Using APA Style
Papers written in APA style follow the 2012 Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition. If you're a graduate student in a discipline that uses APA style, you may want to buy a copy. The APA Manual has rules for citing your sources in-text and on your reference pages, but it also has rules for
- what lists and subheadings should look like,
- how words should be abbreviated,
- when numbers need to be written out,
- what a table should look like, and
- what verb tense you should use to discuss someone else's research.
That's just for starters. You don't need to memorize these things, but you do need to know what kinds of things APA has rules for and where to find those rules when you need them.
Unfortunately, the APA Manual is designed for professional researchers, and it isn't that easy to use. You may need to look at several other resources to find the answer to a question, and sometimes you won't be able to find it at all. Sometimes the best you can do is to make an educated choice based on different examples and sources.
Have an APA question? Email the Writing Center to ask. On a weekday, we'll try to get back to you within 24 hours.
APA has developed several resources of its own, including:
- The APA Manual. Not sure how to cite something in the body of your paper? The chart on page 177 is a lifesaver.
- The APA Style Blog. Your best first option for information you can't find in the manual: just type "APA blog" into any search engine.
- "How to Write an APA Style Reference When Information Is Missing." APA blog staffers developed this .pdf chart to help you create citations when you don't have all the information you want.
- APA Style Guide to Electronic References. A separate publication that you can buy and download to your kindle or cell phone. Much of the information in it can also be found on the APA blog, for free.
ISU's Writing Center offers the following APA handouts. You can print out copies from the links below, or you can stop by one of our offices for paper copies. The links on this page are all .pdf files requiring Adobe Acrobat Reader.
When you find an article in a database like JStor or PubMed, those databases often include a tempting little link saying something like "How to Cite this Article in APA." These citations are often incorrect. They're great for helping you identify the information you need, but less good at formatting it. Similarly, automatic citation generators like zotero, citation machine, and the one built into Microsoft Word tend to produce citations that are right most of the time and wrong some of the time. They're getting better every year--but you'll still want to check any citations they give you.