First-Year Writing Program
STUDENT SUPPORT SITE
UNDERSTANDING APA FORMAT
WHAT IS APA FORMAT?
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. APA format was established by the American Psychological Association, and it is commonly used in the science, social science, and business fields.
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. See the video below for an introduction to APA format citations.
WHY USE APA FORMAT (OR ANY DOCUMENTATION STYLE)?
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