The American Psychological Association, or APA, is the organization that created the language used and understood by academics around the world. APA style is the expected standard in higher education and research papers to ensure sources are cited properly. Despite its universality, the many nuances of academia can make it a difficult language to master. It’s the purpose of higher education to develop new ideas; knowing how to use APA lets us take part in that ongoing, worldwide conversation. APA governs two things: best practices for both formatting a page and using sources.
Formatting a PageAPA provides writers with a consistent format they can use every time they write. Consistency helps authors organize their arguments or research efficiently. From the information on the title page to the headers that divide information in the discussion, each section has a predetermined format. APA formatting also helps authors organize ideas along the same lines that researchers use, with a spin-off benefit: When you’re familiar with the different parts of APA, you’ll find it easier to read the resources you find in the library. All APA-formatted papers -- from the papers you turn in for class to papers published in journals -- contain most, if not all, of the following parts, always in the same order:
- Title page
- Review of the literature
Using Sources (and avoiding plagiarism)To plagiarize something is to use someone else’s idea or direct quote as your own without properly citing the original source. Protect yourself from suspicion or allegation of plagiarism by using the APA citation basics below:
- In-text citations, when used in a paper and on the References page, should always match. Keep in mind that both in-text and reference citations should start with the same author’s name. If no author is named, the title of the work should come first.
- In-text citations should be used anytime you use information from a source, even if you paraphrase or summarize it in your own words.
- Direct quotations are a special case. Anytime you take three or more consecutive words from a source, put quotation marks around those words and add the in-text citation and page number.
Credibility as a WriterWriting in solid APA format gives you credibility because of the format’s association with the publication. When your paper is in perfect APA format, and your instructor or reviewer can look at your References page and see authoritative sources cited correctly, you’ve proven that you can “speak” the language of academia. Using the APA language gives your ideas the credibility necessary to be taken seriously.
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” - Sir Issac Newton, discoverer of the Laws of Gravity, 5 February 1675Further, if you pursue publication, APA citations allow your readers to cross-reference your sources easily. Any work of academic writing is based on the ideas that other people have shared through publication, and people working together in a field want to understand the origins of ideas.