Are you a Psychology student?  Then you will have to use the APA format in doing your term papers. Though it may take you a little longer to getting used to APA, learning how to write in APA is an essential skill that will help you whether you are psychology student or just taking your first science class.

Doctoral students also need to know the required APA dissertation format. By using the APA style, students writing on psychology ensure that they relay their experiments and ideas in a consistent format. A consistent style allows its audience to know what to look for as they read psychological articles.

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Key APA Areas Covered:

  1. APA Style Requirements
  2. Reducing Bias and Labels in APA
  3. APA Rules about NUmbers
  4. APA Dissertation Citation
  5. The Use of Graphics in APA
  6. APA Title Page
  7. APA Citation for SPSS
  8. APA Citation of a Conference Presentation
  9. Citing a Newsletter in APA


Paper Length

Scientific subjects utilize the APA style of paper formatting. Scientists believe that “less is more,” you are, therefore, not required to write too much. Pass your points in a brief and precise manner. Students are expected to be professional, direct, and clear. Try not to add unnecessary details in your articles. Avoiding unnecessary details keeps the length more concise and short.

Use your Headings Properly

Headings organize your work making it simple.

The significance of Different Level Headings

While writing your research or essay, you will realize that some points are more important than others. It is, therefore, important that we assign such points different level headings indicating their significance. In a nutshell, a level heading is assigned depending on the importance of a point. Is the idea a point or a subpoint?

Main points relate to the central point, and they must be visible to the reader. Subpoints include examples and statistics that support the main idea. All topics of equal importance use a similar level heading throughout the article. For example, in a laboratory experiment report, the level headings for methods and results are the same. Avoid one subsection in a whole section. You should always have at least two or none.

Level 1

Level 1 has the biggest heading size. It is the title of your article. However, it must in bold and centered at the middle of the page. Capitalize your sentences.

Level 2

Level 2 is smaller than level 1 (which is the title). You must use bold letters, and the heading placed against the left margin.

Level 3

Level 3 is a bit smaller than level 2. The level is indented in from the left side of the margin with bold letters. Start the heading with a capital letter.

Level 4

Level 4 is smaller than the level 3 heading, and it is indented in from the left margin. Y. The uppercase letter is only placed in the first word of the heading.

Level 5

The level 5 heading is the smallest level heading for an academic paper. The heading is indented and italicized. Start the heading with a capital letter.

Reducing Bias and Labels in APA

The American Psychological Association APA objects bias towards sexual orientation, gender, ages of people, racial groups, and disabilities. If you are not sure if your work is biased, it is advisable that you have a few people go through it to determine if it is biased. Find below a few guidelines that APA suggests:

Instructions suggested by the American Psychological Association

  1. Avoid Ambiguity. Be careful while using terms that end with “men” or “man” when they involve subjects who are female. For example, instead of using “chairman” use the term “chairperson.”
  2. Include an individual’s orientation only if it is vital to the research study.
  3. When referring to race, capitalize the first letter and use the census category terms. Avoid the name “minority” it is sometimes interpreted as meaning deficient.
  4. When describing subjects who are under the age of 12, use “boys” and “girls.” For subjects between the age of 13 and 17, use “young man” and “young woman.” Men and women are appropriate for subjects who are over 18 years. Finally, the term “older adults” is used for older individuals.
  5. Anytime you write about the orientation or characteristics of an individual, always put the person first. For example, instead of saying “cancer patients,” say, “Patients with cancer.”
  6. Try as much as possible to avoid using narrow terms such as “the elderly,” “adolescents.” Instead, use the terms “participants” or “subjects.”

Have your Paper Proofread for Biasing

APA use of numbers Abbreviations, Spacing, and Spelling

  1. When including Acronyms such as MLA, USA, and so forth, do not include periods between the letters.
  2. Use the abbreviations sparingly. Too many abbreviations may make the article lose meaning.
  3. Use the spellings as used in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (American English)
  4. One space is used after punctuation marks unless it is at the end of a sentence. Use two spaces after a punctuation mark coming at the end of a sentence.
  5. When using an unfamiliar abbreviation, you have first to type it out; then the abbreviation is placed with parentheses. If the abbreviation features in the article more than once, there is no need to type it out again.

Example: Students with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) barely concentrate in class. ADD, therefore, leads to poor performance in school.

  1. If an abbreviation is in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, then it is not necessary to spell out its meaning. For example, NATO, RADAR, LASER, and so forth.
  2. Use the Oxford comma where needed. Use a comma before the words “or,” “and,” or in a series of three items. For example, my wife asked me to buy Diapers, milk, and sugar in the store.
  3. If the spellings are not in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, you can check the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
  4. Place the apostrophe before the “s” when writing a possessive singular noun. For example, Alfred Elias’s jacket. For the possessive plural nouns, such as Elias’ house, place the apostrophe after the “s.”
  5. When using numbers, use the numeral for numbers more than 10. However, if the number is less than 10, spell it out. For example, six kilograms; 24 kilometers.

The Use of Graphics in APA

  • Do not use graphics if they don’t supplement the content in your text. It is not necessary to include graphics that only reinstate what is in the text.
  • Include sufficient wording in the graphic so that your audience understands what your graphics mean. However, do not exaggerate in the wording of your graphics.
  • Number your charts, images, tables, and drawings using Arabic numerals. The first diagram labeled as 1, should be the first to be mentioned in your article. Make the interpretation as comfortable as possible.

The APA Title Page

Here is an example of how the title page should look like:

APA title page. Always remember to include the running head.

