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The Basics of APA Format

Apr 06, 2018



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  • 8/3/2019 The Basics of APA Format


    The Basics of APAFormat

    An Introductory Tutorial for

    Student NursesBy Teresa Berter, BSN, RN, CPN

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    Introduce and define APA format

    Provide general guidelines for an APA paper

    Outline specific format and style requirements, with

    references to the appropriate pages in the APA Manual(6th ed.)

    NOTE: This tutorial is intended to introduce the basicconcepts of APA format. It is in no way intended toreplace the APA Manual (6th Ed.). All students shouldpurchase a copy of this important Manual and use it for

    all nursing course writing assignments.

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    APA, simply put, is a style of formal writing, especially forpublication. The rules of APA format are outlined inthe Publication Manual of the American PsychologicalAssociation(6th Edition).

    APA has been adopted as the writing style of choice bymany disciplines, including the fields of nursing and


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    APA is formal writing, so avoid:

    slang expressions (i.e., potty training, write-up)

    medical jargon* (i.e., drawing labs, call a code)

    contractions (i.e., isnt, cant)

    *Even if the intended audience for the paper (nurse peers, forexample) is familiar with the jargon used, the formal writingrule still wins this battle!

    Source: APA Manual, p. 68

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    While APA style is formal, third-person writing is notrequired in fact, first-person is preferred when itimproves the clarity of the paper.

    Instead of writing This writer reviewed the literature and

    found (third-person), it is fine to write I reviewed theliterature and found or In my review of the literature, it

    was found (first-person).

    Source: APA Manual, p. 69

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    With few exceptions*, do not capitalize words other thanthe first word of a sentence and proper names.

    Instead of writing The Respiratory Therapist came to the

    Emergency Department you would write The respiratory

    therapist came to the emergency department

    *See the APA Manual, pp. 101-104, for exceptions to thecapitalization rule.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 102

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    A word or phrase that is typically abbreviated needs to bewritten out completely the first time it is used, followedby its abbreviation in parentheses. Subsequentmentions can then just use the abbreviation.

    So, the first time you would write In the United States (U.S.),

    the registered nurse (RN) typically cares for two patients inthe intensive care unit (ICU). Throughout the rest of the

    paper, U.S., RN, and ICU may be utilized without furtherexplanation.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 106-107

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    As a general rule, single digit numbers (0-9) should bespelled out (i.e., zero, one, two, etc.); numbers 10 andabove should be expressed in numerals (i.e., 10, 20,30, etc.).

    *See the APA Manual, pp. 111-114, for exceptions to this generalrule.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 111

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    FORMATTINGFont, Margins, and Spacing

    The preferred font is Times New Roman 12-point.

    Margins should be 1 on all sides. (Check the default

    setting in your word-processing program. In MicrosoftWord, for example, the left and right margins default to1.25, so the 1 margins must be set.)

    Double-space the text, including text in block quotations.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 228, 229

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    FORMATTINGIndenting and Alignment

    Indent the first line of every paragraph five to seven spaces,or inch, from the left margin. (This is the typical defaultsetting in most word-processing programs.)

    Do not right-justify the text (where all lines are the samelength); use the flush-left style that results in a ragged

    right margin of text.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 228-229

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    The title should be concise, yet able to clearly summarizethe main idea of the paper.

    The title of the paper should be centered on the first line of

    page 2*. The title should not be bolded, italicized, in ALLUPPERCASE LETTERS, or underlined and should be inthe same font as the text (i.e., Times New Roman 12-point).

    *If no title page is required, then the title of the paper would bepositioned on page 1, on the first line of text following an identifyingpersonal information block. See the Writing Assignment directions fortitle page requirements.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 23

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    HEADERPage Numbers

    The page number is placed flush right in the header. It ispositioned from the top edge and within the 1 topmargin.

    The title page (if required) should be identified as pagenumber 1, with the remaining pages numberedconsecutively in numerals.

    If there is no title page, then the first page of the paper ispage 1.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 230

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    FORMATTINGRunning Head

    The running head is an abbreviated title that is placedflush left in the header on every page of the paper. It ispositioned from the top edge and within the 1 top


    On the first page of the paper, the running head containsthe words Running head: followed by the first 50

    characters of the title of the paper (counting letters,punctuation, and spaces between words) in ALLUPPERCASE LETTERS.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 229, and Corrections Insert

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    FORMATTINGRunning Head (cont.)

