Students pursuing doctoral degrees or master’s degrees in nursing, education, business, health, psychology, and other social sciences are typically required to follow APA format. So what is APA format? APA format is the style encouraged by the American Psychological Association, as detailed in Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, various addenda, and the APA website. The current version of the APA Style Manual (its familiar nickname) is sixth edition, at least second printing. Why does it matter which printing you’re using? It matters because the first printing was so riddled with errors that the publisher recalled it! Be sure you and your editor know which printing your university, school, and program require you to follow, just in case it’s not the most current one.
APA format covers everything from preferred font (Times New Roman) and point size (12) for text (but a sans serif font such as Arial may be used for tables, if allowed by your program, school, or university, and some programs, schools, and universities require a larger point size for chapter and section headings) to line spacing (usually double throughout) and margins (usually 1” on all sides for papers but may be larger on the left side for documents intended to be bound, such as theses and capstones). APA style format dictates when commas are used to separate list elements (when there are no commas within the elements) and when it is appropriate to use semicolons (when there are commas within the elements). APA format includes line requirements for tables (horizontal lines only, and only at the top, bottom, and to separate the column headings from the column contents) and how align cells (e.g., numbers on decimal points).
Citations in APA can be fully in the text, fully in parentheses, or a combination of the two. An author’s name can never appear by itself in parentheses but a publication date can. When citing more than one source parenthetically, the sources should be listed in alphabetical order according to the primary author of each source—not in chronological order. The number of authors in the source dictates how that source is presented in its first and nth citation. Sources written by the same author or group of authors and published in the same year are distinguished with a lowercase letter appended to the publication year. Citations to sources written by different authors with the same surname are distinguished by the inclusion of initials.
APA format is detailed, precise, and extensive. The information in this article represents just the tip of the iceberg. Keep alert for additional articles. You can take the time and energy to learn and keep up to date on APA format—or you can trust an experienced, tested APA editor to help you.