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The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition, has specific requirements for all parts of a paper. A word processor will put in a superscript for ordinal numbers such as 6th (like this: 6th), which is not allowed. This can be corrected by highlighting the superscript and going to the toolbar. Click on the x with a superscript (i.e., x2) that will be highlighted, and the superscript will be removed. Notice how there is double spacing after each sentence. The word abstract is capitalized, centered, and not bolded. Note that the content of the abstract is flush with the left margin. The content of the abstract does not contain introductory information or general topics that will be discussed. Instead, it summarizes each main point in a paper. The abstract is 150-250 words in length (American Psychological Association [APA], 2010). In our Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, a 3 or 4 sentence abstract is acceptable for papers that are 5 pages or less. A good idea is to go by the grading rubric for the particular paper and incorporate into the abstract every topic to be covered in the paper. Insert a page break after the last character of the last line so that the next page does not creep up onto this page. Hit Enter after the last punctuation, and then insert the page break so centering on the next page does not center the last paragraph of this page.
On the first page of text, the exact same title used on the cover page must be placed at the top. The title is centered with the main words capitalized. It is not bold because it is the title of the paper and not a heading (APA, 2010). All paragraphs must be more than three sentences in length and no longer than a half page.
The first couple of paragraphs of the paper are for introductory information about the topic. An introduction can include necessary background information, a discussion on the importance of the research topic, as well as an overview of the topics that will be covered. According to the APA (2010), a heading is not used to identify this section, as it is understood to be the introduction. After the introductory information, headings are used, which have specific requirements.
Notice that the font is 12-point, Times New Roman. All paragraphs are indented, a function that is set in the toolbar of the Word program. There are no extra spaces anywhere between paragraphs or headings. The entire paper is double spaced, including the reference list, and margins all around the paper are 1 inch. Two spaces follow punctuation at the end of each sentence (APA, 2010).
The use of headings organizes the paper. Think of the topics for headings as if the topics were in outline form. An outline breaks the information to be discussed into parts, with each part having subparts. The main topics will be Level 1 headings, and the subtopics will be Level 2 or lower headings. Level 2 subtopics may be broken down further, if needed, but most papers will only require Level 1 and Level 2 headings.
Headings should only have a few words to indicate the content. An excellent method of organizing the paper is to use the topics from the criteria in the grading rubric. The rubric specifies exactly what must be covered in the paper. Using each general element of the rubric will provide the Level 1 headings for the paper. Additional information required within each element will be the Level 2 headings.
Level 1 headings are centered, bolded, and have the main words capitalized. Level 2 headings are flush left, bolded, and have the main words capitalized (APA, 2010). Refer to the Publication Manual for additional levels. A heading at the bottom of a page with no text under it is called an orphan. All headings must have at least two lines of text under them, so the heading should be moved to the next page by hitting enter until the heading is positioned properly on the next page.
It is a requirement of APA that good grammar be used in writing. The first few pages of the Publication Manual are devoted to correct grammar. Good grammar encompasses many rules usually learned by the eighth grade, such as only capitalizing proper nouns, subject and verb agreement, noun and pronoun agreement, and sentence structure. This is basic to APA format and academic writing.
Style relates to the guidelines set forth by publishers to ensure consistency. In scholarly writing, these rules are adhered to for clarity and uniformity. The APA has its own style, which includes guidelines on topics such as punctuation, spelling, and abbreviations. The Publication Manual provides an overview of these guidelines, with the exception of rules that are widely agreed upon by style guides (APA, 2010).
As the Publication Manual’s guidelines should be followed when they differ from other style guides, punctuate papers according to APA Style. For example, place a comma before each item in a series, including before the conjunction. Use a semi colon to join two independent clauses that are closely related. The following would be examples of when to use a colon: (a) when a complete thought is followed by a clause or phrase that further develops it (such as in this example), (b) ratios, and (c) between the location and publisher in a reference (APA, 2010).
Spelling should be consistent with Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. When hyphenating words, make sure to use a hyphen rather than an en or em dash. Hyphenate compound adjectives when they precede the noun they modify. Fractions are hyphenated when they are used as adjectives, but not when they are nouns (APA, 2010). Consult the Publication Manual for other guidelines to follow when hyphenating words.
