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    American Psychological Association (APA) Style – Research Methods in Psychology – 2nd Canadian Edition


    Learning Objectives

    Define APA style and list several of its most important characteristics.

    Identify three levels of APA style and give examples of each.

    Identify multiple sources of information about APA style.


     is a set of guidelines for writing in psychology and related fields. These guidelines are set down in the (APA, 2006)[1]. The  originated in 1929 as a short journal article that provided basic standards for preparing manuscripts to be submitted for publication (Bentley et al., 1929)[2]. It was later expanded and published as a book by the association and is now in its seventh edition (view the APA Style website online). The primary purpose of APA style is to facilitate scientific communication by promoting clarity of expression and by standardizing the organization and content of research articles and book chapters. It is easier to write about research when you know what information to present, the order in which to present it, and even the style in which to present it. Likewise, it is easier to read about research when it is presented in familiar and expected ways.

    APA style is best thought of as a “genre” of writing that is appropriate for presenting the results of psychological research—especially in academic and professional contexts. It is not synonymous with “good writing” in general. You would not write a literary analysis for an English class, even if it were based on psychoanalytic concepts, in APA style. You would write it in Modern Language Association (MLA) style instead. And you would not write a newspaper article, even if it were about a new breakthrough in behavioural neuroscience, in APA style. You would write it in Associated Press (AP) style instead. At the same time, you would not write an empirical research report in MLA style, in AP style, or in the style of a romance novel, an e-mail to a friend, or a shopping list. You would write it in APA style. Part of being a good writer in general is adopting a style that is appropriate to the writing task at hand, and for writing about psychological research, this is APA style.


    Because APA style consists of a large number and variety of guidelines—the  is nearly 300 pages long—it can be useful to think about it in terms of three basic levels. The first is the overall  of an article (which is covered in Chapter 2 “Manuscript Structure and Content” of the ). Empirical research reports, in particular, have several distinct sections that always appear in the same order:

    Title page. Presents the article title and author names and affiliations.Abstract. Summarizes the research.Introduction. Describes previous research and the rationale for the current study.Method. Describes how the study was conducted.Results. Describes the results of the study.Discussion. Summarizes the study and discusses its implications.References. Lists the references cited throughout the article.

    The second level of APA style can be referred to as  (covered in Chapter 3 “Writing Clearly and Concisely” of the ), which includes guidelines for the clear expression of ideas. There are two important themes here. One is that APA-style writing is formal rather than informal. It adopts a tone that is appropriate for communicating with professional colleagues—other researchers and practitioners—who share an interest in the topic. Beyond this shared interest, however, these colleagues are not necessarily similar to the writer or to each other. A graduate student in British Columbia might be writing an article that will be read by a young psychotherapist in Toronto and a respected professor of psychology in Tokyo. Thus formal writing avoids slang, contractions, pop culture references, humour, and other elements that would be acceptable in talking with a friend or in writing informally.

    The second theme of high-level APA style is that it is straightforward. This means that it communicates ideas as simply and clearly as possible, putting the focus on the ideas themselves and not on how they are communicated. Thus APA-style writing minimizes literary devices such as metaphor, imagery, irony, suspense, and so on. Again, humour is kept to a minimum. Sentences are short and direct. Technical terms must be used, but they are used to improve communication, not simply to make the writing sound more “scientific.” For example, if participants immersed their hands in a bucket of ice water, it is better just to write this than to write that they “were subjected to a pain-inducement apparatus.” At the same time, however, there is no better way to communicate that a between-subjects design was used than to use the term “between-subjects design.”

    APA Style and the Values of Psychology

    Robert Madigan and his colleagues have argued that APA style has a purpose that often goes unrecognized (Madigan, Johnson, & Linton, 1995)[3]. Specifically, it promotes psychologists’ scientific values and assumptions. From this perspective, many features of APA style that at first seem arbitrary actually make good sense. Following are several features of APA-style writing and the scientific values or assumptions they reflect.

    APA style feature Scientific value or assumption

    There are very few direct quotations of other researchers. The phenomena and theories of psychology are objective and do not depend on the specific words a particular researcher used to describe them.

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    Everything You Should You Know About APA Style Basics

    Check out what writers should know about the specifics of APA style and how it's different from other styles.

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    By Allena Tapia Updated on 02/10/19

    One of the more common writing styles is APA style. This style is common for scientific work, term papers, essays, and case studies.

    APA Style Sections

    Title Page

    Abstract (a summary of the work)

    Introduction to the paper

    Method (how the study was undertaken

    Results of the study

    Discussion of the results

    References and citations

    Appendix (supporting pieces)

    Specifics of APA Style

    APA style uses the following specific characteristics:

    Running head

    Page numbers begin from the title page

    In-text citation/references

    Times New Roman or similar font

    Double spaces Paragraph indents

    Very specific headings and subheadings style

    How APA Style is Different

    One hallmark of APA style is its reduction of biased words in a text. As the style referred by academic and research industries, APA papers must present themselves in as neutral a language as possible. In addition, the APA style uses a very specific framework of citation and reference page styles. Lastly, it has very specific instructions on syle pieces such as running heads and headings and subheadings.

