APA Research Style Crib Sheet
by Russ Dewey
Georgia Southern University Psychology Department [Emeritus]

[This page is a summary of rules for using APA style, updated for the 6th edition. I have made every effort to keep this document accurate, but readers have occasionally pointed out errors and inconsistencies which required correction. I am grateful to them and invite additional feedback to me at psywww@gmail.com. This document may be reproduced freely if this paragraph is included. --Russ Dewey, host of Psych Web [psywww.com]]

APA Crib Sheet Contents
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APA style is the style of writing used by journals published by the American Psychological Association (APA). The style is documented in the APA Publication Manual (5th ed., 2001). The APA Manual began as an article published in Psychological Bulletin in 1929. That article reported results of a 1928 meeting of representatives from anthropological and psychological journals, "to discuss the form of journal manuscripts and to write instructions for their preparation" (APA, 2001, p. xix). By 1952 the guidelines were issued as a separate document called the Publication Manual. Today the manual is in its sixth edition, and the APA format is a widely recognized standard for scientific writing in psychology and education.

Some of the more commonly used rules and reference formats from the manual are listed here. However, this web page is no substitute for the manual itself, which should be purchased by any serious psychology student in the U.S., or by students in other countries who are writing for a journal that uses APA format. The APA Manual can be found in almost any college bookstore as well as in many large, general-purpose bookstores in the reference and style guide section. Used copies of the manual are commonly available at Amazon.com.

The most notable additions and changes to sixth edition of the APA Manual (2001) include:

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Following is a summary of rules and reference examples in the APA style manual. The manual itself contains all this information and more, organized and worded differently, indexed and illustrated. If in doubt about a specific rule or example, consult the manual itself.

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Avoiding Biased and Pejorative Language

In general, avoid anything that causes offense. The style manual makes the following suggestions:

DO NOT use . . . when you can use . . .
ethnic labels (e.g. "Hispanic") geographical labels (e.g. "Mexican Americans" if from Mexico)
"men" (referring to all adults) "men and women"
"homosexuals" "gay men and lesbians"
"depressives" "people with depression"

Correct use of the terms "gender" and "sex"

The term "gender" refers to culture and should be used when referring to men and women as social groups, as in this example from the Publication Manual: "sexual orientation rather than gender accounted for most of the variance in the results; most gay men and lesbians were for it, most heterosexual men and women were against it" (APA, 2001, p. 63).

The term "sex" refers to biology and should be used when biological distinctions are emphasized, for example, "sex differences in hormone production."

Avoid gender stereotypes. For example, the manual suggests replacing "An American boy's infatuation with football" with "An American child's infatuation with football" (see APA, 2001, p. 66).

Sensitivity to labels

Be sensitive to labels. A person in a clinical study should be called a "patient," not a "case." Avoid equating people with their conditions, for example, do not say "schizophrenics," say "people diagnosed with schizophrenia." Use the term "sexual orientation," not "sexual preference." The phrase "gay men and lesbians" is currently preferred to the term "homosexuals." To refer to all people who are not heterosexual, the manual suggests "lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women and men" (APA, 2001, p. 67).

In racial references, the manual simply recommends that we respect current usage. Currently both the terms "Black" and "African American" are widely accepted, while "Negro" and "Afro-American" are not. These things change, so use common sense.

Capitalize Black and White when the words are used as proper nouns to refer to social groups. Do not use color words for other ethnic groups. The manual specifies that hyphens should not be used in multiword names such as Asian American or African American.

Labels can be tricky, and the manual has a lot to say about them. For example, "American Indian" and "Native American" are both acceptable usages, but the manual notes that there are nearly 450 Native American groups, including Hawaiians and Samoans, so specific group names are far more informative.

The terms Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano are preferred by different groups. The safest procedure is use geographical references. Just say "Cuban American" if referring to Americans from Cuba.

The term Asian American is preferable to Oriental, and again the manual recommends being specific about country of origin, when this is known (for example, Chinese or Vietnamese). People from northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland often (but not always!) prefer Inuk (singular) and Inuit (plural) to "Eskimo." But some Alaska natives are non-Inuit people who prefer to be called Eskimo. This type of difficulty is avoided by using geographical references. For example, in place of "Eskimo" or "Inuit" one could use "people from northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland."

