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APA Study Guide

With this guide, you will practice your understanding of APA in-text citations and reference page formatting.

Basic formatting

Your essay should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11") with 1" margins on all sides. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.

Include a page header at the top of every page. To create a page header, insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left.

A full list of formatting rules is found here.

Taking a quick look at the sample paper here can quickly tell you how to address issues of typeface, title page, page numbers, running head, margins, line spacing, paragraph indents, long quotations, footnotes, abstract, headings, visuals, and reference pages.

A look at these guidelines by Diana Hacker absolute must:

In-text citations

The APA's in-text citations (also called parenthetical citations- because they are enclosed in parentheses) occur in the body of your paper and they include at least the author's last name and the date of publication. For direct quotations and some paraphrases, a page number is given as well. Remember: APA format is always author/date based.

Find the link in-text citations here for bookmarking on your computer.

Use SIGNAL PHRASES with your direct quotes and paraphrases to:

  • Name the author(s) and mark where your words end and the ideas of another writer begin, whether in quotation, summary, or paraphrase form.
  • Give the author's credentials the first time they are mentioned.

  • Show how you are using the source material, i.e., as background, support, refutation, etc.
  • Provide transitions between your sentences and the words or ideas of others.

    Here are a few examples of signal phrases:

    1. In her essay, "Beans on Toast," Sylvia Tate (2010) argues that...
    2. Morgan, in the Jan. 28, 2011 episode of Piers Morgan Tonight, suggested that...
    3. According to Sothern and Gordon (2003), "Environmental factors may contribute as much as 80% to the causes of childhood obesity" (p. 104).

    It is essential to APA style to have a signal phrase either in the style of

    1. Author (YEAR) verbed/has verbed...


    2. "..." verbed Author (YEAR)


    3. According to Author (YEAR), "..." (p. #).

Reference Page

The APA guide to your reference page has a few peculiar idiosyncrasies. Take a look here at the sample essay's references on pages 12 and 13 to create guidelines for your reference page.

You can find Diana Hacker's full guidelines here

Avoiding Plagiarism

There are two reasons to document your sources in your papers:

Academic honesty and to avoid plagiarism.

Academic honesty is just playing by the rules of academia—the world of scholarship—and showing respect for the work of others when you borrow their ideas or words as you put forward your own.

MCNY takes plagiarism very seriously. As a result of plagiarism, students may automatically receive a failing grade in a course, be placed on academic probation, or even expelled from the college.

Plagiarism: It's stealing! It's lying! It's plain wrong!

More specifically, according to Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers in the 7th edition of A Writer's Reference, "Three different acts are considered plagiarism: (1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words" (376).

From these three rules, we see that not only must direct quotes be places in quotation marks, but the citation must be done properly and paraphrased phrases must be entirely in your own words.

Look at the example below to see the difference between a plagiarized paraphrase and an acceptable paraphrase.


If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists.

-Phillips, Animals, 1986, p. 57

  • Unacceptable borrowing of words: An ape who knew sign language unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists.

  • Unacceptable borrowing of sentence structure: If the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior.
  • Acceptable paraphrasing: When they learned of an ape's ability to use sign language, both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise.

Practice and Additional Resources

A highly recommended resource for dealing with any APA questions is the Owl Purdue web site.

Scroll to the bottom and you will find an APA index. Or you can enter terms in the search engine to answer particular questions in this link.

The LEC also houses several American Psychological Association Manuals that you can use during LEC hours Monday through Saturday. Please see Sandra Ariza at the LEC.

From the text below, practice creating "legal" paraphrases and direct quotes with parenthetical citation.

Original Material:

For over three months, police investigated more than 20 dealers operating in this city's West End neighborhood (High Point, North Carolina), where crack cocaine was openly sold on the street and in houses. Police made dozens of undercover buys and videotaped many other drug purchases.

They also did something unusual: they determined the "influencials" in the dealers' lives—mothers, grandmothers, mentors—and cultivated relationships with them. When police felt they had amassed ironclad legal cases, they did something even more striking: they refrained from arresting most of the suspected dealers.

In a counterintuitive approach, police here are trying to shut down entire drug markets, in part by giving nonviolent suspected drug dealers a second chance. Their strategy combines the "soft" pressure from families and community with "hard" threats of aggressive, ready-to-go criminal cases. While critics say the strategy is too lenient, it has met with early success and is being tried by other communities afflicted with overt drug markets and the violence they breed.

From Mark Schoofs, "New Intervention: Novel Police Tactic Puts Drug Markets Out of Business," The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2006, p. A1

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