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The First-Year Writing Program encourages the use of APA format across all of its courses. APA format is a documentation style: a standardized approach, or set of guidelines, that structures the formatting, organization, style, and citations in a document. Essentially, scholars in specific fields agree to follow the same rules when documenting their sources and formatting their documents. This makes it easier for future readers to engage with the work: if everyone organizes their information and references sources in the same way, future readers will be able to more efficiently find what they are looking for.

APA format was established by the American Psychological Association, and it is commonly used in the science, engineering, social science, psychology, education, and business fields. While you may have learned MLA format in the past (most likely in an English or Literature class), you will learn APA format in Rowan's First-Year Writing classes because it is a popular citation format that you are likely to be asked to use in your future classes.

The most significant way that APA format will shape your writing is in your use of citations. Whenever you draw upon outside sources in academic writing, you must indicate that you are using those sources and give credit their authors. APA format citations follow a specific set of guidelines.

Click here for a slide deck outlining the basics of APA format citations.


"In-text citations" are the references you make to outside sources of information within the actual sentences you are writing. These generally take the form of signal phrases and parenthetical references. 

It's likely you have already learned how to do MLA format in-text citations. APA format in-text citations have one big difference: you always include the YEAR of publication with the name of the author. 
The reason for this? In the disciplines that use APA format (psychology, STEM fields, education, business, etc.), it is important to use current, up-to-date research to inform your work. Readers want to know when your sources were published, right in the text, so they can be sure your work is informed by the latest research in the field. What is more, writers in these disciplines commonly work with lots of research, written by scholar who are likely to have written dozens (if not hundreds) of articles. Writers use the (Author, Year) parenthetical reference format to make it clear which specific articles they are citing from a scholar. 

Whenever you quote or paraphrase an outside source of information, you need to include an in-text citation (either in the sentence itself or at the end of the sentence) to tell the reader where that information came from. All of the information in the in-text citations corresponds to a complete bibliographic citation that is included on the References list provided at the end of the document.


Instead of a Works Cited page, documents following APA format have a References page. The References page functions as a guide to all of the outside sources that are referenced in your paper or project. 

The References page is formatted as an alphabetical list of complete citations, which is included at the end of your document. These citations are all formatted a specific way, following APA guidelines. Again, the goal here is to uphold an agreed-upon format so that readers can find what they are looking for as efficiently as possible. When everyone agrees to list source information in the same way, readers will always know where to find the information they need.


Overview of the APA format References page (from the APA Style Blog)

Introduction and Overview of APA format (by the OWL at Purdue)

Overview of APA format citations (by the OWL at Purdue)

Video: Introduction to APA format in-text citations (in 2.5 minutes)

Video: How to set up a Word document for an APA essay (in 4 minutes)

Video: Tutorial on APA in-text citations, quotations, and avoiding plagiarism

APA FAQs (by the OWL at Purdue)




Introduction to APA - by Questia (Cengage Learning)
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There are many documentation styles (such as APA, MLA, Chicago, AP, etc.), each designed for a particular discipline or genre. The goal of every documentation style is to establish a consistent set of expectations for the presentation of information: when writers in a particular discipline follow a uniform documentation style, it makes it easier for readers to access their research and ideas. As the OWL at Purdue explains, 


Using APA Style makes it easier for readers to understand a text by providing a familiar structure they can follow. Abiding by APA's standards as a writer will allow you to:

  • Provide readers with cues they can use to follow your ideas more efficiently and to locate information of interest to them

  • Allow readers to focus more on your ideas by not distracting them with unfamiliar formatting

  • Establish your credibility or ethos in the field by demonstrating an awareness of your audience and their needs as fellow researchers

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