In general, call people what they want to be called, and do not contrast one group of people with another group called "normal" people. Write "we compared people with autism to people without autism" not "we contrasted autistics to normals." Do not use pejorative terms like "stroke victim" or "stroke sufferers." Use a more neutral terminology such as "people who have had a stroke." Avoid the terms "challenged" and "special" unless the population referred to prefers this terminology (for example, Special Olympics). As a rule, use the phrase "people with _______" (for example, "people with AIDS," not "AIDS sufferers").

In referring to age, be specific about age ranges; avoid open-ended definitions like "under 16" or "over 65." Avoid the term elderly. Older person is preferred. Boy and Girl are acceptable referring to high school and and younger. For persons 18 and older use men and women.

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Italics (Underlining)

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Miscellaneous: Spacing, colons, dashes, parentheses, numbering paragraphs

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Quotation Marks

Extended quotations

Do NOT use quotes to . . .

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The APA Manual notes that "the size of the type should be one of the standard typewriter sizes (pica or elite) or, if produced from a word processing program, 12 points" (2001, p. 285). As of the 6th edition, the font should be Times Roman, not Courier. Lettering on figures should be in a sans serif typeface (such as Helvetica or Arial).

[Note from Dr. Dewey: When Doc Scribe generated the following helpful images, he used single spacing in the abstract and the extended quotation. APA style encourages this within final publications, which are print-outs in their final form such as term papers. However, many professors expect students to follow the rules for articles submitted to journals. In those manuscripts, everything is double spaced, including the abstract, extended quotations, and reference lists.]

APA title & text page format
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APA headings follow a complex hierarchy, with provision for up to five levels. These come, in descending order, as levels 5, 1, 2, 3, 4. But, if one, two, or three levels of headings are required in a paper, use levels 1, 3, and 4, in that order. If four levels are required, interleave level 2 between levels 1 and 3. If five levels are required, start with level five and work down the remaining hierarchy in order (5, 1, 2, 3, 4). Confused? Most papers will need no more than three levels. To avoid confusion these are labeled A, B, and C below (APA levels 1, 3, and 4 respectively) (see APA, 2001, pp. 114-115).

Level A Headings have All Major Words Capitalized and are Centered

Level B Headings are Flush Left, Boldfaced, with Major Words Capitalized

         Level C headings are boldfaced, indented five spaces, and end with a period. These headings are sometimes referred to as paragraph or run-in headings. Although they end with a period (or other punctuation) they need not be complete sentences or grammatically correct.

Use headings in the order presented. If you need just two levels, use Level A and Level B headings. Level A and B headings do not end with punctuation except to add emphasis with an exclamation point or question mark. Do not begin a paper with the heading Introduction. It is understood that all papers begin with an introduction.

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Text details

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References and tables

Again, the following image shows single spacing within the table and within the individual reference items, as would normally be allowed in a final publication such as a student term paper. (See Chapter 6 in the APA manual.) In papers submitted for publication or review, which are subject to editing, everything must be double spaced. This includes all text within tables and all reference items. Many professors prefer that students practice formatting papers as if they will be submitted to a journal. In that case, double space everything.

APA reference page and table
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Table notes

Number tables consecutively as they appear in your text. Use only whole numbers, no 5a, 5b, etc. See recent issues of the American Psychologist or other APA journals for more complex table layouts. "Tables are efficient, enabling the researcher to present a large amount of data in a small amount of space" (APA, 2001, p. 147). Contents | Back to top

Use the author-date format to cite references in text. For example: as Smith (1990) points out, a recent study (Smith, 1990) shows. . . .  Every source cited in your text--and only those sources cited in your text--are referenced in the reference list.

APA text citations
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Your text and the reference list must agree. "References cited in text must appear in the reference list; conversely, each entry in the reference list must be cited in text" (APA, 2001, p. 215). See the section on Reference citations for citing references in text.

