APA, The dreaded

aka Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th ed.

By no means is this intended to be a comprehensive review of style tips n' tricks. Use it as a first line of defense. I welcome corrections to my own notes.


Dr A’s APA Rubric

APA Publications Manual 5th Ed


Note: APA page numbers highlighted in yellow refer to the most relevant sections that I found. This does not preclude the reader from checking the index for other instances of the information



APA page#

APA example




…abbreviations introduced on first mention of a term and used fewer than three times thereafter, particularly in a long paper, my be difficult for the reader to remember, and you probably serve the reader best if you write them out each time. I would add that you should spell out the meaning of the abbreviation the first time you use it in your paper!

Active and passive voice


Active voice is preferred over passive voice. However, you can use passive voice when you want to focus on the recipient of the action, and not the actor. For example, “The President was shot” instead of “The unknown assassin shot the president at approximately 3:57 pm.” In the latter, the assassin is the focus of attention; in the former, it is the President.



You can use the ampersand “&” in citations that appear in the text and in the Reference section.



When referring to an article in a formal written paper, use upper and lower case and enclose the title with quotation marks


In the article, "The Last Inch" 




Walker (2000): when the author is part of the narrative.

(Walker, 2000), when using citing the author or attributing a statement to that author. However, (Walker 2000) is not APA-compliant.



1.      When a work has two authors, always cite BOTH names every time the reference occurs in text.

2.      When a work has three, four, or five authors, cite all the authors the first time the reference occurs; in subsequent citations, include only the surname of the first author followed by et al. (not italicized, and with a period after “al.”)


210 & 231

An anonymous reference is listed alphabetically as Anonymous. It is cited in your text as (Anonymous, year).



Rev. ed. Not rev. ed.



Mitchell, T.R. & Larson, J. R., Jr. (1987). People in

    organization: An introduction to organizational behavior

    (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.



When referring to a book in a formal written paper, use upper and lower case, italicize the title, but DO NOT enclose the title with quotation marks


In the book, History of Pathology


Figure, proper label for a


Figures are numbered sequentially in Arabic numerals as they appear in the document. Figures contain a descriptive, full sentence caption rather than a title and should be placed under the figure. The caption should be flush left, single-spaced, italicized, and followed by appropriate punctuation. UOPhx research handbook, page 70.


Figures, deciding to use


When you cannot present exact numerical data (that would be good for a table), use a figure such as a chart, graph, photograph, drawing or caricature, or other depiction.

Journal articles


Hunt, J.G. (1999). Transformational/charismatic leadership’s

     transformation of the field:  An historical essay.

     Business Source Premier, 10(2). Retrieved December 17,

        2004, from the UOP Library.


Note that the journal title and volume # are italicized, but not the issue number. The Title is not with upper and lower case words; only the first word is capitalized.


Mellers, B. A. (2000). Choice and the relative pleasure of

     consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 910-924.


Levels of headings


For short formal papers a combination of Level 1 and Level 3 should meet the requirements of most instructors (check with them!). 


Level 1


Level 3




See “Seriation”



1” on all 4 sides, not 1.25” left or right. 1” ALL AROUND.



Spell it out if less than 10; use 10, 11, 12, etc if 10 or more

Paragraphs and indentation


Indent the first line of every paragraph using your tab key set at ½ inch.



When paraphrasing or referring to an idea contained in another work, authors are not required to provide a location reference (e.g., a page or paragraph number). Nevertheless, authors are encouraged to do so, especially when it would help an interested reader locate the relevant passage in a long or complex text.

Caveat: If you do not acknowledge this, then you are presenting the findings or information as your own (which you know is not). There is no distinction between intentional and unintentional plagiarism (see Plagiarism). Do not assume that the information you present is “common knowledge.”



provide, protect, preserve (not provide, protecting, and preserve)

Personal Communications


References based on letters, memos, personal interviews, phone conversations, etc.


     M. Arnaldo (personal communication, Month Date, YYYY).




…do not present substantial portions or elements of another’s work or data as your own, even if the other work or data source is cited occasionally.

Plurals for years


1950s (not 1950’s)

Quotes, biblical


Identify in the first citation in the text the version you used. Subsequent citations do not need the version reference.


     1 Cor. 13:1 (Revised Standard Version)


Quotes, block





BLOCK QUOTE: For quotations 40 or more words, use block quotes, and omit the quotation marks. In the last sentence of the block quote, the ending period belongs after the page number, e.g., (p. 391). You still need to add the Reference citation before the block quote, as in the introductory sentence, or at the end of the block quote.