Most importantly, do not forget to place the running head at the top. The running head is a shortened version of the main title. Always ensure that the title is attractive. However, if it’s for a research paper, the title doesn’t have to be eye-catching. The title for a research paper must be clear and concise. The title must reflect the main argument, and avoid using words or abbreviations that serve no purpose.

The Abstract should not have any in-text citations. The abstract should not have more than 250 words. In the case of online publications, listing keywords in the abstract is useful for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The APA Dissertation Citation

APA Repeated In-Text Citations, also known as Parenthetical Citations

Always include in-text citations in writing as an acknowledgment of referencing other people’s work.

APA citation in the middle of a sentence requires that you include the author’s last name and year of publication. Parenthetical citations typically appear at the end of a sentence, between the period and the last word.

Examples of APA in-text citations

Without Author’s name in the Text

New Zealand has one of the coldest climates in the world (Andrew, 2014.)

With the name of the Author in text

According to the New York Times, the USA is experiencing an economic recession (2019).

For an in-text citation with two Authors

Processed food is the number one cause of cancer in the 21st century (Andrew & Perez, 2017).

For Parenthetical Citations with three to five Authors

Include only the first author, followed by “et al.” and the year of publication if it is the first citation of that paragraph.

For example

Brexit has so many negative repercussions; things seem to change in the recent past (Alex, et al. 2019).

For Parenthetical Citations for sources with no author

  1. Use quotation marks around the chapters, titles, or websites
  2. Include the first few words of the bibliography entry and the year.
  3. Capitalize major words
  4. Italicize all titles of books, reports, brochures, or periodicals


  1. The report has exciting figures (Population Growth in the Latino, 2019)
  2. Do not overlook women rights (New Data,” 2016)

Citing and Formatting Block Quotes

If a quote runs for more than 40 words:

  1. Start the block quote in a new line
  2. Indent the text half an inch from the left margin
  3. Do not add quotation marks
  4. Double Space your work
  5. Add the in-text citation after the final sentence


Ramon (2016) states that

Racism is a hierarchy of superiority/inferiority along the line of the human. This hierarchy can be constructed and marked in diverse ways. Westernized elites of the Third World reproduce racist practices against ethnic/racial groups where, depending on the local/colonial history, those considered “inferior” below the line of the human can be defined or marked along religious, ethnic, cultural or color lines. In the colonial history of Ireland, the British constructed their racial superiority over the Irish, not through the marker of skin color, but rather through a religious marker. When the colonizer and the colonized share the same skin color, the marker of superiority/inferiority along the line of the human has to be constructed with a different marker beyond color racism. What appeared at first glance to be a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics was, in fact, a racial/colonial conflict. (p. 2)

Online or Electronic sources: Web Rules

  • Include the digital object identifier (DOI) in the citation for journal articles. DOI numbers are good because they do not change. DOIs always remain static. On the other hand, URLs can become outdated or broken links.
  • Do not place a period at the end of the URLs
  • If a URL runs across several lines, break the URL off before punctuation.

apa citation for conference presentation

The pattern below is followed when citing a poster or presentation that was done in a meeting:

Presenter, E.K. (year, month). Title of the poster or paper. Paper presented at the meeting of [the organization’s name], Location

APA citation for a conference presentation

APA Citation for SPSS

The APA publication manual categorically states that it is not necessary to reference standard software.

Standard software includes:

  1. Microsoft Word
  2. Adobe Photoshop
  3. SPSS or SAS
  4. Java

However, it is important that you include the version number whenever you mention any software.

For example, you can say that “I used the SPSS software (Version 3.1; IBM) to complete my work”

When citing SPSS in APA, the name of the software must not be italicized but capitalized as it is a proper noun.

Citing a Newsletter in APA

In-Text Citation

Whenever you get information for your dissertation from a newsletter, always include an in-text citation. The in-text citation contains the following:

  1. Author’s name
  2. Year of publication
  3. The page or paragraph where the information was found

For example:

citing a newsletter APA






(Elias, 2018. P. 3)

APA Reference List Citation for a Newsletter

The following format is used when citing a newsletter in your reference list

citing a newsletter apa






Elias, K. (2018). Effects of quality SEO on ROI. Kenji Annual, 3(1), 3-7

If no author is available, reference the organization that published the document instead.

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APA Reference List

The reference list notes down sources inside the text. The reference list is meant for allowing your audience to get your sources. The list gives credit to authors whom you have consulted.  Other than the personal communications such as emails and conversations, all other references cited must appear in the reference list.

It is worth noting that a Bibliography is different from the reference list. A bibliography lists all sources used in particular research, not just the ones referred in writing.

The APA Reference List Formatting Guide

Title The title is “References.” The title must be centered, starting with a capital letter, and avoid italics
Indent The references should have a hanging indent
Space between the references Double-space
Ampersand For 2-6 authors. Always use & before the final author
URLs Make the underscore (_) visible by removing the underlines from URLs
Same 1st  Author, different 2nd author Arrange alphabetically
Capital Letters The book or article title such as magazine, newspaper, or journal must also be capitalized, i.e., Capitalize the first word of the title, the subtitle, and any other proper noun.
Place of Publication  publishers from the USA, give the city in full, and the state should be abbreviated. For example, Springfield, MA

Those outside the USA, only give the name of the city and state in full. For example, London, England

Page Range Use the en dash, for example, 15-31. There should be no gaps between the numbers and en dash

It is worth noting that numerous websites can assist students in APA referencing of your Ph.D. thesis. You only need to paste the information you have for the sources, and bam! You get your reference in order. Such websites include:

  1. Elite Custom Essays
  2. Citethisforme
  3. EasyBib

Further Reading on APA thesis proposal format

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