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Skidmore College
Psychology Department

Student Advice

APA Publication Manual Crib Sheet

Russ Dewey ( provided the following crib sheet for an earlier version of the APA Publication Manual. Most of the points remain valid for APA, 6th Ed.

Introductory information

APA style is the style of writing specified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (4th ed., 1994). The publication manual began as an article published in Psychological Bulletin in 1929. That article reported results of a 1928 meeting of representatives from anthropological and psychological journals, "to discuss the form of journal manuscripts and to write instructions for their preparation." By 1952 the guidelines were issued as a separate document called the Publication Manual. Today the manual is in its fourth edition, and the APA format described in it is a widely recognized standard for scientific writing.

Some of the more commonly used rules and reference formats from the manual are listed here. However, this web page is no substitute for the 368 page manual itself, which should be purchased by any serious psychology student in the U.S., or by students in other countries who are writing for a journal that uses APA format. The APA manual can be found in almost any college bookstore as well as in many large, general-purpose bookstores, in the reference and style guide section. It can be obtained directly from the APA order department at 1-800-374-2721.

The fourth edition of the style manual, issued in 1994, contained these additions and changes to the pre-existing APA style:

  • Abstracts are now limited to 960 characters including spaces.
  • Bibliographic entries should be indented five to seven spaces on the first line, just like other paragraphs.
  • Electronic references should have an address permitting retrieval (see the discussion in the Reference list examples section).
  • Horizontal rules (lines) should be typed into tables; do not draw them in by hand.
  • Hyphenation should not occur at the end of lines, only between words when necessary.
  • Institutional affiliation should appear in the byline, departmental affiliation in the author note.
  • Italics should be indicated on a word processor by underlining, not italics. [However, see the note above. Italics are used throughout this document in place of underlining.]
  • Journal names are now underlined continuously from the title through the comma after the volume number, for example, Journal of Psychoneuromimmunology, 6, 7-8.
  • Justification should be set to "off" or "left margin only" (the right margin should be uneven).
  • Margins should be at least 1" all around.
  • Paragraphs should be indented five to seven spaces.
  • Running heads should be placed before the title.

The manual notes (pp. 237–8) that "The size of the type should be one of the standard typewriter sizes (pica or elite) or, if produced from a word processor, it should be 12 points." The body of the paper should be in a serif typeface (like Courier or Times Roman) with lettering on figures in a sans serif face (such as Helvetica or Arial).

Following is a summary of rules and reference examples in the APA style manual. The manual itself contains all this information and more, organized and worded differently, indexed and illustrated. If in doubt about a specific rule or example, consult the manual itself.




  • Avoid abbreviations except for long, familiar terms (MMPI).
  • Explain what an abbreviation means, the first time it occurs.
  • If an abbreviation is commonly used as a word, it does not require explanation (IQ, LSD, REM, ESP).
  • Do not use the old abbreviations for subject, experimenter, and observer (S, E, O).
  • The following abbreviations should NOT be used outside parenthetical comments:
    • cf. [use compare]
    • e.g. [use for example]
    • etc. [use and so forth]
    • i.e. [use that is]
    • viz. [use namely]
    • vs. [use versus]
  • Use periods when making an abbreviation within a reference (Vol. 3, p. 6, 2nd ed.)
  • Do not use periods within degree titles and organization titles (PhD, APA). 
  • Do not use periods within measurements (lb, ft, s) except inches (in.).
  • Use s for second, m for meter.
  • To form plurals of abbreviations, add s alone, without apostrophe (PhDs, IQs, vols., Eds).
  • In using standard abbreviations for measurements, like m for meter, do not add an s to make it plural (100 seconds is 100 s), and when referring to more than one page in an book excerpt, use the abbreviation pp. (with a period after it and a space after the period).
  • Do not use the abbreviation "pp" for magazine or journal citations; just give the numbers themselves. Do use "pp" for citations of encyclopedia entries, multi-page newspaper articles, chapters or articles in edited books.
  • Use two-letter postal codes for U.S. state names (GA).

