Guideline for Writing College Level Papers in APA Style


In education, the main purpose of most college level reports, response papers, and research papers is for you to demonstrate your comprehension of the subject matter, by synthesizing scholarly literature on a given topic, in an accepted writing style. Educational and psychological research form the foundation for “best practices” in education, therefore, the 5th edition of APA style, which was developed by the American Psychological Association, is a commonly accepted format for writing and publishing academic works. (Most of your textbooks are written in this format, as well as journals in our field.) Scholarly literature is primarily based on events, data collected in research studies, and expert opinion.

Reports and response papers for college courses may not need to be formatted as extensively in APA style as research papers, depending upon the requirements of the instructor, however, there are some commonalities. Typically, reports, response papers, and research papers summarize and reference the literature that has been reviewed, in the text of the paper and in a reference list. The following is a guideline for writing college papers in APA style:


Some Critical Components of APA Format:

reference to page number in citation; longer quotations in block without quotes, also including citation with page number)

“Smith (2002) asserted that students from low income areas were not likely to have access to technology.” or

“According to Smith (2002), students from low income areas were less likely to have access to technology than students in affluent areas.”or

“Some studies indicated that students from low income areas were the least likely to have access to technology (Smith, 2002).”


Critical Aspects of the Content of College Level Reports or Papers:

After locating scholarly works, such as journal articles and texts, and reviewing the literature, you will need to synthesize what you have learned. It’s suggested that you temporarily put the readings aside and try to convey the information in your own words. Refer back to the readings, to be sure that you have restated the information accurately. Remember that even paraphrased material requires that the source be cited, in text and in the reference list, therefore, as a general rule, you must always cite the source of any information that you provide in your paper. After a citation is provided in text, it is assumed that the information that follows comes from the same source, unless another citation is provided. Thus, sometimes, an effective writing strategy is to group together information that comes from the same source.


Organization of the Paper:


Review of the Literature




Attachments --required printouts, tables, figures, etc.


Generally, it is recommended that you follow this pattern: Begin with an Introduction, where you provide an overview of the topic, an explanation of it’s relevance, pertinent background information, and/or history; purpose and scope of the paper.


The body of your paper will consist of reporting on the topic, according to your Review of the Literature. Sometimes, you may come across conflicting data from research studies. This may be due to a variety of (often complex) reasons, such as differences in research design (e.g., experimental research can identify causes, while correlational research only suggests a relationship), as well as the size of the sample studied (research conducted with small groups may not be applicable to large populations).


You may report such discrepancies and, in the Discussion section, provide a balanced, objective analysis of relevant issues.


If you feel compelled to provide your own opinions, delay doing so until the last portion of your paper, in a Summary section. As a rule of thumb, keep this section brief, and avoid referring to yourself. If you must refer to yourself, write “this author” or “in this author’s experience” rather than saying, “I” or “my”.


You must provide a list of References for all literature that you have cited in your text, and this list cannot include literature that you have not cited in text.


Keep in Mind:

Since, over the years, many things that have been accepted as fact have been discovered to be false through further examination, today, many believe everything is subject to revision in science, including the social sciences. Additionally, while scientists seek to uncover the laws of nature, exceptions exist for a variety of reasons, including genetic anomalies, environmental influences, and idiosyncratic differences. Therefore, most social scientists avoid stating that research “proves” anything, and use qualifiers such as, “studies have suggested” or  “research has demonstrated”, and “it appears that” or “it would seem that”, rather than claiming, “the truth is…” or “science has proven that…” Please follow suit in your references to the research.


For further info on APA style, see:

For information on critiquing journal articles, see:


Note: There are two formats for writing reference lists, prepublication style and publication style.


In prepublication style, the first line of the citation is indented and the work is underlined. 


            American Psychiatric Association. (1990). Diagnostic and statistical manual

of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.


In publication style, the second and subsequent lines are indented and the work is italicized.


American Psychiatric Association. (1990). Diagnostic and statistical manual

 of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.


You are encouraged to use publication style, since that is the model readily available to you, in books and journal articles.