What Is APA Style?

The American Psychological Association (APA) is an organisation at the forefront of psychological research in the United States. APA Style is a well-known and commonly adopted referencing system used by students, academics, and professionals across the globe.

APA Style provides a standardised method for referencing primary and secondary material in your academic work. This makes it easier for a reader to find and retrieve your cited material, while lending credibility to your own writing.

APA Style is the go-to referencing system for most scientific courses, so you’re likely to come across it if you enter the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, geology, and botany, amongst many others.

A Simple Overview

APA Style is a parenthetical referencing system that has two main features: in-text citations and a reference list. The in-text citation should correspond with the full-length entry in the reference list.

Students must include both in-text citations and a reference list to meet APA academic standards.

In-text citations

In-text citations appear in the main body of your essay. With all in-text citations you must include the author’s surname, the text’s publication date, and, if citing a direct quotation, the page number(s) of the quotation.

If you are citing an idea expressed in a source, place the author’s surname and year of publication, separated by a comma, in parenthesis.

In Discourse on Method Descartes invented analytic geometry (Descartes, 1637).

If you are quoting directly from the source, include the page number(s):

“I think therefore I am” (Descartes, 1637, p. 22).

Use the abbreviation “p.” when citing a single page and “pp.” for multiple pages:

“I think therefore I am” (Descartes, 1637, pp. 99-100).

For sources with no page numbers, include the paragraph number:

“I think therefore I am” (Descartes, 1637, para. 4).

An in-text citation should correspond with a fuller entry in the…

Reference list

A reference list enables readers to retrieve any of the sources cited in your work. This list should be arranged alphabetically and located at the end of the essay.

What else should I know?

Title page

The APA Style manual offers guidance on how you should design your title page – the first page of your assignment.

To create a title page in accordance with APA Style, ensure that you have included:

  • Title of the paper
  • Name of author(s)
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Course number and title
  • Instructor name
  • Assignment due date
  • Page numbers

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you ace your title page:

Tip #1: The title of your essay should be as concise as possible, while still capturing your main argument or topic. Remove any superfluous words. For example, “Exploring How to Reduce Poverty in Guatemala” could be rephrased to “Reducing Poverty in Guatemala”.

Tip #2: Place your title 3 to 4 lines down from the top of the page. Make sure that it is in bold font, centred, and with all major words capitalised.  

Tip #3: Ensure that all text on your title page is double spaced. 

Are running heads mandatory?

 Running heads contain a shortened form of your assignment’s title and are found at the top left page of your paper. In APA Style, running heads are not required for student papers, unless instructors explicitly request them.  

The full, unadulterated version

 The APA’s entire guide is accessible here. However, we’ve developed our own guide that is shorter and packed with clear examples to help you master this referencing system. You can find individual sections of the guide in the menu.