What is APA?

  • In this section we are going to look at how you can set up a paper in APA style. Specifically, we are going to look at citing books and journal articles within your research paper.

    APA is the style of documentation of sources used by the American Psychological Association. This form of writing research papers is used mainly in the social sciences, like psychology, anthropology, sociology, as well as education and other fields.

    How Does APA Style Work?

    When working with APA there are two things to keep in mind: in-text citations and the reference page. In-text citations will use the author’s name and the date within your research paper. These citations will refer back to the reference page at the end, which lists all the sources that you may have used in your research paper.

    Note: If you are assigned a research paper in APA style for one of your courses, it’s a good idea to ask your instructor the questions below. He or she will be able to explain details about the requirements for the paper. For now, we will go over the basic instructions of how to use in-text citations and how to set up the reference page.

    When Would I Have to Cite a Source in APA?

    Anytime you summarize, paraphrase, or quote information from another source, like passages from books or articles in an academic journal, you are required to list within your text the author’s name and the year the article was published. There are a couple of ways this can be arranged. Here are a few examples.

    • Another theory came from the idea of the “matching hypothesis.” This was presented by Goffman (1952), who believed that men had the tendency to choose spouses who were of similar social status. The sums of these attributes include are social skills, wealth, power, intelligence, attractiveness, and other skills that are valued in society.

    With the example above, the writer puts the author’s last name in the text and immediately after it puts the date in parentheses.

    • In 1971 Berscheid, Dion, Walster, and Walster conducted another “computer date” dance. This time they paired similar attractive persons together for the date. An independent panel of judges assessed the attractiveness of each of the subjects.

    Here, the authors’ names and the date of publication are both put into the body of the text, without using parentheses.

    Citing a Journal Article

    If I cite a journal article in the body of my text does it mean that the authors of that journal article agree with the arguments in my paper?

    No, not necessarily. Dr. Sadler, a professor in the psychology department at IUP, states that you can cite articles that will agree or disagree with your ideas. He goes on to say:

    • The agreement or disagreement should be conveyed by your wording. For example, “This interpretation is consistent with findings by Smith and Jones (1999) . . . .” Or, you might say, “If my prediction is confirmed, it would falsify the theory of episodic memory proposed by Tulving (1984)” Or, “A number of researchers do not agree with this view (e.g., Brown, 1993; Stevens, 1992; Treisman, 1994).”

    So, not only can you use journal articles to support your ideas, but you can also use them to show that some authors do not agree with your ideas or have ideas different from yours.

    Preparing to Cite A Source

    How do I let the reader know that I am about to cite a source?

    To let the reader know that a journal article is about to be cited in the body of your paper, you can use signal phrases that are appropriate for the ideas you want to express. These words include: adds, argues, claims, denies, illustrates, grants, notes, observes, suggests, etc. You could also use the standard “said.”

    This is expressed in the sample below:

    • In an influential article, Terrace, Petitto, Sanders and Bever (1979) argued that the apes in the language experiments were not using language spontaneously but were merely imitating their trainers, responding to conscious or unconscious cues.

    References Page

    What is the References page and how is it put together?

    The References page lists all the sources you have cited in your paper. The entry for a journal article should look like this:

    • Berscheid, E., Dion, K. K., Walster, E., and Walster, G. W. (1971). Physical attractiveness and dating choice: A test of the matching hypothesis. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 7, 173-189.

    As you can see in the example above, the authors’ names appear first (last name, first name). Then the year of publication is given in parentheses. Then the title is listed (with only the first word of the title, the first word after the colon, and proper nouns capitalized). Then the name of the journal (in italics) is listed, the volume number, and finally, the pages of the article.

    For a book, the entry looks like this:

    • Schaller, G. B. (1993). The Last Panda. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    In the example above, the author’s name is listed (last name, first name), then the date, followed by the title with only the first word capitalized, the city of publication, and then the name of the publisher.

    Written by Mariel Lorenz 
    This guide for APA was adapted from: Hacker, D. (2003). A Writer’ Reference. (5th ed.). Boston: St. Martin's.
    American Psychological Association. (2001).
    Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
    Updated January 28, 2005 by Renee Brown