APA Research Style Crib Sheet
by Russ Dewey
Georgia Southern University

[This page is a summary of rules for using APA style. The version you are reading was revised 10/10/96, edited and revised again on  September 5, 2000 with Bill Scott of the College of Wooster, and updated in January 2003 by Doc Scribe. I have made every effort to keep this document accurate, but readers have occasionally pointed out errors and inconsistencies which required correction. I am grateful to them and invite additional feedback. This document may be reproduced freely if this paragraph is included. --Russ Dewey, rdewey@gasou.edu]

Download the APA Crib Sheet PDF here.

APA Crib Sheet Contents
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INTRODUCTORY INFORMATION

APA style is the style of writing used by journals published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The style is documented in the APA Publication Manual (5th ed., 2001). The APA Manual began as an article published in Psychological Bulletin in 1929. That article reported results of a 1928 meeting of representatives from anthropological and psychological journals, "to discuss the form of journal manuscripts and to write instructions for their preparation" (APA, 2001, p. xix). By 1952 the guidelines were issued as a separate document called the Publication Manual. Today the manual is in its fifth edition, and the APA format described in it is a widely recognized standard for scientific writing in psychology and education.

Some of the more commonly used rules and reference formats from the manual are listed here. However, this web page is no substitute for the 440 page APA Manual itself, which should be purchased by any serious psychology student in the U.S., or by students in other countries who are writing for a journal which uses APA format. The APA Manual can be found in almost any college bookstore, as well as in many large, general-purpose bookstores, in the reference and style guide section. You may check the current price and delivery of the APA Manual by clicking on this link to amazon.com. The spiral bound edition is especially handy when formatting research papers.

The APA Manual draws a distinction between "final manuscripts" such as class papers, theses, and dissertations, and "copy manuscripts" to be submitted for review and publication. The APA Crib Sheet follows the instructions given in chapter six for "Material Other Than Journal Articles" (APA, 2001, pp. 321-330). Final manuscripts differ from copy manuscripts in these ways:

The most notable additions and changes to fifth edition of the APA Manual (2001) include:

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RULES

Following is a summary of rules and reference examples in the APA style manual. The manual itself contains all this information and more, organized and worded differently, indexed and illustrated. If in doubt about a specific rule or example, consult the manual itself.

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Abbreviations

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Avoiding Biased and Pejorative Language

In general, avoid anything that causes offense. The style manual makes the following suggestions:

DO NOT use . . .                              when you can use . . .
ethnic labels (for example, Hispanic)     geographical labels (Mexican Americans)
"men" (referring to all adults)           "men and women"
"homosexuals"                             "gay men and lesbians"
"depressives"                             "people with depression"

Correct use of the terms "gender" and "sex"

The term "gender" refers to culture and should be used when referring to men and women as social groups, as in this example from the Publication Manual: "sexual orientation rather than gender accounted for most of the variance in the results; most gay men and lesbians were for it, most heterosexual men and women were against it" (APA, 2001, p. 63).

The term "sex" refers to biology and should be used when biological distinctions are emphasized, for example, "sex differences in hormone production."

Avoid gender stereotypes. For example, the manual suggests replacing "An American boy's infatuation with football" with "An American child's infatuation with football" (see APA, 2001, p. 66).

Sensitivity to labels

Be sensitive to labels. A person in a clinical study should be called a "patient," not a "case." Avoid equating people with their conditions, for example, do not say "schizophrenics," say "people diagnosed with schizophrenia." Use the term "sexual orientation," not "sexual preference." The phrase "gay men and lesbians" is currently preferred to the term "homosexuals." To refer to all people who are not heterosexual, the manual suggests "lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women and men" (APA, 2001, p. 67).

In racial references, the manual simply recommends that we respect current usage. Currently both the terms "Black" and "African American" are widely accepted, while "Negro" and "Afro-American" are not. These things change, so use common sense.

Capitalize Black and White when the words are used as proper nouns to refer to social groups. Do not use color words for other ethnic groups. The manual specifies that hyphens should not be used in multiword names such as Asian American or African American.

Labels can be tricky, and the manual has a lot to say about them. For example, "American Indian" and "Native American" are both acceptable usages, but the manual notes that there are nearly 450 Native American groups, including Hawaiians and Samoans, so specific group names are far more informative.

The terms Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano are preferred by different groups. The safest procedure is use geographical references. Just say "Cuban American" if referring to people from Cuba.

The term Asian American is preferable to Oriental, and again the manual recommends being specific about country of origin, when this is known (for example, Chinese or Vietnamese). People from northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland often (but not always!) prefer Inuk (singular) and Inuit (plural) to "Eskimo." But some Alaska natives are non-Inuit people who prefer to be called Eskimo. This type of difficulty is avoided by using geographical references. For example, in place of "Eskimo" or "Inuit" one could use "people from northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland."

In general, call people what they want to be called, and do not contrast one group of people with another group called "normal" people. Write "we compared people with autism to people without autism" not "we contrasted autistics to normals." Do not use pejorative terms like "stroke victim" or "stroke sufferers." Use a more neutral terminology such as "people who have had a stroke." Avoid the terms "challenged" and "special" unless the population referred to prefers this terminology (for example, Special Olympics). As a rule, use the phrase "people with _______" (for example, "people with AIDS," not "AIDS sufferers").