Avoiding Biased and Pejorative Language

In general, avoid anything that causes offense. The style manual makes the following suggestions:

DO NOT use... when you can use... ethnic labels (for example, Hispanic) geographical labels (Mexican Americans) "men" (referring to all adults) "men and women" "homosexuals" "gay men and lesbians" "depressives" "people with depression"


Currect use of the terms "gender" and "sex"

The term "gender" refers to culture and should be used when referring to men and women as social groups, as in this example from the publication manual: "sexual orientation rather than gender accounted for most of the variance in the results; most gay men and lesbians were for it, most heterosexual men and women were against it."

The term "sex" refers to biology and should be used when biological distinctions are emphasized, for example, "sex differences in hormone production."

Avoid gender stereotypes. For example, the manual suggests replacing "An American boy's infatuation with football" with "An American child's infatuation with football."


Sensitivity to labels

Be sensitive to labels. A person in a clinical study should be called a "patient," not a "case." Avoid equating people with their conditions, for example, do not say "schizophrenics," say "people diagnosed with schizophrenia." Use the term "sexual orientation," not "sexual preference." The phrase "gay men and lesbians" is currently preferred to the term "homosexuals." To refer to all people who are not heterosexual, the manual suggests "lesbians, gay men, and bisexual women and men."

In racial references, the manual simply recommends that we respect current usage. Currently both the terms "Black" and "African American" are widely accepted, while "Negro" and "Afro-American" are not. These things change, so use common sense.

Capitalize Black and White when the words are used as proper nouns to refer to social groups. Do not use color words for other ethnic groups. The manual specifies that hyphens should not be used in multiword names such as Asian American or African American.

Labels can be tricky, and the manual has a lot to say about them. For example, "American Indian" and "Native American" are both acceptable usages, but the manual notes that there are nearly 450 Native American groups, including Hawaiians and Samoans, so specific group names are far more informative.

The terms Hispanic, Latino, and Chicano are preferred by different groups. The safest procedure is use geographical references. Just say "Cuban American" if referring to people from Cuba.

The term Asian American is preferable to Oriental, and again the manual recommends being specific about country of origin, when this is known (for example, Chinese or Vietnamese). People from northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland often (but not always!) prefer Inuk (singular) and Inuit (plural) to "Eskimo." But some Alaska natives are non-Inuit people who prefer to be called Eskimo. This type of difficulty is avoided by using geographical references. For example, in place of "Eskimo" or "Inuit" one could use "people from northern Canada, Alaska, eastern Siberia, and Greenland."

In general, call people what they want to be called, and do not contrast one group of people with another group called "normal" people. Write "we compared people with autism to people without autism" not "we contrasted autistics to normals." Do not use pejorative terms like "stroke victim" or "stroke sufferers." Use a more neutral terminology such as "people who have had a stroke." Avoid the terms "challenged" and "special" unless the population referred to prefers this terminology (for example, Special Olympics). As a rule, use the phrase "people with _______" (for example, "people with AIDS," not "AIDS sufferers").

In referring to age, be specific about age ranges; avoid open-ended definitions like "under 16" or "over 65." Avoid the term "elderly." "Older person" is preferred. "Boy" and "Girl" are acceptable referring to high school and and younger. For persons 18 and older use "men" and "women."



  • Capitalize formal names of tests (Stroop Color-Word Interference Test).
  • Capitalize major words and all other words of four letters or more, in headings, titles, and subtitles outside reference lists, for example, "A Study of No-Win Strategies."
  • Capitalize names of conditions, groups, effects, and variables only when definite. (Group A was the control group; an Age x Weight interaction showed lower weight with age.)
  • Capitalize the first word after a comma or colon if, and only if, it begins a complete sentence. For example, "This is a complete sentence, so it is capitalized." As a counter example, "no capitalization here."
  • Capitalize specific course and department titles (GSU Department of Psychology, Psych 150).
  • Do not capitalize generic names of tests (Stroop color test). "Stroop" is a name, so it remains capitalized.
  • Capitalize nouns before numbers, but not before variables (Trial 2, trial x).
  • Do not capitalize names of laws, theories, and hypotheses (the law of effect).
  • Do not capitalize when referring to generalities (any department, any introductory course).



