Child Development 133 
Research Methods in Human Development

Sections 02 & 06
Hembree            Fall, 2009


APA Style Guidelines

Originally compiled from the APA Publication Manual by 
William U Borst, Troy State University  
(Revised by S. Hembree to reflect 6th edition (2009) changes)


Basic Format

  • Margins are to be 1" from top, bottom, and sides (Except the manuscript page header)
  • Double spaced in all situations
  • Acceptable type face is Courier or Times New Roman in 12-point size. Sans serif typeface may be used in figures (only).
  • Justification only on left side of paper. In other words, the right side of the paper should have ragged edges.
  • Page numbers begin with title page, placed on top right hand corner.
  • Paragraphs are to be indented five to seven spaces (1/2 inch). Paragraphs are longer than a single sentence.
  • Abbreviations - Use abbreviations sparingly. Always spell out what the abbreviation means the first time it is used (For example, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) ). Thereafter, use the abbreviation.
  • Spacing - Space once after commas, colons, semicolons, after periods that separate parts of a reference situation, and after the periods of the initials of personal names (e.g., W. U. Borst). Do not space after internal periods in abbreviations (e.g., a.m., i.e.,) or around colons in ratios. Space twice after periods at the end of sentences.
  • Quotation Marks - Use quotation marks to set off the title of an article or chapter in a periodical or book when the title is mentioned in text, to introduce a word or phrase considered slang, or as an invented or coined expression. Quotation marks also are used to indicate direct quotation of sources.
  • Numbers 
    • Use figures with numbers 10 and above and for numbers indicating exact measures (e.g., 5 grams). 
    • Spell out numbers one through nine and spell out the number when beginning a sentence. 
    • To make plurals out of numbers add 's' only with no apostrophe (the 1990s). 
    • Use combinations of written and Arabic numerals for back-to-back modifiers (six 2-point scales).
    • use a zero before the decimal point for numbers less than 1 (e.g., 0.75 grams); do not use a zero when reporting correlations.
  • Italics - Use sparingly, NOT for mere emphasis. Use for:
    • titles of books or journals and periodical volume number (on reference page)
    • when introducing a technical term
    • for letters that represent statistical terms, e.g., F test
    • when describing a scale, e.g., 1 (not at all) to 4 (always)
    • Do not use bold typeface except in figures and headings, where appropriate

Expressing Ideas 

  • Clarity is important! Present ideas in an orderly, succinct manner. 
  • Avoid jargon, wordiness, redundancy
  • Vary sentence length
  • Be precise: avoid informal language and slang
  • Avoid editorial "we", e.g., "researchers tend to classify data in this way..." is better than "we tend to classify data in this way...
  • Ensure that verb tense is consistent and that subject agrees with verb 



Headings indicate the organization of the manuscript and establish the importance of each topic. The 6th edition has greatly simplified the use of headings. 

Headings range from Level 1 to Level 5: 

Level 1 heading:

Centered Boldface Uppercase and Lowercase Heading

Level 2:

Flush Left Boldface Uppercase and Lowercase Heading

Level 3:

        Indented boldface lowercase ending in period.

Level 4:

    Indented, boldface italicized, lowercase ending in a period.

Level 5:

          Indented, italicized, lowercase ending in a period.


Use headings consecutively, depending on how many levels you have in your paper. For example, if you have three headings in your paper, use levels one through three. For five levels, use all the above in order. 



* A two-level paper (use levels 1 and 2):





*A three level paper (use levels 1, 2, and 3)



Pretest session.



Citation of Sources

The citation of sources is a key point in writing in APA style format. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., APA, 2009) states that you should cite both author and date when referencing others' work.   Make sure that anything referenced in your paper is cited on your Reference page and anything on your Reference page is used in your text. 

Citations in Text
When paraphrasing someone else's material, you are required to cite them. For example: 

Smith and Jones (1996) found that test scores do not necessarily always correlate with IQ scores. 

