Tackling APA Style: You can do this!

By Lisa Alexander, currently working on a Master’s of Counseling, with an emphasis in Marriage/Family and Child Counseling.

You’re in the Big Leagues now and that means writing with style – and for many classes that means APA style. The American Psychological Association or
“APA” has produced a Publication Manual since 1929, the apparent time that people in higher learning started caring about tidying up such
things. Today, the APA Manual, in its 6th Edition, has become the definitive standard by which your professor will review the quality of your submitted papers and other work. Do not think this simply applies to how you string together your referenced citations. The APA Manual addresses everything (and I mean every little thing) about the structure and format of your submitted papers.

You are expected to know, or learn on your own, the standards imposed by the APA Manual. Trust me, they mean that. My professor for my Masters level class in Human Growth and Development gave us a two-page checklist as a tool for affirming that we’ve done it right.

So, what can you do to become APA “literate”? Well, first – and I mean this in all seriousness – Read. The. Manual. No, seriously, read it or at least familiarize yourself with it by touching and turning each page. The Manual is packed with narrative advice about proper and good paper writing, in addition to the technical reference material you already expected it to give you.


Also, create your own indexes. For example, I have bookmarked this table (to the left) as a quick way to answer basic citation formatting questions.

Second, bookmark this site: www.apastyle.org and also this site, if you are or want to become an APA junkie: blog.apastyle.org/apastyle/

Yes, the APA Manual, that unassuming little blue book, has its own website and blog. There are some amazing resources here. The “Frequently Asked Questions” section is worth its weight in gold and the website is fully searchable, making it easy to find answers to specific questions. I recently was stumped by a citation where the title/subtitle ended in a question mark. Yes, all I had to do was search for “title ending in a question mark” and the website told me what to do. What a relief and much faster than my still awkward skills at finding something by thumbing through the Manual itself.

Third, rely on the magic of your Webster Library and Librarian resources. Look to the right-hand side of the screen the next time you pull up a publication you plan to reference in your work. Click on the little button labeled “Cite” and it will magically give it to you! Two words of caution: Make sure you scroll down and capture the APA style reference and proof it.

Librarians are magic, too. You, in fact have a librarian assigned just to you – or at least to your subject category. Get familiar with the Library website. There are numerous ways to get help on research questions, including links to resources and a hot line to a librarian. You will find the librarians to be extraordinary pleasant and helpful. They WANT to be helpful, so make them happy and use them!

Fourth, The Writing Center and Online Writing Center in the Academic Resource Center can also assist you with your documentation questions and the structure and organization of your papers.

Finally, dare to explore external resources. Another website that I like is: www.youversustheworld.com. This site is run by Scott Matkovich who made a bit of name for himself riding the belief that APA compliance can be easy. In fact, he is the author of a book entitled “APA Made Easy” and I have added that, as well as, his other book “The Big Book of APA Citations and References”, to my own reference library (it is available in both hard copy and electronic format).

I know a whole lot more about APA Style than I did three weeks ago, and I surely need to continue my learning journey. If you have any tips, resources or helpful advice about making APA Style your style, let us know! We’re in this one together.