Always ask your mentor which style to use before you begin to write your paper.
The APA style refers to the method of writing research papers recommended by the American Psychological Association. The APA style is used in the social sciences and is governed by two basic ideas. The first is that a scientific paper attempts to show something that has already been proven true, so it calls for the past or present perfect tense when you cite the work of others. Second, the year of publication is important, so you need to feature it immediately after any named source in the text.
Smyth (1972) found that children often studied while watching television.
Williams and Maier (1994) have defined a new theory of cognition.
Use the present tense for generalizations and personal comments. Use the past or present perfect tenses only to introduce the work of cited sources.
Evidence of the rise of the heroin use exists for every age group, even children. Burroughs and Bruce (1996) reported on five incidents of heroin overdose in the under 10 age group.
Basic APA Facts
Always double space, including the text of your paper, quotations, notes, and the reference page.
Leave margins of at least one-inch at the top, bottom, right, and left of every page.
Use parenthetical citations to acknowledge direct quotations, indirect quotations, and/or any ideas you have borrowed from another person.
Use a reference page for reference to parenthetical citations.
Within the text of your paper, underline titles of books, plays, pamphlets, periodicals, films, television programs, and recordings; place in quotation marks titles of articles, essays in anthologies, book chapters, and lectures.
Number pages in the upper right hand corner. Include a running head.
Plagiarism is the use of the words and/or ideas of another person without acknowledging the source. Plagiarism is generally grounds for failure of a course and can lead to dismissal from college. To avoid plagiarism, acknowledge your sources with in-text citations and a reference page. Enclose direct quotations in quotation marks or otherwise indent them from the body of your text. If you use another person's idea or paraphrase another person's words, be sure to use your own language and style of writing — don't simply rearrange the words. Use an in-text citation to acknowledge the source, then list on a reference page the publications or sources from which you obtained your citations. For more detailed information on plagiarism and how to avoid it, see the handout available at the GVC Writing Center.
Cite the first appearance of another person's words and/or ideas by introducing the quotation or paraphrase with the author's name. After the first appearance, cite the author's name either within the text of your writing or within the parenthetical citation immediately following the cited passage. Always use the last name of the author/authors and the year of publication. The year of publication always follows the name of the cited/quoted authority. Note that commas separate items within parentheses. Following are some examples of in-text citation methods in the APA style.
In his study of the effects of alcohol on the ability to drive, Smith (1991) showed that the reaction times of participating drivers were adversely affected by as little as a twelve ounce can of beer.
If you don't use the author's name in the text, place it within the parenthetical citation with the date.
A recent study of the effects of alcohol on the ability to drive showed that as little as twelve ounces of beer adversely affected the reaction time of participating drivers (Smith, 1991).
Provide a page number when you use an exact quotation. Use quotation marks. Use the singular "p." or the plural "pp." to indicate page number(s).
In his study on the effects of alcohol on drivers, Smith (1991, p. 104) stated that "participants who drank twelve ounces of beer with a 3.5% alcohol content reacted, on average, 1.2 seconds more slowly to an emergency braking situation than they did when they had not ingested alcohol."
As an alternative, place the page number within parentheses at the end of the quotation. If you do so, remember to place the date immediately after the author's name.
In his study on the effects of alcohol on drivers, Smith (1991) stated that "participants who drank twelve ounces of beer with a 3.5% alcohol content reacted, on average, 1.2 seconds more slowly to an emergency braking situation than they did when they had not ingested alcohol" (p. 104).
Indent a direct quotation of 40 or more words five spaces from the left margin. If the quotation includes more than one paragraph, indent the first line of succeeding paragraphs five more spaces (ten spaces total). Don't use quotation marks, and be sure to double space the quotation as well as your own writing.
In her study of adult patterns of television watching, Roberts (1996) reported the following behaviors:
Response behaviors exhibited by participants who watched television without any other persons present in the viewing room included imitating the facial expressions and hand movements of television characters as well as talking to individual characters. Affective behaviors included exhibitions of anger such as shouting and throwing magazines at the television.
Such behaviors were less evident behaviors in participants who watched television in groups of three. Instead, participants in group watching were more likely to interject critical or humorous comments regarding the content of particular television programs.
