APA style

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This page provides a starting resource to learn about writing in APA style.

APA style is a widely-used, professional writing style for academic work in the social sciences and is endorsed by the American Psychological Association.

Unfortunately, the full APA style manual is only available by purchasing a hard-copy. As a result, there are many unofficial APA style guides on the web, so if you can't find what you're looking for here, try the external links.

Warning Warning: This is an incomplete list of APA style principles.
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Wikipedia-logo.png The Wikipedia article on APA style.
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  1. Are they kept to a minimum? (Avoid overusing abbreviations. In general, a reader will find your work easier to read if you don't use abbreviations. Abbreviate judiciously.)
  2. Are all non-conventional abbreviations fully expanded when first used? (e.g., Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS))
  3. Are conventional abbreviations used? For example, ANOVA.
  4. Symbols (such as =) used as replacements for words (e.g., equals) should be treated as words in terms of punctuation. Therefore, = should always have a space before and after. Example (p = .31 is correct; p=.31 is not correct). Other examples of symbols include > and <.


  1. Where referring to specifically measured constructs within the study, use first-letter capitalisation (e.g., Self Confidence); where referring the theoretical construct, do not use capitalisation (e.g., self confidence).


For further reading on this topic, see the 6th edition Publication Manual section “Citing References in Text” (pp. 174–179).

  1. Only cite resources which you have directly consulted, otherwise secondary citations should be used.
  2. Citations involve author and year, with the full details provided in the reference list.
  3. Citations in brackets should be in alphabetical order, e.g., (Ashton, Numena, & Kelly, 2000; Donohue & Wong, 1997; Klein, 1990)
  4. When citing a source with six or more authors, use first author et al. (e.g., Smith et al., 2009)
  5. For a more detailed set of examples, see [1], [2], [3], [4]

Subsequent citations[edit]

  1. If a reference is cited more than once in a paragraph, the subsequent citations should not include the year. e.g., "...race, religion, sexuality, gender and age (Baumeister & Bushman, 2008). This concept refers to an us versus them, or alternatively the in-group versus the out-group mentality (Baumeister & Bushman)..."
  2. et al. should be used for the initial and subsequent citations within a paper when there are six or more authors.
  3. Is "et al." used for second and subsequent citations which have three or more authors?


  1. Use Times New Roman 12 point font throughout.
  2. The first line of each paragraph should be indented.
  3. Do not use underline.
  4. Use italics for emphasis.
  5. Italicise statistical symbols which use the normal alphabet.


  1. Comma usage (a common issue is incorrectly leaving out commas before "and" when listing three of more items) - See more details about comma punctuation rules: [5] - [6]
  2. Be clear and consistent about the use of "grammatical person". Third person is most common, followed by first person.

Numbers and statistics[edit]

  1. "The general rule governing APA style on the use of numbers is to use figures to express numbers 10 and above and words to express numbers below 10" (APA, 2001, p. 122).
  2. Test statistics and p values should generally be rounded to two decimal places.
  3. All statistical symbols that are not Greek letters should be italicised (M, SD, t, p, etc.).
  4. Where a number could be above or below one (in theory), also include the preceding 0 (e.g., skewness = 0.71).
  5. Be wary of making causal claims based on cross-sectional data.

Parts of a manuscript[edit]

For research-based articles and reports, the following are the typically recommended parts:

Title page[edit]


  1. Maximum length tends to vary between ~150 and ~250 words depending on publisher requirements. Thesis abstracts are often longer e.g., up to ~500 words.
  2. Not indented
  3. Starts at the top of the page







  1. Optional; usually only for complex designs


  1. Optional; usually only for complex or unusual analyses


  1. Data is plural; datum is singular.




  1. Issue numbers should not be cited for journal with consecutively numbered issues (i.e., most of them).
Generic referencing style for a journal article

(do not include the material in brackets - its just for explanation):
Author, A. B., & Author, B. C. (2008). Article title. Journal Name, 72 (volume number), 101-127 (page numbers). Retrieved month day, year, from x database or URL.

Electronic references[edit]

Basic example:
Author, B. C. (2008). Title of document. Retrieved from URL

More info:

  1. APA style: Electronic sources (Wikipedia)
  2. APA List of references (see last section for electronic referencing; dianahacker.com)
  3. How to reference electronic resources (apastyle.org)
  4. APA style with electronic references (Northern Michigan University)


  1. http://www.cod.edu/library/research/cite/apa/multimedia.htm


Basic example:
Okuda, M., & Okuda, D. (1993). Star trek chronology: The history of the future. New York: Pocket Books.

Book article or chapter[edit]

Basic example:
James, N. E. (1988). Two sides of paradise: The Eden myth according to Kirk and Spock. In D. Palumbo (Ed.), Spectrum of the fantastic (pp. 219-223). Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Almost published[edit]


  • Optional

Quality of expression[edit]

  • Avoid one sentence paragraphs.


From sections 3.34 - 3.41:

  1. Direct quotes less than 40 words should be enclosed in double-quotation marks.
  2. Page number(s) should be included for direct quotations.
  3. Quotes > 40 words should be put on a new line and inset left and right, without quotation marks.
  4. Do not put "..." at the start or end of quotes, but "..." can be used in the middle of quotes to indicate that some content is missing.

For more detailed summaries see: Quotation marks and Handling Quoted Material

Tables and Figures[edit]


  1. Centre on page horizontally.
  2. Avoid breaking tables and figures across pages.


  1. Centre horizontally on the page
  2. Right align statistics presented in tables.
  3. Left align text presented in tables.
  4. Caption goes above, like this:
    Table 1
    Average Ages Sexual Information was Acquired Compared with the Youngest and Oldest Ages Subjects Believed the Information Should be Acquired
  5. Example Table (Plonsky, Appendix 4)


  1. Centre horizontally on the page
  2. Caption goes below, like this:
    Figure 2. Number of people arrested for drunken driving as related to the day of the week.
  3. Example Figure caption (Plonsky, Appendix 5)



  1. Burton, L. J. (2009). An interactive approach to writing essays and research reports in psychology (3rd ed.). Milton, Qld, Australia: John Wiley & Sons. BF76.7.B87 2010
  2. Smyth, T. R. (2004). The principles of writing in psychology. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.  BF76.7.S678 2004

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Online guides[edit]

  1. A Guide for Writing Research Papers based on Styles Recommended by the APA
  2. APA Cheat Sheet
  3. APA style (University of Canberra; to be transferred here)
  4. APA Style Asylum
  5. APA Style Essentials (Degelman & Lorenzo, 2007), Vanguard University of Southern California
  6. Preparing your lab report (Note the checklist for Tables and Figures at the end)
  7. Psychology with style: A hypertext writing guide (Plonsky)
  8. Research and documentation online
  9. Writing an APA Lab Report (University of Washington; pdf)