American Psychological Association (APA) Style aims to bring coherence and consistency to your research papers and other types of essays. By following a structured approach, you minimize errors that can lead to inaccurate characterizations of people as well as quantitative and qualitative findings. The APA Style website contends that a paper that follows the APA format allows readers to scan the material efficiently to locate key information.
APA Style resulted from a meeting of psychologists, anthropologists and business leaders in 1929. Their goal, according to the APA Style website, was to create a system of rules and conventions that would make scientific literature easier to read and comprehend. The meeting proved fruitful and, as of June 2010, the American Psychological Association (APA) frequently updates APA style guidelines in the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association."
APA Style focuses on the needs of psychologists and individuals working in other fields within the social and behavioral sciences. As explained at the APA Style website, it does not cover general style rules that are not relevant to psychology and related fields. APA suggests consulting general style guides, such as the "Chicago Manual of Style," for guidance on broad issues. When the other style guides provide conflicting information, direction from the "Publication Manual" takes precedence, due to its social and behavioral science slant.
Students often use APA Style to organize essays, term papers and research papers. Academics and other writers must follow the format when they submit their work to scholarly journals and other outlets that require APA Style. The Style guides various aspects of research papers, including section headings, punctuation, presentation of numbers and statistics in tables and graphs and the in-text and reference list citation of research sources.
In practice, APA style helps your readers easily digest the information you present and assess your findings or opinions. It eliminates the distractions that could potentially exist if you followed no style or multiple styles within the same paper. Scanning through a document, for instance, could confuse readers if the presentation of statistics and paper structure differed throughout. By following APA's style of citing references, you allow your readers to access your research sources easily for verification or more information.
Often, students and other writers best know APA Style for its rules governing the citation of sources. APA format calls for each one of your in-text citations to correspond to an entry in the reference list that appears at the conclusion of your paper. In-text citations cue a reader to the original source of information you are quoting or paraphrasing by listing the last name of the source's author and the date of publication. Each corresponding reference list entry begins with the author's last name. A personal interview is the only type of in-text citation that does not require a matching reference list entry, since readers cannot readily recover that information.