American Psychological Association, APA

American Psychological Association or APA: facts you need to know

Jan 21, 2013
The APA is one of America's largest and most popular professional psychology-related organizations. It provides a multitude of services for students, researchers, and professionals alike. With a legacy that began in 1892, the APA has now become a standard of psychological research and publication in America.
The APA's governmental structure includes a president, council of representatives and board of directors. In addition, it also manages several dedicated committees and task forces to tackle specific psychology-related topics and concerns.
The APA is headquartered in Washington, DC and has over 130,000 members. These members are comprised of doctoral-level professionals from various settings including educational, private practice, as well as hospital and research. The APA also has over 500 staff members that satisfy many functions including publishing scholarly journal articles, maintaining psychology databases and producing educational material for the public.
The last and most significant of it's functions, relevant to many students, is the APA's role in standardizing and regulating academic and research publications. From scholarly journals to school newspapers, the APA's styling guide for formatting and referencing is a crucial tool used by many individuals in need of publishing guidelines.

What is the APA styling guide?

The APA styling guide is an actual publication that comes under the official title of The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. This manual provides all the essential details required of students, writers, and researchers about adhering to standard APA guidelines in papers and essays. The current edition is the sixth one, and along with providing helpful advice (such as how to avoid biases in writing) it also addresses many other relevant issues. Some of them include;
  1. Proper referencing and citing of sources (in and outside of the text)
  2. How to include statistics and tables in a paper
  3. How to physically format a paper; including indentations, headings and so forth
Though ownership of the manual would be useful when preparing a paper in APA style; its not always necessary. Students and researchers can easily find answers to styling questions online. As the APA style is very popular, there are several valuable resources available for quick referencing as well as locating other useful information found in the original manual.

The basic tenets of the APA styling guide

The APA styling guide can be broken down into four basic categories; in-text citations and referencing, formatting, and styling characteristics.
*Tables and statistics may also be included but need less explanation as compared to the other categories.

In-text citations and referencing

In an effort to avoid plagiarism, proper citing and referencing is an essential component of the APA styling guide. The key feature of APA, which separates it from other guides, is its author-date parenthetical referencing system within the text of a paper.
For example; when using parenthetical referencing, a book source may be noted as (Henry, 2012) at the end of a citation or likewise be signaled by a phrase, such as;
Henry mentioned that, "education is key to development" (2012).
In addition to this, a full description of a title referenced in-text must also be provided on the corresponding reference page or list. The reference page must follow a certain format as well and include all the works referenced in a work.


The formatting guidelines set forth by the APA provide a complete outline of what a paper should look like; from the placement of the title to the format of the appendix. Starting with the cover page of the work, a 'running head' should be place at the top of the page as well as along all other consecutive pages. Note that on the cover page you will actually type in the words 'running head' before you state what the running head is. This serves as a clear indication of what the running head will actually be. An example can be seen below.
Running head: Characteristics of work-related discrimination
Also keep in mind that the running head in fact is a shortened version of the title, so whereas the title may be something like Characteristics of work-related racial and ethnic discrimination in the US for example, a shortened version of that would be Characteristics of work-related discrimination (as seen above). The shorted title should contain no more than 50 words and be placed on top of all pages. Also note that the page number should be included at the top of the page as well and be aligned to the right of the page.

Other essentials to be included on the cover page are as follows;

  1. Full title of the work
  2. Author
  3. School or affiliated organization
  4. Author's note
*Note that all of this information (1-4) should be centered in the middle of the page and the standard font and size for the entire paper is Times New Roman 12. Also the entire document should be double-spaced.
The author's note is utilized for printed documents and may include acknowledgements; for instance, for grants, financial assistance or mentorship, as well as important contact information. The author's note also restates the school or affiliated organization and notes any changes in association.
Likewise, when creating the abstract, the first paragraph is not indented and the word 'Abstract' is to be centered in the middle of the page. On the corresponding page which starts the actual paper, the title is centered as well and the first paragraph is indented. Each subsequent paragraph should be indented and the section titles to follow should be centered (for example, 'Literature Review' and 'Discussion').

Styling characteristics

Lastly, an often averted issue with styling guides, is the actual styling that is involved in crafting a paper or essay. Since much emphasis is placed on the more technical issues of referencing and formatting, many people, (even instructors) forget about the guidelines provided for the actual writing style of the paper.

Some of the major issues connected to style are...

  1. Voice
  2. Point of View
  3. Word Usage
  4. Bias in language
Some of these simple styling parameters are just assumed by writers and students will others are not. As a brief overview, the voice used in APA is active as opposed to passive. An example of this would be the phrase we hit the car rather than the car was hit by us. Here the first one is an example of active voice.
Also the point of view with APA can be first person, which often makes sense for first-hand empirical studies. And the word usage in the text should match the field of study connected to the topic (i.e. choose relevant and appropriate terminology). Finally, bias in language should be avoided when implementing APA as much as the writer is able. Biases in language may include several subcategories such as gender indications, disabilities, race and ethnicity. For gender, non-bias use may be achieved by staying clear of terms such as he or she unless absolutely necessary. For instance, instead of using he or she you can go for non-specific titles such as 'individual' or 'respondent'.
Though this is not a complete detail of all the formatting guidelines and regulations for the APA styling guide, it serves the purpose of presenting a reasonable review of its most important features.
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