When capitalizing a word in APA Style, the first letter is uppercase. Major words of book and article titles are capitalized in the body of a paper; in references, only the first word, proper nouns, and the first word of a subtitle are capitalized. Only proper nouns in theories, laws, and models are capitalized. Refer to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary when capitalizing proper nouns (APA, 2010).
For clarity, the Publication Manual includes guidelines for using abbreviations in scholarly writing. The first time an abbreviation is used, write out the term and follow it with the abbreviation in parentheses. Use the abbreviation each time thereafter. However, abbreviations that are listed as words in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary can be abbreviated each time in a paper (APA, 2010). An example of an abbreviation listed as a word would be RN (RN, 2003).
Numbers less than 10 are spelled out. Numbers 10 and higher are written as numerals. There are exceptions, however. Numbers relating to time, age, percentages, and money are some examples of when to use the numeral, no matter how small the quantity; basically, use numerals for anything that can be measured. Use the percent symbol when it follows a numeral, but write out percentage when an exact number is not provided. The plural form of a number, such as the 1980s, does not include an apostrophe. If a number is the first word of a sentence it should be written out, but try not to start a sentence with a number (APA, 2010).
Seriation is the listing of information, and there are specific rules to follow. There are four methods of listing information that are acceptable. The following are specific rules for these methods:
Citations are required any time information that does not originate completely with the writer is discussed in a paper, or to support original ideas that grow out of reading the literature. Using information from any source without citing where it came from, whether from a conversation, website, journal, or book, is called plagiarism. A good writer uses information from other sources and credits the source through the use of a citation. Citations are used at the end of any information from another source. It is not necessary to cite after each sentence, but it is necessary to cite at the end of the information before other information from another source is used. The standard citation goes at the end of the information and before the punctuation, which goes after the citation (APA, 2010).
There are many different types of citations. Each citation must have a corresponding entry in the reference list at the end of the paper. Each entry of the reference list must also have a corresponding citation in the body of the paper. The reference list is done in alphabetical order (APA, 2010). Always keep the Publication Manual next to the computer when writing a paper. There are specific rules that must be followed in writing a citation and there are samples of all of the different types in the Publication Manual.
A quotation of less than 40 words can be used in the body of the paragraph and has double quotation marks around it. A citation is required directly after the information that is in quotation marks. A quotation of 40 words or more must be in a block of text, on a new line, double spaced, indented a half inch without a paragraph indent for the first paragraph, and with no quotation marks. This is called a block quotation. Information directly quoted must include the page number or paragraph number in the citation (APA, 2010).
Nonparenthetical means not in parentheses. “If the name of the author appears as part of the narrative, cite only the year of publication in parentheses” (APA, 2010, p. 174). The following is an example of a nonparenthetical citation: According to Makhombe (2009), leadership is a matter of style.
Parenthetical means in parentheses. Parenthetical citations are used when the information must be credited. However, the author’s name is not used as part of the text. This is the best way to cite as it does not intrude into the meaning of the sentence and focuses on the topic and not the author.
There are rules that must be followed and are based on the number of authors in the reference. For two authors, both names and the year must be used every time. The following is an example: Writing resources were found to be helpful to nursing students writing a paper for publication (McMillan & Raines, 2011). For three, four, or five authors, all authors must be used in the first citation in the text, but after the first citation, only the name of the first author is used followed by et al. and the year (APA, 2010). Note the period after the word al.; it is a Latin abbreviation and needs that period.
The following is an example of five authors in a citation for the first use in-text: Endicott appears to exhibit the transformational leadership style, which formulates a clear vision that allows employees to see the big picture and enhance their understanding of where they fit in (Nielsen, Yarker, Brenner, Randall, & Borg, 2008). All subsequent citations for this reference would look like this: (Nielsen et al., 2008). Notice how the ampersand (&) is included in a parenthetical citation, but not when the first author is followed by et al. Author names are abbreviated by et al. in each citation of a source with six or more authors (APA, 2010). The following is an example: Nursing practice informed by evidence is the established level of care in the medical field (Peterson et al., 2014). When citing a paraphrase, page numbers are not required, but may be included to help the reader locate the material (APA, 2015). Please see the appendix for a more comprehensive list of citation examples.
