The rules of APA Style, as detailed in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, have been the bane of many graduate students’ existence. The can seem maddeningly nit-picky. Arbitrary. Perhaps, at times, even contradictory.
If APA Style is causing you aggravation, take a moment to consider why APA Style initially came about. It wasn’t the whim of some sadistic group of academicians who wanted to impose an unnecessarily complex formatting scheme upon their students. Rather, it was designed as an organizational schema to allow scholars to share research easily and effectively across the world and across generations. Moreover, once mastered, it’s a great tool to help you organize and present your written work.
APA Style is your friend!
It’s also required by CalSouthern for all of your formal written work, so you might as well bite the bullet and get the hang of it.
Fortunately, CalSouthern provides plenty of APA Style tools and resources. You’ll find many of them, including citation tools and a variety of helpful usage guides, in the CalSouthern Library. CalSouthern’s ALA-certified librarian is also readily available with expert advice.
Another wonderful resource is Frances Simmons, CalSouthern’s learner success advisor. She conducts an APA webinar—covering elements from cover to content to reference—Wednesday nights, from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., PST, after which she takes learner questions. (To attend the webinar, register here, entering the meeting number 665 432 648 when prompted.) Frances is also available to proofread papers for proper APA formatting—just be sure to allow her a day or two turnaround time.
Can’t wait until Frances’ next webinar for APA Style tips? To tide you over, here are a few APA-related issues that Frances regularly encounters in her work with CalSouthern learners.
One Space after a Period For some reason, people are quite passionate about this. There are dyed-in-the-wool two-spacers out there who see red at the thought of using only a single space after a period. But Frances urges you to use just one. The two-space rule came about during the age of the typewriter, which allotted the same amount of space for each letter. (This is called “monospacing.”) Two spaces were necessary to visually separate sentences. Computers use “proportional spacing” (for example, an “i” takes up one-fifth the space of an “m”). Using two spaces after a sentence is unnecessary and creates a gap that’s disturbing to the eye.
Journal Article Information to Include on the Reference Page When listing a journal article on your reference page, provide—in this order—the author(s) last name and first initial, the year of publication, the title of the article, the name of the journal, the volume number, the issue number and the page numbers. And if you retrieved the article online, include the…
Digital Object Identifier (DOI) Most journal articles published within the last five years will have a DOI. It is a unique number of four or more digits assigned by the publisher that identifies the journal and article. Place it after the page numbers (put a period after the page numbers), preceded by “doi:” Alternatively, after the page numbers, you can enter “retrieved from:” and the exact URL. Don’t place a period after the DOI or URL.
Italicize the Journal, Not the Article The journal name is listed in italics on the reference page; the name of the article is not.
Locating Journal Information for the Reference Page Not infrequently, Frances hears from learners who failed to record all the information they need for the reference page or a citation—and they have forgotten how they originally located the article. Don’t worry—that’s an easy fix. You don’t need to recreate your research. Just google the name of the journal article and, 99 times out of 100, you’ll be able to easily find all the elements you need to cite or reference the article.
Heading Levels Headings can be a bit tricky. They are organized by level. The most common mistake Frances sees the introduction of a level-2 heading (left-aligned, boldface, title case) without first introducing a level-1 heading (centered, boldface, title case). You need to introduce a level-1 heading before you can use a level 2 heading. Again, look at this as a benefit. Using APA heading levels is a great way to organize the content of your paper. You can find a helpful article on headings here.