  • Do not use commas to separate parts of measurement (9 lbs 5 oz). Use the metric system, as a rule.
  • Use commas before "and" in lists, for example, height, width, and depth.
  • Use commas between groups of three digits, for example, 1,453.
  • Use commas to set off a reference in a parenthetical comment (Patrick, 1993).
  • Use commas for seriation within a paragraph or sentence. For example, "three choices are (a) true, (b) false, and (c) don't know." Use semicolons for seriation if there are commas within the items. For example, (a) here, in the middle of the item, there are commas; (b) here there are not; (c) so we use semicolons throughout.
  • Use commas in exact dates, for example, April 18, 1992 (but not in April 1992).



  • Do not hyphenate -ly and superlative words (widely used test, best informed students).
  • Do not hyphenate common prefixes (posttest, prewar, multiphase, nonsignificant) unless needed for clarity (pre-existing).
  • Do not hyphenate foreign, letter, numeral terms (a priori hypothesis, Type A behavior) when the meaning is clear without it (least squares solution, heart rate scores).
  • Do not hyphenate if a noun comes first (a therapy was client centered, results of t tests).
  • Hyphenate adjectival phrases (role-playing technique, high-anxiety group, two-way analysis).
  • Hyphenate compound adjectives preceding nouns (client-centered therapy, t-test scores) unless the compound adjective involves a superlative (best written paper).
  • Hyphenate if the base is an abbreviation or compounded (pre-UCS, non-college bound).
  • Hyphenate if the base word is capitalized or a number (pre-Freudian, post-1960).
  • Hyphenate if the words could be misunderstood without a hyphen (re- pair, un-ionized, co-worker).
  • If in doubt, consult a recently published dictionary. Standards change. For example, "data base" is now "database," and "life-style" is now "lifestyle."


Italics (Underlining)

  • Do not underline common foreign abbreviations (vice versa, et al., a priori).
  • Do not underline for mere emphasis.
  • Underline for titles of books and articles, species names, introduction of new terms and labels (the first time only), words and phrases used as linguistic examples, letters used as statistical symbols, and volume numbers in reference lists.


Miscellaneous: Colons, dashes, parentheses, numbering paragraphs,

  • Do not use "and/or." Write things out. For example, "Monday, Tuesday, or both" is preferable to "Monday and/or Tuesday."
  • Do not use a colon or other punctuation after an introduction which is not a complete sentence such as
    • this one, or any other sentence in the body of text which flows into an extended quote. The quote "picks up where the sentence leaves off" and provides the punctuation.
  • Use a dash (rendered on typewriters and some word processors as a double hyphen) when there is a sudden interruption like this one--zoiks!--in the flow of a sentence. Overuse "weakens the flow of the writing."
  • Use parentheses to introduce an abbreviation, for example, the galvanic skin response (GSR).
  • Use "appendixes" (appendices) as the plural of "appendix." Use datum as singular, data as plural. Use matrix as singular, matrices as plural. Use schema as singular, schemas (not schemata) as plural.
  • When listing separate paragraphs in a series, use a number and a period, not parentheses.
    1. The first paragraph goes here.
    2. The second paragraph goes here.



  • Spell out common fractions and common expressions (one-half, Fourth of July).
  • Spell out large numbers beginning sentences (Thirty days hath September...). 
  • Use numerals for numbers 10 and above, or lower numbers grouped with numbers 10 and above (for example, from 6 to 12 hours of sleep).
  • Spell out numbers which are inexact, or below 10 and not grouped with numbers over 10 (one-tailed t test, eight items, nine pages, three-way interaction, five trials).
  • To make plurals out of numbers, add s only, with no apostrophe (the 1950s).
  • Treat ordinal numbers like cardinal numbers (the first item of the 75th trial...).
  • Use combinations of written and Arabic numerals for back-to-back modifiers (five 4-point scales).
  • Use combinations of numerals and written numbers for large sums (over 3 million people).
  • Use numerals for exact statistical references, scores, sample sizes, and sums (multiplied by 3, or 5% of the sample). Here is another example: "We used 30 subjects, all two year olds, and they spent an average of 1 hr 20 min per day crying.
  • Use metric abbreviations with figures (4 km) but not when written out (many meters distant).
  • Use the percent symbol (%) only with figures (5%) not with written numbers (five percent).


