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A Guide for Writing Research Papers
based on Styles Recommended by
The American Psychological Association

Prepared by the Humanities Department as part of
The Guide to Grammar and Writing
and the Arthur C. Banks Jr. Library
Hartford, Connecticut


Revised: June 2004

This guide is based on recommendations of the fifth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Assocation published by the American Psychological Association (2001). This online publication is by no means a substitute for that book, which is an extensive resource for students engaged in serious research in psychology and the social and behavioral sciences. If online guides like this one and other summaries of APA style in composition textbooks, etc. do not suffice, students should purchase the APA Publication Manual for their own use (approximately $27 for the recommended spiral-bound edition) or borrow it from a library. Copies should be available in college and university libraries and in municipal libraries.

Another research guide from Capital Community College, based on the documentation style recommended by the Modern Language Association, is also available online. That guide contains numerous suggestions about getting started on a research paper and a statement on avoiding plagiarism that should prove useful to beginning researchers.

We also recommend the Capital Community College online Library and Information Skills Tutorial as an introduction to using library and online resources. The workbook has chapters on finding books and journal articles, using CD-ROM databases, discovering resources on the internet, developing critical thinking skills, and designing a search strategy. It would be a good idea to go through the Workbook (and take its computer-graded quizzes) before beginning a major research project.

A Sample APA-Style Research Paper, put together by Judy DeLisle, at Valencia Community College in Florida, will show you not only exactly what your paper should look like, but contain suggestions about the writing of the paper. (The text you see there is actually about writing an APA-style paper.

The APA Manual contains a great deal of material on the art of writing itself, which this guide cannot go into. We do recommend, however, Capital's Guide to Grammar and Writing, which provides hundreds of digital handouts about grammar and style, over 170 computer-graded quizzes, guidance on essay writing, and a place to ask questions about grammar and writing.


  1. How do I prepare my MANUSCRIPT and FORMAT my paper? (Franklin, MA)
  2. How do I show various levels of HEADINGS within my paper? (Somerville, MA)
  3. How do I represent FIGURES and TABLES within my document? (Knoxville, TN)
  4. What about the SPACING after periods and commas and dashes? (St. Paul, MN)
  5. How do I format QUOTATIONS, APA-style? (Philadelphia, PA)
  6. I need to make some last-minute CORRECTIONS. Can I make them on the manuscript? (Reading, MA)


In APA style, the sources in a paper are listed alphabetically on a separate page headed References. It follows the final page of the text and is numbered. Entries appear in alphabetical order according to the last name of the author; two or more works by the same author appear in chronological order by date of publication date. When there are two or more books or articles by the same author, repeat the name of the author in each entry.

When using the examples hyperlinked below, it is important to follow the suggested pattern closely, even to the spacing of periods, commas, etc.

  1. What does a reference look like for a SINGLE-AUTHOR BOOK? (West Hartford, CT)
  2. What about a book written by MORE THAN ONE AUTHOR? (Lincoln University, PA)
  3. What if I'm not using a first edition? (Manchester, CT)
  4. How do I list an EDITED VOLUME? (Danby, VT)
  5. What happens if my book has NO AUTHOR OR EDITOR listed? (Whitehead, NH)
  6. I have a SEVERAL-VOLUME WORK here. How do I list that? (Cambridge, MA)
  7. What if I'm using a quote that I discover in a SECONDARY RESOURCE? (Orange, CT)
  8. I've used some important definitions from a reputable DICTIONARY. How should I cite that? (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
  9. I've found some good information in a DOCTORAL DISSERTATION. How would create a reference for that? (Sandusky, OH)
  10. What's the proper format for a Magazine or Periodical? (Colchester, CT)
  11. I've used an article published in a prestigious SCHOLARLY JOURNAL. How would I cite that? (Centreville, Kentucky)
  12. How would I handle a NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ? (Jackson, NJ)
  13. Can you give me some examples of how to handle NON-PRINT MATERIALS? (Philadelphia, PA)
  14. I have important, reliable information from PERSONAL INTERVIEWS and PHONE CONVERSATIONS. How do I document those resources? (East Hartford, CT)
  15. My professor just gave us some great information in a CLASSROOM LECTURE. Can I use that? (Bloomington, IN)
  16. I have several documents from the GOVERNMENT and ERIC to list. What's the proper format? (Buckland Hills, CT)
  17. I have discovered several resources using the INTERNET and CD-ROM RESOURCES. How do I document that material? (Farmington, CT)
  18. I've been asked to create an ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY. How do I go about that? (an America Online user)


Your reader should be able to discover without undue fuss the source of any language or ideas you have used in writing your paper that are not your own. This is an important part of being a responsible member of the academic community. When you use the ideas or language of someone else, you can refer your reader easily to that resource by using a documentation technique called parenthetical citation. In parentheses, at the end of the quoted language or borrowed idea, key words and page numbers can refer your reader to your page of References, where he or she can then find out whatever bibliographic information is necessary to track down that resource.

  1. I've heard I can avoid using footnotes and endnotes with something called PARENTHETICAL CITATION. How does that work? (Hartford, CT)

This page is maintained by Professor of English Charles Darling. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated. We regret, however, that we cannot answer questions about documentation issues not addressed in this Guide to Writing Research Papers.

Capital Community College

Most recent revision: June 2004

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