Abbreviating within a reference

Here are approved abbreviations for use in a reference list:
  • chap. for chapter
  • ed. for edition
  • rev. ed. for revised edition
  • 2nd ed. for second edition
  • Ed. for Edited by
  • (Eds.) for multiple editors
  • Trans. for Translated by
  • p. for page number, with a space after the period
  • pp. for page numbers (plural)
  • Vol. for a specific Volume
  • vols. for a work with xx volumes
  • No. for Number
  • Pt. for Part
  • Suppl. for Supplement,
  • Tech. Rep. for Technical Report
Use the abbreviation "pp." for page numbers in encyclopedia entries, multi-page newspaper articles, chapters or articles in edited books, but not in journal or magazine article citations, where numbers alone should be used (see examples of reference formats).

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Alphabetizing within reference lists

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APA reference style

The APA Publication Manual now instructs authors to use hanging indents for references and to use italics for titles. The phrase "hanging indent" refers to a first line which sticks out one-half inch (1.25 cm) to the left. You will notice hanging indents are not used below, because they are difficult to simulate on a resizable web page. However, you should use either hanging indents or regular indents on your reference list. Hanging indents are preferred, and they are easy to set up in word processors. (For example, in Microsoft Word, go to Format/Paragraph and one of the formatting options under "Special" is "Hanging" which will set up an appropriate hanging indent for that paragraph.)

All titles in references are set in sentence caps (only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized) but titles quoted in the text are set in heading caps (all major words capitalized). No quotation marks are used around titles of articles in the references list, but quotes are used when citing article titles in the text.

The APA Publication Manual (2001) contains 95 examples of different reference types (pp. 240-281). Here are a few examples of the most commonly used formats. Remember that hanging indents are not used in these examples, but they should be used in your paper. Double space within reference items if your paper will be submitted to a publication for editing or review.

Anonymous or unknown author (common in newspapers):

Caffeine linked to mental illness. (1991, July 13). New York Times, pp. B13, B15.

Citation: ("Caffeine Linked," 1991). Use heading caps (each important word capitalized) when citing titles in text citations.

Books (Group author, 3 to 5 authors, reprint/translation, edition other than first):

American Psychiatric Association. (1990). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Citation: (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1990); next citation (APA, 1990). Note: "Author" is used as above when author and publisher are identical.

Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (1995). The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Citation: (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 1995); next citation (Booth et al., 1995).

Ebbinghaus, H. (1913). Memory (H. A. Rueger & C. E. Bussenius, Trans.). New York: Teachers College. (Original work published 1885)

Citation: (Ebbinghaus, 1885/1913).

Strunk, W., Jr., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

Citation: (Strunk & White, 1979).

Chapter or section in a book (online & print):

Beers, M. H., & Berkow, R. (1999). Mood disorders. In The Merck manual of diagnosis and therapy (17th ed., sec. 15, chap. 189). Retrieved January 17, 2003, from http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section15/chapter189/189a.htm
Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599658). New York: Random House.

Citations: (Beers & Berkow, 1999, chap. 189); (Stephan, 1985). Note: Break a URL to wrap a line only after a slash or before a period. Do not add a hyphen or any other punctuation.

Conference paper (unpublished):

Shrout, P. E. (Chair), Hunter, J. E., Harris, R. J., Wilkinson, L., Strouss, M. E., Applebaum, M. I., et al. (1996, August). Significance tests: Should they be banned from APA journals? Symposium conducted
at the 104th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada.

Citation: (Shrout et al., 1996). APA references list up to the first six authors to a work. If there are more than six, add et al. ("and others") after the first six names. For citations in your text, use just the lead author plus "et al."

Government report online accessed through GPO database:

National Institute of Mental Health. (2002). Breaking ground, breaking through: The strategic plan for mood disorders research of the National Institute of Mental Health (Publication No. 0507-B-05). Retrieved January 19, 2003, from NIMH Web site via GPO Access: http://purl.access.gpo.gov/GPO/LPS20906
Citation: (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 2002); next citation (NIMH, 2002).

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Journal articles (Print, electronic copy, changed source, online journal, paged by issue):

Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. (2002). Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St John's Wort) in major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 287, 18071814.

Citation: (Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group, 2002). The APA Manual requires citing the full name of a corporate or group author like this; the acronym HDTSG would not be easily recognized. However, shortening the author to "Hypericum Depression Trial" in subsequent citations would probably be acceptable to editors of APA journals.

Journal article, electronic facsimile:

Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. (2002). Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St John's Wort) in major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial [Electronic version]. JAMA, 287, 1807-1814.