If you're citing an author who's been quoted in another book or article, use the original author's name in the text, and cite in parentheses the source in which you found the quotation.
Behavior is affected by situation. As Wallace (1972) postulated in Individual and Group Behavior, a person who acts a certain way independently may act in an entirely different manner while the member of a group (cited in Barkin, 1992, p. 478).
When citing a work with two, three, four, or five authors within the text of the paper, name them all in the first entry, e.g., (Smith, Andrews, & Lawrence 1995). After the first entry, cite only the first author's name followed by "et al.," for example, (Smith, et. al., 1995).
When citing a work with six or more authors, name only the first author followed by et. al., for example, (Fredericks, et. al., 1995). If the author is not given, use the first word or two of the title in the parenthetical citation.
Massachusetts state and municipal governments have initiated several programs to improve public safety, including community policing and after school activities ("Innovations," 1997).
If "Anonymous" is specified as the author, treat it as if it were a real name: (Anonymous, 1996). In the bibliographic references, also use the name Anonymous as author.
The Reference Page
You must always have a reference page as well as in-text citations to avoid plagiarism. The Reference Page immediately follows the text of the paper. Items on the reference page are listed alphabetically. Begin the first line of a reference at the left margin (i.e., do not indent the first line as you did in the body text). All subsequent lines for a reference should be indented one-half inch this is sometimes known as an "outdent" or "hanging indent"). APA has a second format that uses normal (one-half inch) indents on the first line of a reference, then left justifies subsequent lines to the left margin. This format is only for documents being submitted for publishing. Student papers should always use the first (hanging indent) format. For the reference page, use the running head and page number, then center the title "References" two lines below.
List the author's last name first with initial of the first name; year of publication in parentheses; title of book underlined (capitalize only the first word of the title and of any subtitle, and all proper nouns); the edition (if any) in parentheses; place of publication; and publisher. Omit the words Publishing Company and Inc. from the publisher's name. Use one space after periods and other punctuation.
Book by one author
Zimbardo, P. (1992). Psychology and life (13 ed.). New York: Harper Collins.
List more than one book by the same author chronologically, earliest edition or work first.
Book by two or more authors—List authors as they are listed in the book; use an ampersand to indicate "and."
Brasco, D. & Corleone, M. (1992). Child development: A behavioral approach. New York: Calavita.
Tork, P., Jones, D., & Nesmith, M. (1968). Adolescent development: Behavioral mimicry. Los Angeles: Pasquin.
Textbook or anthology—List cited author, date of the cited author's work, the chapter or section title, the editor's name preceded by "In" and followed by (Ed.), the title of the textbook/anthology, edition number (if appropriate), page numbers on which the cited author's work is found, place of publication, and publisher.
Bailey, B. (1992). Jobs in the nineties. In V. Westerhaus (Ed.). Issues for the 21st century (pp. 55-63). New York: Holt.
Book with a corporate author—List alphabetically with authors; if published by the author of the book, list the publisher as the author.
American Psychiatric Association. (1992). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (3d ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Book with no author or editor—Alphabetize by book title.
Student planning guide for degree programs and portfolios. (1996). Saratoga Springs, NY: Empire State College.
Journal Article—List the author(s), year of publication in parentheses, title of article without quotation marks and with only the first word, proper nouns, and words after colons capitalized, name of the journal underlined and with all major words capitalized, volume number underlined, and inclusive page numbers not preceded by "p." or "pp."
Smith, A. (1975). Driver age and crash involvement. American Journal of Public Health. 9. 326-327.
Brown, W. & Williamson, L. J. (1983). The myth of carcinogenic elements in tobacco smoke. American Journal of Public Health. 14. 419-431.
Magazine—List the author(s), year and month of publication (without abbreviations), title of the article without quotation marks and with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized, name of the magazine underlined and with all major words capitalized, volume number, and inclusive page numbers preceded by "p." or "pp."
Jackson, L. M. (1997, April). Taking back the streets. School Planning and Management. pp. 30-31.
Newspaper—List the author(s), year, month, and day of publication (without abbreviations), title of the article with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized, complete name of the newspaper underlined with all major words capitalized, and the section with discontinuous page numbers preceded by "p." or "pp."
Raymond, C. (1990, September 12). Global migration will have widespread impact on society, scholars say. The Chronicle of Higher Education. pp. A1, A6.