Quotation Marks

  • Use quotation marks for an odd or ironic usage the first time but not thereafter, for example, "This is the "good-outcome" variable, but as it turns out, the good-outcome variable predicts trouble later on...
  • Use quotation marks for article and chapter titles cited in the text but not in the reference list. (In Smith's (1992) article, "APA Style and Personal computers," computers were described as "here to stay" (p. 311).)


Extended quotations

  • Add emphasis in a quotation with underlining, immediately followed by the words [italics added] in brackets.
  • Brackets are not necessary when changing the first letter of a quotation to upper case.
  • For quotations over 40 words in length, indent and double space the whole block. (However, single-spacing is acceptable.) Indent five more spaces if there are paragraphs within the long quotation. Always provide author, year, and page citation. Use brackets if introducing or altering material.
  • Reproduce a quote exactly. If there are errors, introduce the word sic underlined and bracketed, for example, [sic] immediately after the error.
  • Use three dots (ellipsis points) when omitting material, four if the omitted material includes the end of a sentence. Do not use dots at the beginning or end of a quotation unless it is important to indicate the quotation begins or ends in midsentence.


When not to use quotes

Do NOT use quotes to...

  • ...cite a linguistic example; instead, underline the term (the verb gather).
  • ...hedge, cast doubt, or apologize (he was "cured"). Leave off the quotes.
  • ...identify endpoints on a scale; underline instead (poor to excellent).
  • ...introduce a key term (the neoquasipsychoanalytic theory).



References are citations of other works such as books, journal articles, or private communications. References in text are treated somewhat differently from references in the complete list at the end of a paper.


Abbreviating within a reference

Here are approved abbreviations for use in a reference list:

  • chap. for chapter
  • ed. for edition
  • rev. ed. for revised edition
  • 2nd ed. for second edition
  • Ed. for Edited by
  • (Eds.) for multiple editors
  • Trans. for Translated by
  • p. for page number, with a space after the period
  • pp. for page numbers in encyclopedia entries, multi-page newspaper articles, chapters or articles in edited books, but not in journal or magazine article citations, where numbers alone should be used (see examples of reference formats).
  • Vol. for Volume
  • vols. for volumes
  • No. for Number
  • Pt. for Part
  • Suppl. for Supplement,
  • Tech. Rep. for Technical Report


Alphabetizing within reference lists

  • Use prefixes in alphabetizing names if commonly part of the surname (De Vries).
  • Do not use "von" in alphabetizing (Helmholtz, H. L. F. von).
  • Treat Mc and Mac literally; Mac comes before Mc.
  • Disregard apostrophes and capitals in alphabetizing; D'Arcy comes after Daagwood.
  • Single-author citations precede multiple-author citations (Zev, 1990 then Zev et al., 1990).
  • Alphabetize corporate authors by first significant word. Do not use abbreviations in corporate names.


In-text references

  • Use the author-date format to cite references in text. For example: as Smith (1990) points out, a recent study (Smith, 1990) shows...
  • For two-author citations, spell out both authors on all occurrences.
  • For multiple-author citations (up to five authors) name all authors the first time, then use et al., so the first time it is Smith, Jones, Pearson and Sherwin (1990), but the second time it is Smith et al., with a period after "al" but no underlining.
  • The first time an "et al." reference is used in a paragraph, give the year, thereafter (if the citation is repeated in the paragraph) omit the year.
  • For six or more authors, use et al. the first time and give the full citation in references.
  • Include page reference after the year, outside quotes but inside the comma, for example: The author stated, "The effect disappeared within minutes" (Lopez, 1993, p. 311) , but she did not say which effect. Another example would be: Lopez found that "the effect disappeared within minutes" (p. 311). Notice also that the sentence is capitalized only if presented after a comma, as a complete sentence.
  • If two or more multiple-author references which shorten to the same "et al." form, making it ambiguous, give as many author names as necessary to make them distinct, before et al. For example: (Smith, Jones, et al., 1991) to distinguish it from (Smith, Burke, et al., 1991).
  • Join names in a multiple-author citation with and (in text) or an ampersand (&) in reference lists and parenthetical comments. For example: As Smith and Sarason (1990) point out, the same argument was made by in an earlier study (Smith & Sarason, 1990).
  • If a group is readily identified by its initials, spell it out only the first time. For example, "As reported in a government study (National Institute of Mental Health [NIMH], 1991), blah blah..." and thereafter, "The previously cited study (NIMH, 1991) found that...
  • If the author is unknown or unspecified, use the first few words of the reference list entry (usually the title), for example: ("Study Finds," 1992).
  • If citing multiple works by the same author at the same time, arrange dates in order. In general, use letters after years to distinguish multiple publications by the same author in the same year. For example: Several studies (Johnson, 1988, 1990a, 1990b, 1995 in press-a, 1995 in press-b) showed the same thing.
  • For old works cite the translation or the original and modern copyright dates if both are known, for example: (Aristotle, trans. 1931) or (James, 1890/1983).
  • Always give page numbers for quotations, for example: (Cheek & Buss, 1981, p. 332) or (Shimamura, 1989, chap. 3, p. 5).
  • For e-mail and other "unrecoverable data" use personal communication, for example: (V.-G. Nguyen, personal communication, September 28, 1993). These do not appear in the reference list.