Many documents are now available online as exact copies of the print original (usually in Adobe's PDF format). References to exact reproductions of journal articles (which include page numbers, etc., from the journal) are treated as normal journal references with the bracketed phrase "Electronic version" added to the reference as above. If, however, the document is not an exact copy of a print version, treat it as a web reference and add the usual information for electronic references: the date you retrieved the document and the URL.

Journal article, changed/doubtful source:

Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. (2002). Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St John's Wort) in major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 287, 1807-1814. Retrieved July 7, 2002, from http://www.jama.org/articles.html

Journal article, retrieved from a database:

Hypericum Depression Trial Study Group. (2002). Effect of Hypericum perforatum (St John's Wort) in major depressive disorder: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA, 287, 1807-1814. Retrieved July 7, 2002, from MEDSYS database.

Online only journal (paged by issue):

Kortepeter, M. G., & Parker, G. W. (1999). Potential biological weapons threats. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 5(4). Retrieved January 20, 2003, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/EID/vol5no4/kortepeter.htm

Citation: (Kortepeter & Parker, 1999). There is no period after the URL in a reference.

Note: When directly quoting or citing a document, a page number or other means of identifying a specific passage is required. In the absence of page numbers, if paragraph numbers appear in an electronic document, add the paragraph symbol or the abbreviation para. and the paragraph number to the citation (e.g., Kortepeter & Parker, 1999, 17). If there is no paragraph number, cite the nearest preceding section heading and count paragraphs from there (e.g., Kortepeter & Parker, 1999, Method section, para. 4).

Note: Occasionally a research journal may be paged by issue, that is, page numbering in each issue begins at page one. In these cases add the issue number in parentheses, in plain text, after the volume number as in the example above.

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Letter to the editor:

O'Neill, G. W. (1992, January). In support of DSM-III [Letter to the editor]. APA Monitor, 4-5.

Magazine article:

Gardner, H. (1991, December). Do babies sing a universal song? Psychology Today, 70-76.

Newsletter/newspaper articles:

Brown, L. S. (1993, Spring). My research with orangs. The Psychology Department Newsletter, 3, 2.

Note: As a rule, you should not cite a source if the document cannot actually be retrieved. What is the chance of retrieving a copy of a 1993 issue of a Psychology Department newsletter? Such a document probably is not retrievable. If it is an important reference in your paper for some reason, and you have a copy of that newsletter in your possession (as you should if quoting from it) you could put "Available from the author by request" in brackets after the reference list entry, or put that phrase in parentheses in the text where you refer to the newsletter and leave it off your reference list. Unpublished conference papers are OK to include in reference lists and citations because they are generally available as reprints from the lead author.

Goleman, D. (1991, October 24). Battle of insurers vs. therapists: Cost control pitted against proper care. New York Times, pp. D1, D9.

Markoff, J. (1996, June 5). Voluntary rules proposed to help insure privacy for Internet users. New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 1996, from http://www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/week/yo5dat.html
The date is given as it appears on the publication. For anonymous newspaper articles, see the previous section on "Anonymous or unknown authors."


Just Say No Foundation. (1992). Saving our youth. (9th ed.) [Brochure]. Washington, DC: Author.

Web page:

[With doi number

Author, U. R. (date). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume(number), page numbers. doi: xx.xxxxxxx


Herbst-Damm, K. L., & Kulik, J. A. (2005). Volunteer support, marital status, and the survival times of terminally ill patients. Health Psychology, 24, 225-229. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.24.2.225

[Without doi number]

Dewey, R. A. (2004). APA Style Resources by Russ Dewey. Retrieved from http://www.psywww.com/resource/apacrib.htm

That last URL is real. That page contains links to many more free online APA style resources as well as a copy of this crib sheet.

[From a blog using a nickname instead of the actual author name]

Here is the example the APA uses to address this issue. It was added to the first revision of edition 6 of the APA Manual:

MiddleKid. (2007, January 22). Re: The unfortunate prerequisites and consequences of partitioning your mind [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/01/the_unfortunate_prerequisites.php

The author's chosen "web name" is used, the date is included because blogs change over time, and [Web log comment] informs the reader that this reference is from a blog.

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Psych Web
Russ Dewey
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Doc Scribe
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APA Crib Sheet - April, 2006

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