    The running head should be in the same font as the text ofthe paper and should not be underlined, italicized, orbolded.

    On all subsequent pages, the running head contains just thefirst 50 characters of the title of the paper in ALLUPPERCASE LETTERS.

    Note that the words Running head: only appear on the firstpage of the paper. (For examples, see the APA Sample Paperin the Corrections Insert located at

    Source: APA Manual, p. 229, and Corrections Insert

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    As a general rule, you should cite:

    Any ideas, theories, or research that influenced yourpaper and were not your own original thoughts.

    All facts and figures that are not common knowledgeto the general population.

    So, you would not need to cite, for example, that pneumonia is arespiratory illness that often results in hospitalization.However, you would want to cite the source for thepercentage of women who are diagnosed every year withbreast cancer, which would not be common knowledge forevery reader.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 169

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    For direct quotes, you must provide the page number (or

    paragraph number for non-paginated material).

    For paraphrased information, it is encouraged (but notrequired) to provide a page or paragraph number to aid

    an interested reader in locating the information in the

    original source. This is especially helpful if you are

    paraphrasing information from a lengthy or complicatedsource.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 171-174

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    Use direct quotes when you are reproducing, word-for-word, material from another authors work.

    It is a good rule of thumb to only use direct quotes when the

    information presented by the original author is worded souniquely that paraphrasing it would cause the originalmeaning to be compromised or lost completely.

    If a direct quote is fewer than 40 words, incorporate it intothe text and enclose the quotation with double quotationmarks.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 170-171

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    DIRECT QUOTES (cont.)

    If a direct quote contains 40 or more words, it should bepresented as a block quotation:

    Starting on a new line of text

    The entire quote indented five to seven spaces, or inch, from the left margin


    Without quotation marks

    The citation would then be placed at the end of the blockquotation, in parentheses following the final punctuationmark.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 170-171

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    Use the author-date method of citation (surname of authorwithout suffixes or titles and the year of publication*). Early onset results in a more severe course (Kessler,


    If the name of the author appears in the text, then cite onlythe year of publication in the parentheses. Kessler (2003) found that among samples

    When required (direct quotes, statistics, etc.), also providethe page number. It was found that among those studied, 82% had a poor

    outcome (Kessler, 2003, p. 43).

    *Even if the reference includes a month and year, only put theyear in the citation.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 174

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    For the specifics of citing references in text, refer toSections 6.11 through 6.21 in the APA Manual,including how to cite:

    A source with multiple authors

    Sources from authors with the same last name

    A source with no identified author

    Secondary sources

    Personal communications

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 174-179

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    References acknowledge the sources used for your paperand provide a way for the reader to locate thosesources.

    With two exceptions*, every reference cited in the textmust be listed in the reference list and each entry inthe reference list must be cited in the text.

    *The only exceptions to this rule are classical works (i.e., the

    Bible, the Quran) and references to personalcommunications, which are cited in the text and should notappear in the reference list.

    Source: APA Manual, p. 174

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    REFERENCES (cont.)

    To format the reference page:

    Start on a new page.

    Center the word References (not bolded, italicized, in

    ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS, or underlined) on the firstline of the page in the same font as the text (i.e., TimesNew Roman 12-point).

    Double-space all reference entries and use the hangingindent format (where the first line of each reference is atthe left margin and subsequent lines are indented fiveto seven spaces, or inch).

    Source: APA Manual, p. 37

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    REFERENCES (cont.)

    Be accurate and complete in reference entries, payingcareful attention to the spelling of names and thecompleteness of journal titles.

    In general, a reference should contain the authors

    name, date of publication, title of the work, andpublication data.

    For the specifics of formatting a reference list, refer toSections 6.22 through 6.32 in the APA Manual.

    For examples of references, organized by type ofsource, refer to Sections 7.01 through 7.11 in the APAManual.

    Source: APA Manual, pp. 180-192, 198-215

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    This tutorial is provided only as a basic overview ofAPA format and is not all-inclusive. Refer all specificAPA questions to the Publication Manual of theAmerican Psychological Association(6th Edition).

    While working on any writing assignments, contact theWriting Center for assistance in the areas of focus,clarity, organization, development, grammar, andpunctuation.

    Special thanks to Professor Linda Pennington,Professor Meghan Hollowell, and Dean KathleenCarissimi for their assistance and guidance in the

    creation of this tutorial