Getting Comfortable with APA Style: Part 1 – Introduction & Resources

So your professor says your assignment has to be in APA format …

Have no fear!  We’ve got some resources and recommendations that can help with any APA anxieties that you may have. But first – let’s talk about what the APA is. The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization that represents the field of psychology in the United States. Its mission is “to advance the creation, communication, and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.” As such, the organization outlines the rules around writing for psychology and other social sciences for publication. The aim is to make sure papers follow a clear and uniform structure. Now that we know about the APA, let’s look at some handy resources.     

1. ) Templates

Before you get started on your APA paper, set up the format and structure. Within Microsoft Word, there are some standard templates based around APA that can help you get started. However, be wary – I highly recommend double checking the formatting of these stock templates, as they may not reflect the most recent changes and updates within the APA. The recent publishing of the DSM-5 and other developments have led to some shifts in the standards of APA style. These templates can be a good first step, but I would not trust them 100%. Alternatively, there are a number of other sources that are more trustworthy and regularly updated that will be highlighted below.

2.) APA Style Central 

This site is a one-stop-shop for anyone working on an APA paper. If you are feeling overwhelmed, this resource can help you start to break things down into smaller, manageable pieces. Style Central provides tutorials on topics such as avoiding plagiarism, analyzing data, and finding reliable sources. Other features include sample papers to reference, tools for researching, and template guides for important sections such as the abstract and references page.

The site also has a feature that makes citing sources a piece of cake. Once you create an account, you can save all your references to the “My Research” tab.  Once saved, there is a tool to paste in-text citations when you are writing from your saved references. This feature can also compile a formatted reference page from select sources on your list. This is a convenient, time-saving tool when dealing with numerous sources.  

UB students have access to this resource through the Langsdale Library. From the library’s home page, use the database search engine and look for APA Style Central. Simply create an account for the site which will allow you to save references, use the tool for in-text citations, and use those handy templates I was talking about earlier.  

3.) Purdue Online Writing Lab 

The Purdue OWL is another trusty online resource for APA help. The section on “APA Stylistics” offers some great advice around avoiding bias, how to be more concise, and tips on word choice. You can also find helpful guidelines around how to present tables and figures. If you are unsure about something, double-check your formatting at the Purdue OWL.  

4.) Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition)

This handbook is the official source for any questions about specific APA guidelines. The manual contains in-depth chapters on topics like “Writing Clearly and Concisely” and “The Mechanics of Style.”  There are also sample papers and clear instructions around proper citation. The Langsdale Library and Writing Center have copies of this reference for student use.

Ultimately, the APA is just another academic discourse community, with specific platforms for communication (scholarly journals) and barriers to participation (publishing and style guidelines). Learning APA style is an important hurdle you’ll have to clear in order to become a professional in any social science field. But don’t let that stress you out! These resources are free and always available to you. If you need more help, we’ll be waiting for you at the Writing Center.

Graduate student in UB's Counseling Psychology program

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