What is APA Format and how is it used?
The American Psychological Association (APA) style initially appeared as an article published in the Psychological Bulletin in 1929. It prescribed rudimentary style guidelines for scientific manuscripts, hoping to standardize formatting to improve and ease comprehension. As scientific and educational discourse has continued to grow, so has the complexity of the APA Publication Manual. It has since been expanded to include structural, formatting, and language requirements.
How to Use APA Structural Guidelines
Documents should be structured in four sections:
– Title page
– Main body
However, each of these sections has its own structural requirements. For example, the title page should include title, author name(s), institutional affiliation(s), and author note, and these constituent parts are expected to be formatted according to APA guidelines.
Formatting by APA Guidelines
Formatting requirements prevent authors from failing to include critical details, and they allow readers to easily search and find information. For example, correct reference formatting is critical for easy understanding. In-text citations must include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page of quotation (if applicable). This allows readers to easily cross-check references and further explore the academic conversation. In-text citations point to works listed in the references section of the manuscript, which has its own formatting requirements. Indentation in the reference list helps keep references distinct from one another, and italics allow readers to easily identify the title of a book or journal.
Examples of APA Guidelines for Authors
Authors are required to be precise and economical with their language. Precise language can prevent misunderstanding. For example, phrases like “the report states” or “an experiment demonstrates” anthropomorphizes those things; the correct phrasing would be “the writers state” or “the researchers demonstrate.” Economical language can help with precision and clarity, too. Colloquial or conversational language often adds filler phrases that can be eliminated. For example, “absolutely critical” or “has been previously stated” can communicate the same meaning without “absolutely” or “previously.” By following APA guidelines, authors can improve clarity and precision in their writing.
The APA style guide was initially developed for psychology manuscripts; however, it has been adopted by authors in other subject areas. Now, the APA style is used in business, communications, social sciences, nursing, engineering, and more.
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