The Basics of APA Format An Introductory Tutorial for Student Nurses By Teresa Berter, BSN, RN, CPN
LEARNING OUTCOMES • 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 basic concepts of APA format. It is in no way intended to replace the APA Manual (6th Ed.). All students should purchase a copy of this important Manual and use it for all nursing course writing assignments.
APA DEFINED APA, simply put, is a style of formal writing, especially for publication. The rules of APA format are outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition). APA has been adopted as the writing style of choice by many disciplines, including the fields of nursing and medicine.
GENERAL GUIDELINES 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., “isn’t,” “can’t”) *Even if the intended audience for the paper (nurse peers, for example) is familiar with the jargon used, the “formal writing” rule still wins this battle! Source: APA Manual, p. 68
GENERAL GUIDELINES While APA style is formal, third-person writing is not required – in fact, first-person is preferred when it improves the clarity of the paper. Instead of writing “This writer reviewed the literature and found…” (third-person), it is fine to write “I reviewed the literature and found…” or “In my review of the literature, it was found…” (first-person). Source: APA Manual, p. 69
CAPITALIZATION With few exceptions*, do not capitalize words other than the 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 the capitalization rule. Source: APA Manual, p. 102
ABBREVIATIONS A word or phrase that is typically abbreviated needs to be written out completely the first time it is used, followed by its abbreviation in parentheses. Subsequent mentions 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 in the intensive care unit (ICU).” Throughout the rest of the paper, U.S., RN, and ICU may be utilized without further explanation. Source: APA Manual, pp. 106-107
NUMBERS As a general rule, single digit numbers (0-9) should be spelled out (i.e., zero, one, two, etc.); numbers 10 and above should be expressed in numerals (i.e., 10, 20, 30, etc.). *See the APA Manual, pp. 111-114, for exceptions to this general rule. Source: APA Manual, p. 111
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 Microsoft Word, for example, the left and right margins default to 1.25”, so the 1” margins must be set.) Double-space the text, including text in block quotations. Source: APA Manual, pp. 228, 229
FORMATTINGIndenting and Alignment Indent the first line of every paragraph five to seven spaces, or ½ inch, from the left margin. (This is the typical default setting in most word-processing programs.) Do not right-justify the text (where all lines are the same length); use the flush-left style that results in a “ragged” right margin of text. Source: APA Manual, pp. 228-229
FORMATTINGTitle The title should be concise, yet able to clearly summarize the 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 ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS, or underlined and should be in the 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 be positioned on page 1, on the first line of text following an identifying personal information block. See the Writing Assignment directions for title page requirements. Source: APA Manual, p. 23
HEADERPage Numbers The page number is placed flush right in the header. It is positioned ½” from the top edge and within the 1” top margin. The title page (if required) should be identified as page number 1, with the remaining pages numbered consecutively in numerals. If there is no title page, then the first page of the paper is page 1. Source: APA Manual, p. 230
FORMATTINGRunning Head The running head is an abbreviated title that is placed flush left in the header on every page of the paper. It is positioned ½” from the top edge and within the 1” top margin. On the first page of the paper, the running head contains the words “Running head: ” followed by the first 50 characters of the title of the paper (counting letters, punctuation, and spaces between words) in ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS. Source: APA Manual, p. 229, and Corrections Insert
FORMATTINGRunning Head (cont.) The running head should be in the same font as the text of the paper and should not be underlined, italicized, or bolded. On all subsequent pages, the running head contains just the first 50 characters of the title of the paper in ALL UPPERCASE LETTERS. Note that the words “Running head: ” only appear on the first page of the paper. (For examples, see the APA Sample Paper in the Corrections Insert located at http://supp.apa.org/style/PM6E-Corrected-Sample-Papers.pdf) Source: APA Manual, p. 229, and Corrections Insert
CITING YOUR SOURCES As a general rule, you should cite: • Any ideas, theories, or research that influenced your paper and were not your own original thoughts. • All facts and figures that are not common knowledge to the general population. So, you would not need to cite, for example, that pneumonia is a respiratory illness that often results in hospitalization. However, you would want to cite the source for the percentage of women who are diagnosed every year with breast cancer, which would not be common knowledge for every reader. Source: APA Manual, p. 169
CITING YOUR SOURCES (cont.) For direct quotes, you must provide the page number (or paragraph number for non-paginated material). For paraphrased information, it is encouraged (but not required) 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 complicated source. Source: APA Manual, pp. 171-174
DIRECT QUOTES Use direct quotes when you are reproducing, word-for-word, material from another author’s work. It is a good rule of thumb to only use direct quotes when the information presented by the original author is worded so uniquely that paraphrasing it would cause the original meaning to be compromised or lost completely. If a direct quote is fewer than 40 words, incorporate it into the text and enclose the quotation with double quotation marks. Source: APA Manual, pp. 170-171
DIRECT QUOTES (cont.) If a direct quote contains 40 or more words, it should be presented as a block quotation: • Starting on a new line of text • The entire quote indented five to seven spaces, or ½ inch, from the left margin • Double-spaced • Without quotation marks The citation would then be placed at the end of the block quotation, in parentheses following the final punctuation mark. Source: APA Manual, pp. 170-171
IN-TEXT CITATIONS Use the author-date method of citation (surname of author without suffixes or titles and the year of publication*). • Early onset results in a more severe course (Kessler, 2003). If the name of the author appears in the text, then cite only the year of publication in the parentheses. • Kessler (2003) found that among samples… When required (direct quotes, statistics, etc.), also provide the 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 the year in the citation. Source: APA Manual, p. 174
IN-TEXT CITATIONS (cont.) For the specifics of citing references in text, refer to Sections 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
REFERENCES References acknowledge the sources used for your paper and provide a way for the reader to locate those sources. With two exceptions*, every reference cited in the text must be listed in the reference list – and each entry in the reference list must be cited in the text. *The only exceptions to this rule are classical works (i.e., the Bible, the Qur’an) and references to personal communications, which are cited in the text and should not appear in the reference list. Source: APA Manual, p. 174
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 first line of the page in the same font as the text (i.e., Times New Roman 12-point). • Double-space all reference entries and use the hanging indent format (where the first line of each reference is at the left margin and subsequent lines are indented five to seven spaces, or ½ inch). Source: APA Manual, p. 37
REFERENCES (cont.) • Be accurate and complete in reference entries, paying careful attention to the spelling of names and the completeness of journal titles. • In general, a reference should contain the author’s name, date of publication, title of the work, and publication data. • For the specifics of formatting a reference list, refer to Sections 6.22 through 6.32 in the APA Manual. • For examples of references, organized by type of source, refer to Sections 7.01 through 7.11 in the APA Manual. Source: APA Manual, pp. 180-192, 198-215
CONCLUSION • This tutorial is provided only as a basic overview of APA format and is not all-inclusive. Refer all specific APA questions to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th Edition). • While working on any writing assignments, contact the Writing Center for assistance in the areas of focus, clarity, organization, development, grammar, and punctuation. • Special thanks to Professor Linda Pennington, Professor Meghan Hollowell, and Dean Kathleen Carissimi for their assistance and guidance in the creation of this tutorial.