Guide to the Magic and Mystery of apa style

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Your Guide to the Magic and Mystery of APA Style

  • Nichole Egbert, Ph.D.
  • Assistant Professor, Communication Studies
  • Kent State University

Why do you have to do this?

  • Because learning to write means mastering an accepted and uniform writing style.
  • Because APA style is the most common writing style in Communication Studies (and in the social sciences).

What’s Included in APA Style?

  • Basically everything in your paper:
  • - How your pages are set up
  • - How you cite sources
  • - Your references
  • - Even your language

Where can I go to learn APA style?

  • Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition)
  • Your textbook (Appendix A.. Although be sure to note changes)
  • Various internet sites, such as (make sure they’re reputable!)

We’ll start with the list of references

  • Required if you cite any sources in your paper
  • Every source cited in your paper must appear on the reference list, and every entry in your reference list must be cited in your paper
  • Double spaced!

Single-authored book

  • Perloff, R. M. (1995). The dynamics of persuasion. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • *Note: In the 5th edition of APA, there is NO underlining (everything that was underlined is now in italics).

Reissued book

  • Newcomb, H. (Ed.). (1995). Television: The critical view (5th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • *Note: Capitals in the title of the book are restricted to the first letter of the first word of the title, the first letter of any proper names, and the first letter of the first word after a semicolon, period, or question mark.

Dual-authored book

  • Baran, S. J., & Davis, D. K. (1995). Mass communication theory: Foundations, ferment and future. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • *Note: when listing authors, use an ampersand (&) in the reference list, not “and.”

Essay or chapter in an edited book

  • Bryant, J. (1989). Message features and entertainment effects. In J. J. Bradac (Ed.), Message effects in communication sceince (pp. 231-262). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • *Note: You must include the page numbers if you’re just referencing one part of a book.

Single-authored article

  • Garramone, G. M. (1985). Effects of negative political advertising: The roles of sponsor and rebuttal. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 29, 149-159.
  • *Note: The first letter of every important word in the title of the journal is capitalized.

Two or more authors (article)

  • Suzuki, S., & Rancer, A. S. (1994). Argumentativeness and verbal aggressiveness: Testing for conceptual and measurement equivalence across cultures. Communication Monographs, 61, 256-279.
  • *Note: Can you find the volume number and page numbers in this citation?

Unpublished convention paper

  • Thomas, S., & Gitlin, T. (1993, May). Who says there’s a dominant ideology and what happens if that concept is falsified? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Washington, DC.
  • Note: Conference papers are less highly regarded than published works

Internet articles based on a print source

  • VandenBos, G., Knapp, S., & Doe, J. (2001). Role of reference elements in the selection of resources by psychology undergraduates. [Electronic version]. Journal of Bibliographic Research, 5, 117-123.
  • *Note: Sometimes electronic versions are different from the print versions.

Article in an internet-only journal

  • Frederickson, B. L. (2000, March 7). Cultivating positive emotions to optimize health and well-being. Prevention & Treatment, 3. Retrieved November 20, 2000, from
  • *Note: this would be the correct citation format for the article you abstracted for class

Hang on, you’re not done!!

  • Learning how to do your reference page is only the beginning to APA style!!

When do you cite your sources in your paper?

  • When you’re referring to an idea or concept you drew from something you read.
  • When you quote from something you read or heard.
  • When you want to give the reader some other places to look for additional information.


  • Scott (1992) identified…
  • Several researchers (Anthony, 1990; Gregory & Jacobs, 1985; Polk et al., 1980) reported…
  • Or at the end of a sentence paraphrased from another work (Scott, 1992).

Citing while paraphrasing

  • List the last names of all authors the first time you cite them, unless there are more than 5.
  • If there are more than five, or you are citing the paper of 3 or more authors for a second or more time, list last name of first author, followed by “et al.,” and the date.


  • Scott, Williamson, and Schaffer (1990) reported that…
  • Scott et al. (1990) reported that
  • Scott and Williamson (1990) reported that…
  • 6 or more authors, use “et al.,” first time and every time.

Citing while quoting

  • You need to put the author last name(s) and date, like while paraphrasing, but also the PAGE NUMBERS or PARAGRAPH NUMBERS (for online sources).
  • Example: “the research findings clearly indicate support for the hypotheses” (Douglass, 1986, p. 55).


  • Keep quotations to a minimum (less than 3 per paper)
  • Don’t forget the quotation marks and page numbers (or paragraph numbers), or you will be guilty of plagiarism!

How to set up your paper in APA

  • Use 8 ½ by 11” white paper, with margins of 1” (or 1 ¼”)
  • Double space EVERYTHING
  • Font should be pica 10 pitch or Times Roman 12 pitch
  • Single spaces between sentences
  • Page numbers in upper right hand corners

Other rules

  • Title page should contain the title of your paper (not a topic, but a title that reflects the content of the paper), your name, the course name the paper is for, and the date you wrote it
  • You may use headers and footers (Ex: Running head: CMC and loneliness)


  • Using headings makes it easier to navigate your paper. In a short paper like your lit review, you’d probably only use the first-level heading, but this is what they look like in order:
  • First-Level Heading
  • Second-Level Heading
  • Third-level heading. Begin text of paragraph…

If you have references, tables, and appendices…

  • They go in this order…
  • Title page
  • Paper
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Notes
  • Tables, Figures, etc.

Don’t get tied up in knots… Ask your instructor if you’re unsure about anything..

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