If your paragraph is entirely taken from someone else's findings, thoughts, beliefs, etc., then at the end of the paragraph insert parenthesis containing the authors name and year. For example: (Smith & Jones, 1994).

All citations in your text contain two parts: The author and year of publication. Always insert the year after the author the FIRST time it is used per paragraph, unless it can be confused with a different study, article, book. However, when an citation contains two or more authors use the following rules:

  • Two Authors - (Smith & Jones, 1994) or Smith and Jones (1994) found . . . . . In 1994 Smith and Jones researched....... Always cite both names in text.

  • Three, four, or five authors - Cite all the authors the first time the reference occurs. In subsequent citations use the first author's surname followed by "et al.". For example- Strasburger, Jorgensen, and Randles (1996) found differences.......... [First Time Used] Strasburger et al. (1996) also created tests........... [First Subsequent Citation per paragraph]. Strasburger et al. found discrepancies..... [Further citations within SAME paragraph- Omit Year]

  • Six or more authors- Cite only the first surname and follow with "et al." Smith et al. (1996)

Note:  cite an electronic document the same as any other document by using the author-date style, e.g., 

Smith (2007) states that.... 

For unknown author and unknown date, use the title in your signal phrase or the first word or two of the title in the parentheses and use the abbreviation "n.d." (for "no date"), e.g., 

In another study, students were more likely to succeed when given the study materials in advance ("Students and Study Materials, n.d.).


Use direct quotes sparingly. Instead, try paraphrasing and citing the source. Quotations shorter than 40 words should be incorporated into the text, using double quotation marks. Quotations longer than 40 words should be indented (5-7 spaces) and no quotation marks are used. With direct quotes, cite the source and page number in parentheses. If any material is left out use three ellipsis points (. . .) within the sentence.

Example 1: 

Bipolar disorder "is not only uncommon but may be the most diagnostic entity in children and adolescents in similar settings. . . . and may be the most common diagnosis in adolescents who are court-remanded to such settings" (Isaac, 1995, p.275).
Example 2: 
Issac (1995) states that bipolar disorder "is not only uncommon but may be the most diagnostic entity in children and adolescents in similar settings. . . . and may be the most common diagnosis in adolescents who are court-remanded to such settings" (p.275).

With quotations of 40 or more words, DO NOT use quotation marks. Set off the quotation in Block style format (Start quote on new line indented five to seven spaces. Each subsequent line is also indented.

Example 3:
Elkind (1978) states:

In general, our findings support Piaget's view that perception as well as intelligence are neither entirely inborn nor entirely innate but are rather progressively constructed through the gradual development of perceptual regulations. The chapter has also attempted to demonstrate the applicability of Piaget's theory to practical issues by summarizing some research growing out of an analysis of beginning reading. (p. 183).

Secondary (Indirect) Sources
A primary source is the article, book, etc. that you have read and used to cite in your paper. In some cases you might wish use an citation from that work. This is called an secondary source. You should always try to consult the original source. However, if you cannot, you should cite the source in the text, and refer to the sources you actually read. In the reference section, include only the source that you actually consulted. 

For example, suppose you read a paper by Borst (1997), and in that paper he refers to a paper by Weisenmiller (1996). If you DID NOT actually read Weisenmiller (1996) yourself, then in the text, you might say: Weisenmiller (1996, as cited in Borst,1997) recommends working in the computer industry. In the reference section, you would include a reference for Borst (1997), but NOT for Weisenmiller (1996).


Elements and Examples of References in APA Style

  • The Reference(s) page(s) begins on a new page. It is entitled "References", NOT "Bibliography" or "Works Cited".

  • Include only those references you actually cited or quoted in text. Include only references you have actually read.

  • In general, use Scientific Journals for references (i.e., Journal of Counseling and Psychology, Journal of Educational Psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). In other words avoid using 'popular opinion' journals or magazines, or both (i.e., Time, Newsweek, USA Today, National Enquirer, Redbook, etc.).

