APA style refers to the writing style published by the American Psychological Association. The 6th edition of the Style Manual, and now more frequently the 7th edition of the Style Manual, is used for scholarly writing by those in the fields of the social sciences and education. It is no better or worse than any other style guides that may be out there (MLA, Chicago, etc.) but it is the one that I have used throughout my entire professional career so it’s the one I know best.
One way to think about APA style is that it gives readers a common “language” so that those of us who use it can look at a citation in text or in a reference list and understand the source being cited. The Style Manual also addresses important writing issues such as reducing bias in writing, clarity in writing, and basic mechanics. The manual does not answer every question one might have about writing – your English teachers of the past should have addressed those, or there are countless other references you can use. (I can help in that department, too.)
How did I get to know APA style?
As I mentioned above, it is the one I have used through my entire professional career, starting when I was an undergraduate student in the 1970s at Indiana University. All of my degrees are in special education – undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. – so I have done a lot of writing in this style – and received a lot of feedback! For the last 25 years I have been a university professor, and have guided my own students in how to use the style and how to improve their own writing. In addition to doing my own writing, I have also served on several review boards for academic journals.
One thing I produced several years ago was a YouTube video that walks participants through the 6th edition of the APA manual. I did this for graduate students at my university, but it is publicly available for anyone who may want to use it. I recommend you watch it with the manual in your hands, so that you can flag pages and make notes as you go. You can get to it by clicking here. Even if you are using the 7th edition, you might still find some useful tips there.
The APA citation for style manual, using 7th edition guidelines is as follows:
American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).
The APA citation for the style manual using 6th edition guidelines is as follows:
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication Manual (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.