It is nearly impossible to escape college without writing at least one essay or research paper, and likely many more. That is why it’s vital to understand the importance of citation or citing your sources. It not only keeps you organized, but it can protect you from potential problems. APA Style, or American Psychological Association, is the standard format for almost all social science research fields. It was designed to standardize scientific writing.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
Citation helps the author avoid plagiarism and the serious consequences that come alone with it. If you use others ideas, research or findings without citing them you are essentially taking credit for their work, which is viewed as cheating by most educational institutions. Citing is a professional courtesy that acknowledges the work of others. In doing so, it also strengthens the credibility of your own work. It shows your research is comprehensive and helps make your arguments more convincing.
Consistency Gives Clarity
APA Style provides clarity to papers on often complex topics. It makes papers easier to read and understand. When sources are cited the same way each time and the paper is written in a uniform format, it gives it better flow and helps keep the focus on the content of the paper. APA style can also help the author better organize their research and help the reader easily find information that is important for evaluating that research.
The Basics of APA Style
- APA style typically breaks papers down into eight sections; title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, references and appendices.
- Each page is numbered in the right-hand corner and has a header with the title of the paper on it.
- The entire paper should be double-spaced with no extra spaces between paragraphs.
- The font should be set at either Times New Roman, 12 point, or Arial, 12 point.
- Standard margins are one inch all the way around.
When and How to Cite a Source
Whenever you use someone else’s words, research, results or ideas in the body of your paper, there should be a citation. If you are ever in doubt, play it safe and cite the source. Citations in the body of the paper, called in-text citations, have the author’s last name and year of publication in parenthesis. If there is a citation in the body of the paper, it must also be listed on the reference page and vice versa.
On the reference page, all references should be listed alphabetically by last name of the author. The reference page requires more information than an in-text citation. Typically, you should include any of the following information you have in the following order; author(s) name, date, title of book, title of article, title of periodical, volume, pages, place of publication and publisher.
While it can seem like a daunting task, there are a number of websites and software programs available to help format your paper correctly. The most important thing is to credit your sources, or you may find yourself receiving no credit for you work.