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APA Style: Overview

What Is APA Style?

The American Psychological Association (APA) developed a set of standards that writers in the social sciences follow to create consistency throughout publications. These rules address:

  • Crediting sources
  • Document formatting
  • Writing style and organization

APA's guidelines assist readers in recognizing a writer's ideas and information, rather than having to adjust to inconsistent formatting. In this way, APA allows writers to express themselves clearly and easily to readers. The APA materials developed in the Walden Writing Center are based on the sixth edition of The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (i.e., "the APA manual").

Why APA Style?

When you are writing as a student, you are entering into a new writing community; just as you would need to learn the customs and rules of any new country you visit, you need to learn the customs and rules of academic writing. These guidelines will be different than guidelines for writing in other environments (such as letters to friends, e-mails to coworkers, or writing for blogs). The academic community has its own rules. These standards help writers:

  • Improve clarity
  • Avoid distracting the reader
  • Indicate sources for evidence
  • Provide uniform formatting

To learn more about transitioning into academic writing, view "What Is Academic Writing?" Remember that it’s your job as the author to engage your readers, and inconsistencies in formatting and citations distract the reader from the content of your writing. By using APA style, you allow your readers to focus on the ideas you are presenting, offering a familiar format to discuss your new ideas.

Getting Started With APA Style

APA style can seem overwhelming at first. To get started, take some time to look through these resources:

  • Familiarize yourself with the column on the left; peruse the different pages to see what APA has to say about citations, reference entries, capitalization, numbers, et cetera.
  • Find our APA templates, determining which is the most appropriate for your assignments (hint: the first "Course Paper" template is best for most course assignments).
  • Use this APA Checklist to review your assignments, ensuring you have remembered all of APA's rules.
  • Review one of our APA webinars (like "How and When to Include APA Citations"), based on your interest.
  • Find the APA resources in our APA Scavenger Hunt, helping to familiarize yourself with the APA resources we have on the website.
  • Check out our APA-related blog posts.

Lastly, feel free to contact writingsupport@waldenu.edu or editor@waldenu.edu with any questions you may have.