The following information is provided in Harnack, A., & Kleppinger, E. (2000). Online! A Reference Guide to Using Internet Sources. New York: Bedford/St. Martin's.
World Wide Web sites
To document a specific file, provide as much as possible of the following information:
Date of publication or last revision (if known), in parentheses
Title of document
Title of complete work (if relevant), in italics or underlined
"Online" in square brackets
Availability (indicated by the word "Available")
Retrieval Date (indicated in square brackets at end of citation)
Patterson, O. (2001). Cultural continuity and collective memory. In The Emory center for myth and ritual in American life [Online]. Available: http://www.emory.edu/college/MARIAL/ [2001, October 29].
Author's name (last name, first and any middle initials). (Date of Internet publication). Document title. Where available: URL (or other retrieval information). Retrieval date.
Shapiro, H. (1999). Professional Communications. Available: http://www1.esc.edu/personalfac/hshapiro/professional_communications/default.htm [November 6, 2001].
An online book may be the electronic text of part or all of a printed book, or a book-length document available only on the Internet (e.g. a work of hyperfiction).
Bryant, P. (1999). Biodiversity and Conservation. [Online]. Available: http://darwin.bio.uci.edu/~sustain/bio65/Titlepage.htm [October 4, 1999].
Article in an electronic journal (ejournal)
Fine, M., and Kurdek, L.A. (1993, March 9). Reflections on determining authorship credit and authorship order on faculty-student collaborations. Available: American Psychologist. 48. 1141-1147 http://www.apa.org/journals/amp/kurdek.html [June 7, 1999].
Article in an electronic magazine (ezine)
Adler, J. (1999, May 17). Ghost of Everest. Available: Newsweek: http://newsweek.com/nwsrv/issue/20_99a/printed/us/so/so0120_1.htm [May 19, 1999].
Azar, B., & Martin, S. (1999, October). APA's Council of Representatives endorses new standards for testing, high school psychology. Available: APA Monitor. http://www.apa.org/monitor/inl.html [October 7,1999].
Bush, G. (1989, April 12). Principles of ethical conduct for government officers and employees. Exec. Order No. 12674. Pt. 1. Available: http://www.usoge.gov/exorders/eol2674.html [November 18, 1997].
E-mail. (Simply include a reference to the date sent and the subject heading)
Ward, Neil (email@example.com). (2001, October 22). Tutoring Japanese students. E-mail to Shirley Jackson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
However, if the E-mail source is a consistently retrievable, subscriber-based journal or other text/document on E-mail, include it in the reference page as follows:
Funder, D. C. (1994, March). Judgmental process and content: Commentary of Koehler on base-rate [9 paragraphs]. Psycoloquy [On-line serial], 5, (17). Available E-mail: psyc@pucc Message: Get psyc 94-xxxx
Include the following information if your citation refers to an entire CD-ROM:
Beekman, G. (1991). Computer confluence (Version 1.0) [CD-ROM]. New York: Benjamin/Cummings.
Include the following information for an abstract on a CD-ROM:
Meyer, A. S., & Bock, K. (1992). The tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon: Blocking or partial activation? [CD-ROM]. Memory & Cognition, 20. 715-726. Abstract from: Silver Platter File: PsycLIT Item: 80-16351
Norton, P. (1990). The new Norton guides 4.0 [Computer software]. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Whereas you might not always be able to supply all the above information, follow the general APA format for the specific type of source you are citing (journal, article, chapter, book, etc.). Include all necessary information to allow the reader to access the source material.
The APA style requires an abstract, an 80 to 120 word summary of the contents of the paper that immediately follows the title page. Be sure to ask your mentor whether or not s/he requires an abstract. The abstract should include the purpose, thesis, and conclusions of your paper and be accurate, self-contained, concise, coherent, and readable. Do not use a paragraph indentation for the abstract. The abstract requires a separate page and immediately follows the title page.
