Different disciplines use different formatting styles, which can be confusing. Education and the social sciences typically use APA (American Psychological Association) Style. Currently, the publication manual is in its 6th Edition. This is important to note, since each edition brings revisions and small but important changes to the guidelines.

APA style was developed in 1929, when a group of business managers, psychologists, and anthropologists got together and decided to put together a cohesive set of style rules for scientific writing that would help simplify it to make documents easier to read and reduce any bias in language. (For a more in-depth history, see our blog on it here). An agreed-upon set of guidelines ensures that documents in the discipline are uniform and consistent, allowing readers to quickly identify important points in documents. Following a style also takes the guesswork out of stylistic issues with punctuation, pagination, headings, and form. This is especially important with complex material and things like tables, figures, and statistics. An agreed-upon style can help prevent misunderstandings and incorrect communication of findings.

APA style does NOT address rules and style guidelines of writing itself, like Strunk & White do in their book The Elements of Style. APA is concerned with clear communication of scientific writing, and APA guidelines and editorial guidelines may overlap or complement each other (for instance, brevity of writing).

If you’re interested in learning more about APA style, check out the APA Style blog, complete with tips and FAQs.

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