  • The references should be listed in alphabetical order. Consider author's names such as McAfee and Macwerner literally--Macwerner would come first. 

  • Each author's name is listed last name first with initials, in the order presented on the document, unless the work has more than six authors. If the work has more than six authors, list the first six authors and then use et al. after the sixth author's name to indicate the rest of the authors.

  • For two or more references with the same author, list first whichever one has the earliest publication year; single author citations precede multiple author citations. 

  • In instances where you have two or more references that contain the same author and year, differentiate them by placing a, b, c, d, etc. after the year, then use the appropriate year and letter when citing in text. 

  • References are written with a hanging indent: All lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list should be indented one-half inch from the left margin. 

  • When referring to any work that is NOT a journal, such as a book, article, or Web page, capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a title and subtitle, the first word after a colon or a dash in the title, and proper nouns. 

  • Capitalize major words in journal titles. Italicize titles of longer works such as books and journals.

  • All references should be double-spaced. 

The following reference formats are given as examples, and DO NOT cover how to cite EVERY type of reference. Consult your APA Manual (6th Edition) or web resources for more information.


Reference Format for Periodicals:

General Format:
Author, A.B. (Year of publication). Title of article. Journal
     Title (italicized, capitalized, capitalized), volume number (italicized),
the inclusive page numbers.
Examples of Periodicals:
Teri, L. (1982). Depression in adolescence: Its relationship to assertion
      and various aspects of self-image. Journal of Clinical Child
      Psychology, 11,
Sonne, J. L., & Pope, K. S. (1991). Treating victims of therapist-patient
      involvement. Psychotherapy, 28, 174-187.


Reference Format for Books:

General Format:
Author, A. B. (Year of publication). Title of book (italicized). Location:
Example of book:
Elkind, D. (1978). The child's reality: Three developmental themes. New
      York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Example of Edited Book:  
Marshall, F. J., & Kibbs, H. S. (Eds.). (1996). This is an fictional book.
Atlanta, GA: Make Believe Publications.
Example of Article in an Edited Book:
Duck, J. C., & Harold, E. E. (1994). Testing children. In D. J. Keyser & R.
      C. Sweetland (Eds.), An evaluation of standardized tests (pp.
      124-132). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.


III. Other sources

The new 6th edition of the APA manual provides expanded guidelines for citing electronic and other media. Please consult your APA text and/or OWL at Purdue University for information on citing these sources. Note: Electronic pdf files of existing print journals need not be cited as electronic sources if they exist in print form. Cite as print source. 


Guidelines for Reducing Bias

You should avoid using biased or pejorative language in your work. Read over your work carefully for bias or offense. In general, being as specific as possible will help you to avoid bias. Here are some things to watch for (taken from the APA manual):

  • Show respect for people participating in a study as individuals by avoiding the use of the term subjects. Instead, use participants, individuals, students or a similar term to describe persons participating in studies.

  • Avoid sex bias by choosing pronouns (he, she) and gender-based nouns carefully. Do not use men or man to refer to all adults.  Sexual orientation (preferred)  is not the same thing as sexual preference. Avoid the term homosexual (be specific and use lesbian or gay men).

  • Recognize that ethnic designations change over time. Be as specific as possible in using ethnic terms. Participants should be asked about their preferred designations. Some commonly used acceptable references to populations: African Americans, Native Americans, Asian or Asian Americans (NOT Oriental). Hispanic as a designation is typically less preferred than the actual nation or region of origin (e.g., Cuban, Central-American).

  • Avoid language which "equates persons with their condition" (p. 69) (e.g. disabled, depressives, neurotics), and avoid use of words with negative connotation (e.g., stroke victim). Instead use "person with_______".

  • Be specific with age terms. Define age precisely in methods section and avoid terms such as Elderly (use Older persons instead).

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Send problems, comments or suggestions to:

California State University, Sacramento
College of Education
Department of Child Development

Updated: August, 2009