APA Refresher


Reference List:

  1. Double space the reference list, but do not add any additional space between entries
  2. Be sure to place a comma between the journal title and volume number, e.g., Psychology Today, 17
  3. Be sure to place a comma between the date of retrieval and “from” when listing a source Web site or an electronic database, e.g., “Retrieved October 4, 2008, from…”
  4. Do not capitalize all major words in book titles or article titles, only in journal titles, e.g., Social adaptive theory. Psychology Today, 17
  5. Do not add a space between the volume number and the parentheses containing the issue number, e.g., Psychology Today, 17(1)
  6. Put spaces between initials, e.g., Georgia, J. M.
  7. When using a month in the date, do not abbreviate, e.g., (2005, November)
  8. Always italicize the names of documents retrieved from the Internet unless they are newspaper/journal articles, e.g., Barclay, L. (2002). The paradox of “justice”

  9. formalization: When procedures erode perceptions of fairness. Retrieved December 9, 2005, from http://frontiers.sauder.ubc.ca/Laurie_2002.pdf
  10. Always place commas between the author’s name and the ampersand, e.g., Michael, J. K., & Lorne, P. J. and Georgia, B. K., Mason, H. G., & Teakes, M. N.

In-Text Citations:

  1. (when using “et al.”) do not place a comma after the author’s name and be sure to place a period after “al,” e.g., Georgia et al.
  2. Place a comma between the author’s name and the year, e.g., (Terwilliger & Simpson, 2008)
  3. Use ampersands, e.g., (Terwilliger & Simpson, 2008, p. 3)
  4. Be sure to place a space between “p.” and the page number, e.g., (Georgia, 2003, p. 22)
  5. Use serial commas, e.g., (Mason, Georgia, & Lenny, 2008)


  1. When using a running head, be sure it is formatted as follows: Running head: INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN BIMODAL PROCESSES
  2. Do not label the introduction
  3. Repeat the title on the first page of the document text
  4. Do not use underlining or bold for headings

Capitalization, Abbreviations, and Percentages:

  1. Spell out United States when used as a noun
  2. Do not capitalize the names of theories, excepting, of course, proper names within them, e.g., social adaptive theory and Darwin’s theory of evolution
  3. In general, capitalize sparingly
  4. Percents are always given as numbers plus the percent sign, e.g., 25%

Varying Your Vocabulary


Many words in the English language have synonyms. Using them in written material allows documents to sound more interesting by virtue of the fact that it helps the writer to avoid what might sound like repetitious phrases. In addition, some synonyms are more precise and have a more professional/academic sound to them than other words which have similar meanings. Rather than writing, for example, I am going to try to get better grades in school, you might write, I am going to attempt to achieve better grades in school.

Here is a short list of common words, and some of their synonyms:

  • get……..obtain, acquire, acquire…
  • try……..attempt, endeavor, strive…
  • make….create, compose, develop…
  • find……discover, locate, uncover….
  • take……obtain, receive, procure…..
  • do………perform, accomplish, achieve
  • put……..place, situate, deposit
  • give…….offer, present, furnish
  • idea…….thought, concept, inspiration

Obviously, this is a very small sample of the thousands of words that are commonly used and their synonyms.

Here’s a hint: when you have written a word in a document for a second or third time, use the Microsoft Word Thesaurus to find a synonym. Doing so will allow your written piece to appear to be fresher and more interesting than it would if you were to use the same words repeatedly.

Writing about Writing


Which tense should be used when writing about published content, whether fiction or non-fiction? Should descriptions of characters, scenes, concepts, and themes be written in the present or past tense?

In reference to works of fiction, some may feel comfortable writing, Mark Twain’s character, Huck Finn, was a young boy who travelled the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Others may prefer Mark Twain’s character, Huck Finn, is a young boy who travels the Mississippi River on a raft with a runaway slave named Jim. Both are correct. However, since works of fiction, especially classics, are considered enduring (that is, the characters, scenes, etc. survive), it is preferable to write about them in the present.

This is true of works of fiction that are centuries old, such as The Canterbury Tales, and novels and other fictional works that are on today’s bestseller lists. Therefore, when writing about, for example, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, it is preferable to write Inman climbs out of his hospital bed, and starts for home, rather than Inman climbed out his hospital bed and started for home.

There may be times when you are confronted with the question of how to write about an event in a book which occurred before the timeline of the scene that is being described. For example, in one section of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the narrator, Scout, remembers that her father “had served for years in the state legislature.” When writing about that scene, it would be correct to write in the present tense, except for the part which relates to the past event: At this point, Scout thinks about how her father had served in the state legislature for years.

Of course, when you quote dialogue or narration directly from a book, it must be exact. That includes the tense that the author used, which, in fiction, is generally past, as in the following from Lord of the Flies by William Golding: “And an airplane, and a TV set,” said Ralph sourly, “and a steam engine.”

When writing about non-fiction works, whether they are books, newspaper, magazine, or Internet articles, scholarly papers, etc., it is still appropriate to use the present tense. For example, when describing the building of the Panama Canal in David McCullough’s The Path Between the Seas, it is correct to write, McCullough describes the harshness of the Panama rainforest in great detail. On the other hand, when writing about a specific scene or event, since the book is a work of history, and, thus, describes real events which already occurred, the past tense would be correct: Many in Congress were against constructing a sea level canal through the Isthmus of Panama.