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Writing an APA Paper

Writing an APA Paper


APA-writing-style-tipsThe School of Business at American Public University requires APA format style when writing an essay/research paper and forum discussion boards. You will follow the APA formatting style throughout your degree pathway; therefore, it is critical you know the many rules and guidelines required. If you haven’t purchased an APA Manual (6th Edition), it would prove helpful to do so since you will be referring to the guidelines many times throughout your degree program. However, BEWARE when purchasing a used APA Manual; the first printing of the Sixth Edition had many errors forcing a reprint. Be sure the manual states SECOND PRINTING and not first printing.

Here are a few items many students have not mastered on their APA style papers:

  • Running head is PERMANENT and aligned on the left margin on the same line as the page number. It should read “Running head: <space> The title should be no more than 12 words in length and should not contain abbreviations. All letters of the title are capitalized.  Example: Running head: LEARNING STYLES (Note this is for title page only). The Title Page is always page 1. All pages after page 1, the title appears on each page in the header with only page numbers changing.  Example: LEARNING STYLES (Note: The words “Running head” only appears on the title page which is page 1).
  • Numbers: 0-9 are written out while 10 and above are written as numbers (Exceptions: numbers expressing approx. lengths of time written as words ex: 1 hr 30 min; 12:30 a.m.; about 3 months ago).
  • Ampersand: If the citation is in parentheses, use the ampersand (‘&’) instead of the word “and” in text of paper. Always use ampersand (&) in tables, captions and on reference page.
  • Do not use contractions (it’s = it is; won’t = will not).
  • Always spell out acronym on first use. Example: APU = American Public University.
  • Direct Quotes: must give page number. If no page numbers available, cite paragraph number using abbreviation para. (para. 4).  If no page or paragraph numbers, cite heading and paragraph number where information found: (Discussion section, para. 2).
  • Spell out all authors’ first time reference is cited. Use et al. in further references (ex: Smith et al., 2009) (Exception: Six or more authors use et al. first time).
  • References are in alphabetical order by author(s) last name on the reference page; list last name, then first and middle initial (if applicable) only. If no author is provided, use the first character of the title.
  • When citing a book on the reference page, capitalize the first word of the title only (with the exception of proper names). Also, italicize the name of the book.
  • In reference area, capitalize the FIRST word, the word after a colon, and all proper names in the title of books and articles.
  • Italicize the name of books, journals, and magazines, but do NOT italicize the name of the article.
  • Do not use the words Volume or Vol., Issue or Iss. or Pages, p. or pp. on reference page.
  • The name of the journal and volume number are italicized. Pay attention to punctuation.
  • Citing references on reference page: use the hanging indent.
  • Punctuation when ending a Quote: If quotation is at the end of a sentence, close quote with quotation marks, cite the source in parentheses, and end with a period or other punctuation outside the final parenthesis. If quote is in mid-sentence, close quote with quotation marks, cite the source immediately after the quotation marks, and continue the sentence.
  • Punctuation when ending a reference: The period (or sentence terminator) goes after the in-text citation to end the sentence.

There are many other APA guidelines students must become aware of when writing. Knowing APA formatting will ease must of the stress of writing academically. Good luck in your degree  journey and happy APA writing.

By Dr. Jill Fuson
Faculty Director, School of Business at American Public University