    APA Style and Freelance Writers

    Freelance writers will need to use the APA style when working with certain industries such as sciences and particularly behavioral sciences such as sociology and psychology. Writers who offer editing services will likely need to learn APA style. Two main areas this writer has run into APA style requests has been in editing academic papers, and in writing white papers, some of which are requested to be in APA style.

    The best place to learn APA style is from the source, the American Psychological Association. They provide a slideshow, sample documents, and a book about the style.

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    APA Style MCQs Quiz With Answers (Add In Description: APA Citation Quiz,APA Format Quiz)

    Are you familiar with APA style and citation? Quiz yourself with the help of our APA format quiz. Could you answer these questions? APA style is commonly used f...

    APA Style MCQs Quiz With Answers (Add In Description: APA Citation Quiz,APA Format Quiz)

    20 Questions | Total Attempts: 48789


    Create your own Quiz

    Are you familiar with APA style and citation? Quiz yourself with the help of our APA format quiz. Could you answer these questions? APA style is commonly used for citing sources within the field of behavioral and social sciences. It is portrayed in the style guidebook of the American Psychological Association. The guidelines were created to assist with reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences for communication clarity. If you want to understand more about APA style and citation, complete this APA citation quiz.

    Questions and Answers


    Choose the correct reference format for the following source that you retrieved from an online journal: . Social Work and Research, 1995, Vol. 68(2), 127-137 SSN: 1948-CCX  DOI:10.1037/swr/127 . Students and the Problem of Entitlement . Jeffrey T. Swan     Dennard Q. Rail    Mary N. Bushcombe University of Georgia Note:  Per APA, journal titles should be set in italics (e.g., Social Work and Research); however, the quiz-maker software doesn't permit italics in the answer options.


    Swan, J. T., Rail, D. Q., & Bushcombe, M. N. (1995). Students and the problem of entitlement. Social Work and Research, 68(2), 127-137.


    J. T. Swan, D. Q. Rail, & M. N. Bushcombe. (1995). Students and the problem of entitlement. Social Work and Research, 68(2), 127-137. ISSN: 1948-CCX doi:10.1037/swr/127


    Bushcombe, M. N., Rail, D. Q., & Swan, J. T. (1995). Students and the problem of entitlement. Social Work Research, 68(2), 127-137. doi:10.1037/swr/127


    Swan, J. T., Rail, D. Q., & Bushcombe, M. N. (1995). Students and the problem of entitlement. Social Work and Research, 68(2), 127-137. doi:10.1037/swr/127


    Identify the APA issue(s) in the following passage: (Select all that apply)     An innovative approach to breaking the generational cycle of poverty involves creating Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). Individual Development Accounts are a special type of savings account that match the deposit amounts when the funds are withdrawn to make a qualifying purchase such as: (1) purchasing a home as a primary residence, (2) paying for postsecondary education or job training, or (3) creating a retirement saving account.


    The abbreviation for IDAs should be used to start the second sentence.


    The colon in the second sentence is misused and unnecessary.


    The in-line series should use lowercase letters such as (a), (b), (c) rather than numbers.

    D. None of the above 3.

    Identify the problem(s) in the sentence below: . The social information processing (SIP) theory holds that a child's behavior is the result of six overlapping cognitive steps that occur in the following order:(a) encode social cues, (b) mentally representing and interpreting the cues, (c) constructing goals, (d) search for possible responses, (e) making a response decision, (f) enact a behavioral response while monitoring its effect.


    The theory name should be capitalized


    The colon is misused. It would be better to make a second sentence.


    The list of steps lacks parallel structure.


    Nothing - the sentence is correct as written.


    Based on the APA style rules, what problem(s) can you identify in the sentence below: . Birch (1998) argues that teens born outside of the U.S. are more likely to adopt conservative family norms. Select all that apply.


    APA mandates use of past tense when referring to published material or prior research.


    Sentence uses informal language (i.e., teens). APA requires formal, precise language such as youth or adolescents, which have be defined by an age range.


    United States must be spelled out when used as a noun; abbreviation U.S. can be used as an adjective such as U.S. population


    Sentence makes half a comparison; study participants were more likely than who to adopt such values?

    E. All of the above F. None of the above 5.

    The passage below has several problems. Select all that apply. In this study, a sample of 43 urban youth were compared to a similar sample of 44 rural youth. Each of the youth were given a survey to complete and return in a sealed envelope. Follow-up interviews were conducted at either the youth treatment facility or it's community-based outreach clinic. Each of the interviews were conducted by a master's-level social work student and audio recorded for accurate transcription.


    Problem with subject-verb number agreement.


    First sentence should use compared with rather than compared to


    Third sentence has used contraction for it is; needs possessive its


    None of the above, The passage has problems, but not those identified in A, B, or C.


    Identify the writing problem(s) in the following paragraph: The U. S. government defines poverty using an income-based threshold created in the early 1960s, which set the poverty level at 3 times the yearly cost of a basic food budget. Except for adjustments for inflation, it has remained unchanged since it was established despite the fact that today's families spend more on housing, child care, and health care than food. Social service workers spend much of their time trying to help families in need patch together a network of resources to meet their basic needs. Because the level of public assistance has not kept pace with other costs, this means they spend a greater proportion of their income on basic necessities that are not accounted for in the poverty equation. Further, it fails to account for regional differences in costs or receipt of other benefits such as Medicaid and Food Stamps.

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