Nicotine has been identified as an addictive substance since the mid-nineteenth century, when it was the first substance used to explore and map the synaptic system of receptors. Moreover, the common perception of American society throughout the twentieth century regarded cigarette smoking as a bad "habit" akin to addiction. Yet, despite more than a century of scientific study into and acceptance of nicotine as an addictive substance, American political, medical, scientific, and common societies still carry on a dialogue regarding whether or not nicotine is addictive. This dialogue is the very foundation of the prevailing negative attitudes toward tobacco. The scientific and medical communities proclaim the costly outcomes of nicotine addiction while the tobacco industry claims that nicotine is a relatively innocuous product.
APA format requires a title page that establishes a running head. Ask your Mentor if you need to provide a title page for your paper.
Addiction: Societal Denial
of the Addictive Nature of Nicotine
William M. Reynolds
Austin Peay State University
Running Head: Addiction
Each successive page will then have the running head "Addiction" followed by the page number in the upper right-hand corner.
This style sheet was produced with the
aid of the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (3rd ed.) and the Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed.)
by Chelsea Lee
Have you heard about how alligators infest the New York City sewer system? The ones brought north by Florida snowbirds for the summer as pets, who were then jettisoned after they outgrew the family bathtub? Indeed, your cousin’s best friend once saw one with her own eyes. Or, at least, that’s what your cousin told you. But you wonder, is it really true, or is it just an urban legend?
Reliable Sources in Academic Research Are Usually Primary Sources
Likewise, when it comes to academic research, it’s extremely important to make sure that the claims you make are backed up by sound evidence, or else your paper won’t stand up to scrutiny from your professors or colleagues (just like that alligator story didn’t hold up once you started looking into it).
As we saw with the alligator story, one of the best ways to help ensure a source’s reliability is to make sure you’re reading a firsthand account, or a primary source, from someone who saw the events for him- or herself (like the best friend), rather than a secondhand account, or a secondary source, from someone who only heard about the events but didn’t witness them personally (like your cousin). Most of the sources you use in a research paper or thesis should be primary sources, not secondary sources.
How to Spot a Primary Source in the Wild
Primary sources can come in many different forms. For example, a journal or magazine article might report the results of an original experiment, or a book or website might describe a theory or technique the author has developed or has expertise in. Note, however, that not every article, book, website, and so forth contains primary research. To determine whether a document is a primary source, ask, did the authors discover this finding themselves (primary source), or are they reporting what someone else found (secondary source)?
You’ll have to evaluate each source on a case-by-case basis, but some document types tend to make promising primary sources:
- journal articles;
- books and book chapters;
- some magazine and newspaper articles;
- reports, such as from government agencies or institutions;
- dissertations and theses;
- interview and speech transcripts and recordings;
- video and audio recordings;
- personal communications; and
Secondary Sources: Second Best?
In our alligator story example, the word of the secondary source, your cousin, ended up not being too trustworthy, and that’s why we shied away from citing it. But that’s not always the case with secondary sources—in fact, many secondary sources can be not only reliable but also extremely helpful during the research process. For example, a textbook or an encyclopedia (including Wikipedia) can help you get acquainted with a research area by summarizing others’ research. Or you might read a summary of one scientist’s interesting study in someone else’s journal article.
In these cases, however, the chief advantage of the secondary source is not the quotes that you find but that it points you to the primary source through a citation. It’s important to read (and then cite) the primary source if you can, because that will enable you to verify the accuracy and completeness of the information.
It would not look good for you to cite a secondary source (like your cousin with the alligator tale) only for someone else (like your professor—or animal control) to inform you later that the truth was in fact something quite the opposite. Even when secondary sources are highly accurate, being thorough and reading the primary sources helps demonstrate your merit as a scientist and researcher and helps others find that helpful information.
Citations to secondary sources are permissible under certain circumstances. For example, if you are discussing Wikipedia in your paper, you should cite it (here are some more of our thoughts on citing Wikipedia). Likewise, some primary sources are unobtainable (such as if they are out of print or impossible to find) or written in a language you don’t understand, so the secondary source is what you should cite. Or the secondary source might offer an analysis of the primary source that you want to refer the reader to. See our post on how and when to cite secondary sources (a.k.a. a source you found in another source) and refer to Publication Manual section 6.17 (p. 178) for directions and examples of citations to secondary sources.
We hope this discussion of primary and secondary sources has helped you understand what types of sources are most effective and helpful to use in a research paper. Also we hope that you will contact us if you ever do find that alligator, because the family bathtub just isn’t the same without him.