Caveat: Check with your respective facilitators or onground instructors for their policy on the amount of block quotes acceptable for formal or informal written assignments. Dr A recommends using not more than 10-15% of your total word count for block quotes. Some research handbooks do not address this. Do not use block quotes as “fillers.” Use a block quote because it complements and adds SUBSTANCE to your writing.

Quotes, direct vs non-direct


If you are not directly quoting, do not include the page number(s), e.g., (Hanson, 1996)


If you are directly quoting, include the page number(s), e.g., (Hanson, 1996, pp. 31-34)


Range of years


Avoid hyphens like 1950-1970 or 1950 – 1970. Instead use the example below:


From 1950 to 1970, so and so occurred

Reference, master list of all 95 examples


For periodicals, books & brochures, technical & research reports, proceedings of meetings & symposia, doctoral dissertations and master’s theses, unpublished work and publications of limited circulation, reviews, audiovisual media, and electronic media



Reference, centered, if only one reference

References, centered, if more two or more references

The words “Resources”, “Reading List”, “Bibliography” are not APA-compliant.

Start on new page, double space, hanging indent for second line.

Reference, citation for electronic


Retrieved December 15, 2004, from EBSCOhost database. (font size of comma in bold red  was exaggerated to make sure you see it) Retrieved month is spelled out, use a numbered date without the th, or st, or nd, or rd.

Reference, citation for electronic web page


To quote from an article on a web page that does
not name the author or date, begin the reference with the title of the document.


GVU’s 8th WWW user survey. (n.d.). Retrieved August 8, 2000, from http://www.cc.gatech.edu/gvu/user_surveys/survey-1997-10/


Sample paper


Full page samples of a typed paper

Secondary source


Citation of a work discussed in a secondary source


Seidenberg and McClelland’s study (as cited in Coltheart, Curtis, Atkis, and Haller, 1993)







There are two options:

  1. If your list is within the same paragraph or sentence, then use (a) thought one, (b) thought two, etc. Note that “thought” is lower case. See APA for variations.


  1. If your list is not within the same paragraph, then identify the elements with a number without enclosing in parentheses, such as this example for “Seriation”.



Everything is double-spaced, even your references! Never use single-spacing or one-and-a-half spacing.

Spacing and punctuation


One space after commas, colons, semicolons, punctuation marks at the ends of sentences, after initials of a personal name, after periods that separate parts of a reference citation.

Tables, deciding to use




Use a table, not a figure, when you are showing exact numerical values, and the data is arranged in an orderly display of columns and rows. Review the APA Table Checklist on p. 175.

Table, proper label for a


Type the table number; then, single-space (University of Phoenix, page 70), and type a description of the table in italics. Capitalize only the initial letters of the principal words. Please note that the label always goes above the table.


Titles and genders


Avoid use of genders. Mario Arnaldo earned his [ Ph. D.]  [doctoral degree] [doctorate of philosophy] in ..."


Instead use the example below:


Mario Arnaldo earned a Ph.D. or Dr. Mario Arnaldo earned a doctoral degree in philosophy


Title page


[ ]         Title Page double-spaced, upper & lowercase, include a page header, number as page 1 (pp. 296-298).. APA contents of title page are listed on pp. 10-11. UOP Title page content differs from APA regarding the order & elements to include on the title page. Some title pages should include the following elements in this order centered on the page: Title of paper, author’s name, University of xxx, Course # and title, Group #, Faculty member’s name, and date of submission.

Note that The header is 5 spaces to the left of the page number.

The date is also centered with the format of December 25, 2004 (month spelled out dd, yyyy)

Typeface (fonts) for text


Times 12-pt or Courier 12-pt not Arial or anything else

Typeface (fonts) for figures


3.75 to 3.86

Times 12-pt or Courier 12-pt but italicized, flush left, single-spaced underneath the figure. CAPTIONS for a figure are listed together on a separate page.

Typeface (fonts) for tables


Sans serif fonts such as Helvetica or Univers



Prefer active to passive voice

Upper and lower case


For title of paper on title page and inside a paper, use upper and lower case



There is NO period after the URL in a reference page


Retrieved October 23, 2000, from http://www.apa.org/journals/webref.html  ß no period!


URLs, long


There are two scenarios for unusually long URLs. The important part of the URL in a reference source is that it must get our reader to the proper site. 


Scenario #1: If the documentation will be used primarily for online modality, you can rename the long URL to a shorter one. See The Pink Flamingo for an example: http://www.ibritt.com/resources/


Scenario #2: If you use the above technique for a reference, and the page is printed out, the hard copy would not include the actual URL. In this instance, there is no choice but to use the entire URL.



Set your Word as follows: Tools>Options>Spelling & Grammar>Writing Style > Grammar & Style. Click on Settings and select “Punctuation required with quotes” to inside, and space between sentences to “1.” See prt scr below.