APA style is a writing style and format for academic documents such as scholarly journal articles and books. It is commonly used for citing sources within the field of behavioral and social sciences. It is described in the style guide of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is titled the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The guidelines were developed to aid reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences, for clarity of communication, and for "word choice that best reduces bias in language". APA style is widely used, either entirely or with modifications, by hundreds of other scientific journals (including medical and other public health journals), in many textbooks, and in academia (for papers written in classes). The current edition is its seventh revision.
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The APA became involved in journal publishing in 1923. In 1929, an APA committee had a seven-page writer's guide published in the Psychological Bulletin. In 1944, a 32-page guide appeared as an article in the same journal. The first edition of the APA Publication Manual was published in 1952 as a 61-page supplement to the Psychological Bulletin, marking the beginning of a recognized "APA style". The initial edition went through two revisions: one in 1957, and one in 1967. Subsequent editions were released in 1974, 1983, 1994, 2001, 2009, and 2019.
Primarily known for the simplicity of its reference citation style, the Manual also established standards for language use that had far-reaching effects. Particularly influential were the "Guidelines for Nonsexist Language in APA Journals," first published as a modification to the 1974 edition, which provided practical alternatives to sexist language then in common usage. The guidelines for reducing bias in language have been updated over the years and presently provide practical guidance for writing about age, disability, gender, participation in research, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality (APA, 2020, Chapter 5).
A typical APA-style research paper fulfills 3 levels of specification. Level 1 states how a research paper must be organized by including a title page, an abstract, an introduction, the methodology, the results, a discussion, and references. In addition, formatting of abstracts and title pages must be as per the APA manual of style. Level 2 specifies the style of writing. It must be clear and formal without slang, pop culture references, biased language, and humor. It must minimize literary devices, use technical terms appropriately, and be direct. Level 3 specifies the mechanics such as double-spacing, using title case for headings, using numerals for numbers 10 and above, hyphenating compound adjectives, using in-text citations for sources, left aligning all tables and figures, and using footnotes sparingly.