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What Is APA Format And Why Is It Important?

By Janet Bush

What is APA Format and Why is it Important?

Many book and scholarly journal editors as well as grant reviewers and others require that manuscripts they consider for publication be prepared in APA (American Psychological Association) format. This is true in many disciplines, by no means limited to psychology or even the broader social sciences. What is APA format? Why is it used in areas outside of psychology? And what do writers need to do in order to get their manuscripts into this format?

APA format is a standard set of conventions for formatting manuscripts. It contains detailed instructions for in-text citation references, references lists, pagination, margins, hierarchy of subheadings, running heads, etc. It has been adapted across a large number of disciplines (notably not including medical texts and journals, which have their own set of standardized conventions) for two reasons. First, there is a recognized need for standardization of these formatting parameters in order to make it easier for readers to be able to understand scholarly texts with the greatest possible ease and efficiency. Second, given this need, APA has developed an extremely thorough and comprehensive manual to accomplish this, and editors in other disciplines don’t need to waste time reinventing the wheel by developing alternative parallel formats. In addition, APA is conscientious about periodically updating their format manual, for example to incorporate references to material found on the world wide web, which did not exist when the first version of the manual was published.

The APA format manual is lengthy and complex but well-indexed and very explicit. It can be purchased online from a variety of sources and is available at most university bookstores. Brief guides may also be purchased and found online through your favorite search engine using keywords ‘APA formatting’.

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