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General Questions on APA Style

How can I learn about APA style?
This Libguide has answers to frequently asked questions about APA style, but there is no replacement for a hard copy of the APA publication manual, which is available in the reference sections of several Vanderbilt libraries, and wherever fine books are sold. In this FAQ , where appropriate, reference is made to the relevant section of the print APA manual. See also the Purdue OWL site, the main APA style page, and the APA Style Blog for more information and advice on APA style. You can also contact the Peabody Librarians to ask questions on APA style or to suggest additions to this page.

What’s a style?
APA style is a citation and formatting style, a set of guidelines for how a paper looks and how it credits its sources. Using a consistent style makes your papers easier to read and ensures that you are giving proper credit to those whose work you have engaged with in your own research and writing.

Many citation styles are on offer, and different academic disciplines use different styles. In the humanities, the Modern Language Association (MLA) or Chicago/Turabian styles are more commonly used. In medicine the American Medical Association (AMA) style predominates. In the social and behavioral sciences, including education, the American Psychological Association (APA) style is most common. Many other styles are used in other disciplines, so check your local listings.

Individual journals or publishers may have their own house styles, which are usually modifications of one of the major styles. If you are submitting an article to a journal, you will want to check the journal’s style requirements.

A close cousin of the citation and formatting style is the usage guide. Newspapers and news agencies, such as the New York Times and Associated Press, have often-consulted usage guides. And there are famous usage guides written by, among others, H.W. Fowler, Bryan Garner, and E.B. White, which advise on points of syntax, grammar, spelling, punctuation, diction, and writing style generally. The APA manual also makes recommendations on these points, but it goes beyond them in its guidance on citing sources and on general formatting.

What’s the difference between a citation and a reference?
These terms are often used interchangeably and so can become confusing. In APA style, a citation usually refers to the in-text citation that is in the text of the paper and that briefly tells the reader where the information he or she is reading about came from. The reference is the full information (in APA style, at the end of the paper) about that original source. In short: The citation points to the reference, which points to the original source.