In referring to age, be specific about age ranges; avoid open-ended definitions like "under 16" or "over 65." Avoid the term elderly. Older person is preferred. Boy and Girl are acceptable referring to high school and and younger. For persons 18 and older use men and women.

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Capitalization

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Commas

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Hyphenation

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Italics (Underlining)

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Miscellaneous: Colons, dashes, parentheses, numbering paragraphs

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Numbers

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Quotation Marks

Extended quotations

Do NOT use quotes to . . .

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PAGE FORMATS

The APA Manual notes that "the size of the type should be one of the standard typewriter sizes (pica or elite) or, if produced from a word processing program, 12 points" (2001, p. 285). The body of the paper should be in a serif typeface (like Courier or Times Roman) with lettering on figures in a sans serif typeface (such as Helvetica or Arial).

APA title & text page format
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Headings

APA headings follow a complex hierarchy, with provision for up to five levels. These come, in descending order, as levels 5, 1, 2, 3, 4. But, if one, two, or three levels of headings are required in a paper, use levels 1, 3, and 4, in that order. If four levels are required, interleave level 2 between levels 1 and 3. If five levels are required, start with level five and work down the remaining hierarchy in order (5, 1, 2, 3, 4). Confused? Most papers will need no more than three levels. To avoid confusion these are labeled A, B, and C below (APA levels 1, 3, and 4 respectively) (see APA, 2001, pp. 114–115).

Level A Headings are Centered and Set in Heading Caps

Level B: Flush with Left Margin, Italicized, Set in Heading Caps

         Level C headings: Indented, italicized, sentence caps, end with a period. These headings are sometimes referred to as paragraph or run-in headings. Although they end with a period (or other punctuation) they need not be complete sentences or grammatically correct.

Use headings in the order presented. If you need just two levels, use Level A and Level B headings. Level A and B headings do not end with punctuation except to add emphasis with an exclamation point or question mark. Do not begin a paper with the heading Introduction. It is understood that all papers begin with an introduction.

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Text details

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References and tables

APA reference page and table
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Table notes

Number tables consecutively as they appear in your text. Use only whole numbers, no 5a, 5b, etc. See recent issues of the American Psychologist or other APA journals for more complex table layouts. "Tables are efficient, enabling the researcher to present a large amount of data in a small amount of space" (APA, 2001, p. 147). Contents | Back to top
REFERENCE CITATIONS (IN-TEXT)

Use the author-date format to cite references in text. For example: as Smith (1990) points out, a recent study (Smith, 1990) shows. . . .  Every source cited in your text--and only those sources cited in your text--are referenced in the reference list.

APA text citations
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REFERENCE FORMATS

Your text and the reference list must agree. "References cited in text must appear in the reference list; conversely, each entry in the reference list must be cited in text" (APA, 2001, p. 215). See the section on Reference citations for citing references in text.

Abbreviating within a reference

Here are approved abbreviations for use in a reference list:
  • chap. for chapter
  • ed. for edition
  • rev. ed. for revised edition
  • 2nd ed. for second edition
  • Ed. for Edited by
  • (Eds.) for multiple editors
  • Trans. for Translated by
  • p. for page number, with a space after the period
  • pp. for page numbers (plural)
  • Vol. for a specific Volume
  • vols. for a work with xx volumes
  • No. for Number
  • Pt. for Part
  • Suppl. for Supplement,
  • Tech. Rep. for Technical Report
Use the abbreviation "pp." for page numbers in encyclopedia entries, multi-page newspaper articles, chapters or articles in edited books, but not in journal or magazine article citations, where numbers alone should be used (see examples of reference formats).

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Alphabetizing within reference lists

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APA reference style

The APA Publication Manual now instructs authors to use hanging indents for references, and to use italics for titles. The hanging indent is one-half inch (1.25 cm), just like paragraph indents. All titles in references are set in sentence caps, but titles quoted in the text are set in heading caps. No quotation marks are used around titles of articles in references, but quotes are used when citing article titles in the text. The APA Publication Manual (2001) contains 95 examples of different reference types (pp. 240-281). Here are a few examples of the most commonly used formats.

Anonymous or unknown author (common in newspapers):

  Caffeine linked to mental illness. (1991, July 13). New York Times, pp. B13, B15.

Citation: ("Caffeine Linked," 1991). Use heading caps when citing titles in text citations.

Books (Group author, 3–5 authors, reprint/translation, edition other than first):

   American Psychiatric Association. (1990). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.).
Washington, DC: Author.

Citation: (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1990); next citation (APA, 1990). Note: "Author" is used as above when author and publisher are identical.

   Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (1995). The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Citation: (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 1995); next citation (Booth et al., 1995).

   Ebbinghaus, H. (1913). Memory (H. A. Rueger & C. E. Bussenius, Trans.). New York: Teachers College. (Original
work published 1885)

Citation: (Ebbinghaus, 1885/1913).

   Strunk, W., Jr., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Citation: (Strunk & White, 1979).

Chapter or section in a book (online & print):