After all the text of the paper is written, a page break must be inserted to force the reference list to begin on a fresh page. Every paper must have a reference list at the end of the paper. Every citation used in the text of the paper must have a corresponding reference included in the reference list. Conversely, every reference listed must be cited in the paper (APA, 2010). A reference list contains only what is read and used; a bibliography, which APA does not use, would list everything read, whether or not it is used in the actual paper.
The heading References, or Reference, if there is just one entry, is centered and not bolded. The reference list is double spaced, just as the entire paper is double spaced, with no extra spaces inserted anywhere. The entries are listed alphabetically by the first author’s last name. Hanging indents must be formatted for this page so the second line of each reference is indented (APA, 2010). Hanging indents are formatted by clicking on page layout, paragraph, indents and spacing, special, and hanging. There are very specific rules for the order of information in a reference, so the Publication Manual must be consulted. Pay special attention to the use of italics, punctuation, capitalization, and superscript. Do not double space after periods in the reference list.
There will always be something italicized in a reference. It will be a book title, an article title, or a journal name and volume number. Use the group name if no specific author is given. Use the title of an article in the author’s place before the year element, if no author is listed. A period is required after all elements in a reference unless the ending information is a website. Always put a space between the first name initials of an author and do not use suffixes, such as degrees or titles. The edition of a book must be written in a certain format, the volume of a journal is italicized, and the issue is in parentheses but not italicized. If no date is given for the information, n.d. is placed in the date position (APA, 2010).
When a journal article is published, it may be given a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which is an alphanumeric string that is used to locate a source online. A DOI always begins with the number 10 and is typically listed on the first page of an online journal article. If a journal article was assigned a DOI, always include the DOI in the reference (APA, 2010). The DOI is sometimes embedded in a URL. When this is the case, only include the DOI number in the reference.
A uniform resource locator (URL) describes the exact location of content on the Internet. Unlike a DOI, a URL includes information such as the domain name and name of the file. If an online journal article does not have a DOI, include the URL of the journal’s home page in the reference (APA, 2010). Hyperlinks are not included in the references section and should be removed from a URL.
Always include a conclusion in a paper. It is not a summary, which is a short version of the paper. Instead, a conclusion tells us what the point of the paper was and what was learned. An effective conclusion can also include a discussion on the importance of the results or pose questions for further study (APA, 2010).
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
American Psychological Association. (2015). Quick answers—formatting. Retrieved from http://www.apastyle.org/learn/quick-guide-on-formatting.aspx
Makhombe, D. (2009). No perfect leader. Nursing Update, 33(2), 40. Retrieved from http://www.healthcare-events.co.uk/newsletter/
McMillan, L. R., & Raines, K. (2011). Using the “write” resources: Nursing student evaluation of an interdisciplinary collaboration using a professional writing assignment. Journal of Nursing Education, 50(12), 697-702. doi:10.3928/01484834-20110930-01
Nielsen, K., Yarker, J., Brenner, S., Randall, R., & Borg, V. (2008). The importance of transformational leadership style for the well-being of employees working with older people. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 63(5), 465-475. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2648.2008.04701.x
Peterson, M. H., Barnason, S., Donnelly, B., Hill, K., Miley, H., Riggs, L., & Whiteman, K. (2014). Choosing the best evidence to guide clinical practice: Application of AACN levels of evidence. Critical Care Nurse, 34(2), 58-68. doi:10.4037/ccn2014411
RN. (2003). In F. Mish (Ed.), Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary (11th ed., p. 1076). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster.
In-Text Citation Format
|Citation Type||First Citation||Citations Thereafter||First Parenthetical Citation||Parenthetical Citations Thereafter|
|One Author||Makhombe (2009)||Makhombe (2009)||(Makhombe, 2009)||(Makhombe, 2009)|
|Two Authors||McMillan and Raines (2011)||McMillan and Raines (2011)||(McMillan & Raines, 2011)||(McMillan & Raines, 2011)|
|Three-Five Authors||Nielsen, Yarker, Brenner, Randall, and Borg (2008)||Nielsen et al. (2008)||(Nielsen, Yarker, Brenner, Randall, & Borg, 2008)||(Nielsen et al., 2008)|
|Six or More Authors||Peterson et al. (2014)||Peterson et al. (2014)||(Peterson et al., 2014)||(Peterson et al., 2014)|
|Abbreviated Group Author||American Psychological Association (APA, 2010)||APA (2010)||(American Psychological Association [APA], 2010)||(APA, 2010)|
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