number
on the title page, click Page Number, Format
Page Numbers, then type in “0” in the Start at
APA § 8.03
• Click on the corner of
• Double spaced
• Left aligned
• ½” paragraph indent
• 0 pt space above &
APA § 8.03
Levels of Headings
APA § 3.03; blog.apastyle.org
Insert a page break for a new
The page should be double
spaced—no extra space between
Select all of your citations, then
open the Paragraph window and
select Hanging under the
“Special” drop-down option
List alphabetically (Use AZ Sort
List works by the same author
chronologically from earliest to
APA § 8.03
Who created this reference?
When was it created?
What is the title of this reference?
Where can this reference be found?
Fairman, J. A., Rowe, M. D., Hassmiller, S., & Shalala, D.
E. (2011). Broadening the scope of nursing
practice. New England Journal of Medicine, 364,
According to Fairman, Rowe, Hassmiller, and Shalala
(2011), state regulations limit the extent to which nurse
practitioners (NPs) can exercise their skills and
knowledge. However, sixteen states (not including
Florida) now allow NPs to independently practice
(Fairman et al., 2011).
only, no degrees.
In article titles,
only capitalize first
nouns, and after
List up to 5 authors
the first time; after
that, first author +
APA § 7.01.3
McGregor, J.(2015, April 23). The happiest
countries in the world. The Washington Post.
Of 150 countries, Switzerland ranks the happiest,
according to the World Happiness Report
Note that the
Report is not the
author, though the
tag line seems to
suggest it. Always
cite the author of
the source, even if
the author is
Lock, R. D. (2004). Taking charge of your career
direction: Career planning guide, book 1 (5th
ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole.
Lock (2004) defined career maturity as
your ability to make appropriate and informed career
decisions, becoming aware of what is required to make
career choices, and the degree to which those choices
are realistic and consistent over time. … [It] involves
making truthful self-estimates of one’s abilities, sufficient
experience with the social environment, family
togetherness, and personal characteristics such as self-
respect and being thoughtful. (p. 4)
Block quotes are
over 40 words,
indented ½”, and
do not use
An ellipses (…)
text inserted for
APA § 7.02
Website: Organization as Author
National Institute of Mental Health. (2012).
Bipolar disorder in adults. Retrieved from
According to the National Institute of Mental
Health (NIMH, 2012), bipolar disorder is often
characterized by mood changes ranging from
irritability, anger, and hopelessness to mania,
hyperactivity, and risky behavior.
If an organization
has an acronym,
you can abbreviate
it in parentheses
after spelling it out
the first time. If the
first time you use it is
in parentheses, use
When there is no clear
author but the content
is clearly created by
an organization, cite
the organization as
APA § 7.03.32; blog.apastyle.org
Frequently asked questions about bipolar
disorder. (2013). Retrieved from
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed based on reported
symptoms, cycles, and family history; it cannot
be identified through blood draws or brain scans
(“Frequently asked,” 2013).
Website: No Author
When there is no
author, the article
title appears first.
The date will always
The title of the
article goes in
and is abbreviated
to 1-2 words
APA § 7.03.32; blog.apastyle.org
Video Blog Post
TED. (2015, April 3). Bill Gates: The next
outbreak? We’re not ready [Video file].
In his recent TED Talk, Bill Gates discussed
the possible results of an Ebola outbreak
APA § 7.11.77; blog.apastyle.org
Use the person or
posted the video as
the author. If you
have both, follow
the real name(s)
with the username
in square brackets.
If you want to quote
material from a
video, include the
time stamp after the
year: (TED, 2015,
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