Reference list formats

NOTE: wherever you see italics below, you should actually underline when preparing your paper. Italics are used here because many browsers use underlines to indicate links. References should be indented 5 to 7 spaces on the first line, just like other paragraphs. In examples below, the 5 white spaces are represented by 5 underscores (_____) because most browsers ignore white space.

The APA publication manual contains 77 examples of different reference types (pp. 195-221). Here are a few examples of the most commonly used formats.


Anonymous or unknown author (common in newspapers):

_____Caffeine linked to mental illness. (1991, July 13). New York Times, pp. B13, B15.



_____Strunk, W., Jr., & White, E. B. (1979). The elements of style (3rd ed.). New York: Macmillan.

_____American Psychiatric Association. (1990). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

(note: "Author" is used as above when author and publisher are identical.)

_____Freud, S. (1961). The ego and the id. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 19, pp. 3-66). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1923)

In text this would be cited as (Freud, 1923/1961).


Electronic media

The manual specifies (for example) that an FTP retrievable file be referenced like this:

Bixley, T. S. (1995) Sentient microfilaments: A tempest in a tubule. [On-line]. Available FTP: Directory: pub/harnad File: psyc.95.3.26.consciousness.11.bixley.

Increasingly, internet addresses are specified using a URL (uniform resource locator). The words "on-line" and "available" are redundant if you use a URL, because the whole purpose of a URL is to give "on-line availability" of a document. The URL indicates the type of resource (FTP, gopher, WWW) followed by two forward slashes followed by an exact location (machine, site, directory, and file). The URL permits anybody reading the document to copy the address into a WWW browser and retrieve the document.

APA format with a URL address would look something like this:


_____Bixley, T. S. (1995) Sentient microfilaments: A tempest in a tubule. [On-line]. Available:


_____Bixley, T. S. (1995) Sentient microfilaments: A tempest in a tubule. [On-line]. Available: gopher://

World Wide Web page:

_____Bixley, T. S. (1995) Sentient microfilaments Home Page.[On-line]. Available:

Note that use of URLs is not specified in the APA style manual. However, the URL is increasingly recognized as the standard way of specifying addresses for retrievable documents on the internet. In general, give information which permits retrieval of the document. If it is on a CD-ROM, give the publisher; if it is from an on-line database, give the sponsoring organization or publisher.


Group or institutional authors

_____University of Pittsburgh. (1993). The title goes here. Journal of Something, 8, 5-9.


Journal article

_____Spitch, M. L., Verzy, H. N., & Wilkie, D. M. (1993). Subjective shortening: A model of pigeons' memory for event duration. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal BehaviorProcesses, 9, 14-30.


Letter to the editor

_____O'Neill, G. W. (1992, January). In support of DSM-III [Letter to the editor]. APA Monitor, p. 4-5.


Magazine article

_____Gardner, H. (1991, December). Do babies sing a universal song? Psychology Today, pp. 70-76.


Newsletter article

_____Brown, L.S. (1993, Spring). My research with orangs. The Psychology Department Newsletter, 3, 2.

The date is given as it appears on the publication. For anonymous newspaper articles, see the previous section titled "Anonymous or unknown authors."



_____Just Say No Foundation. (1992). Saving our youth. (9th ed.) [Brochure]. Washington, DC: Author.