What Is the Purpose of APA Formatting in College Writing?

In college writing, "The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" is the predominant style guide used in the social sciences, business, economics and nursing. APA prescribes specific structure, tone, format and citation requirements for academic and professional research and writing. Formatting college papers in adherence to APA style guidelines assures clarity, uniformity and credibility. It also it helps to prevent occurrences of plagiarism and upholds the pursuit of academic integrity and honesty.


Under APA style guidelines, academic writing is required to be clear, concise and consistent in tone. After students analyze and synthesize their research investigation, APA style shows them how to use proper structure, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation in support of their thesis topic. It advises use of objective language that also avoids language bias. This college-level writing ensures the effective communication of the purpose, method, results and conclusions of a student’s research to his professors, peers and future researchers.


APA formatting gives the college research paper sound structure, scholarly weight and presentation uniformity. It outlines the exact specifications for a document including such components as type font and size, margin settings, headers, page numbering, tables, charts, in-text citations and reference lists. APA formatting divides papers into clear sections including a title page, abstract, main body, reference list and appendix. This uniformity enables readers and subsequent researchers to quickly access information within a given document and also to compare and contrast one research article to another.


APA formatting lends credibility and legitimacy to a college student’s work. Through objective writing and in-text citations and references, a reader can easily verify the information. The names of authors, articles and journal titles are all readily accessible, and all in-text citations must be supported by the reference list at the document’s end. Whether the student writer is performing a review of literature or conducting independent research, he is presenting transparent evidence to support his thesis and inviting the reader to fully investigate the contents of his paper.


The APA style guide offers clear directions on the use of quotations and paraphrasing and forbids plagiarism. Insisting upon properly crediting sources teaches students the value of scholarly work and reinforces the worth of their own efforts. For the college student, incidents of plagiarism, however unintentional, can result in failing grades, dismissal from a course and even expulsion from a university.

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