APA, or American Psychological Association, is a form of formatting most often used in the social sciences. APA offers guidelines for overall paper layout, citations, abstract, style, and references. College students are often asked to adhere to the APA guidelines when writing papers, research essays, and reports. Understanding and following the rules of APA can assist a college student in writing a well-formatted and professional looking academic paper.
Preparing a paper using APA format creates a presentation that is uniform in appearance, which can make a paper easier to follow. According to the 6th Edition of the APA Publication Manual, papers have 1 inch margins, are double-spaced and use a 12-point font. There are also guidelines for running headers and proper numeration, which adds to overall presentation. A formatted title page gives the reader vital information, including the title, the name of author and the name of college or educational institution.
Learning and understanding APA citations, particularly in-text citations, helps college students avoid plagiarism. This is particularly important for research papers, as much of the presented evidence is based on third-party information found through research. Any information that is paraphrased, summarized or quoted must be properly cited or the writer risks plagiarizing his sources. Following APA guidelines for citations makes using research safer by giving credit to the original source of information, and it makes a paper more credible by identifying reliable sources.
APA format helps aid in the organization and overall format of an essay, so that the student has time to concentrate on the content. APA recommends four major sections of a paper: title page, abstract, body and reference page. A properly formatted abstract, which is a precise summary of the research conducted, will give the reader an idea of what will come in the body of the paper. A reference page will allow the reader to further investigate the research presented.
Learning APA format can improve the writing skills of college students, by asking them to consider word choice and writing style. An APA-formatted paper follows guidelines in regards to voice, point of view, and clarity. For example, APA suggests that a writer aim for a clear and concise voice, absent of bias and poetic language. The guidelines also suggest using the active voice in papers, which makes a writer more aware of sentence structure.