APA Made Simple

           Starting college can initially be an uphill battle. A new schedule, an additional responsibility, and even unfamiliar technology can all pose unexpected challenges in the first weeks or months. Add to these the unique requirements of a writing-based program like Bethel’s, and it’s easy to see why some students become a bit overwhelmed – especially when it comes to APA.

What can I say about the academic writing format devised by the American Psychological Association nearly 100 years ago that hasn’t already been muttered by every Bethel student hunched over a computer at some point? “Unreasonably complicated,” “ridiculously rigid” and “totally time-consuming” all spring to mind. But how about this? “It’s not as hard as I thought.”

It’s true. Thanks, in a part, to technology, meeting those pesky APA requirements has become easier than ever. The trick is to know when and how to use the resources that can make APA easy. If you neglect to use the help available, those late nights spent muttering about APA are sure to continue.

Let me break it down for you. Basically, online students need to worry about only two APA requirements: References and in-text citations. References are the lengthy bits of information placed at the end of an academic essay. If you’ve used ANY outside resource to write an essay (including your ebook), and even if you are simply paraphrasing throughout, you still need to credit the source of that information with a reference at the bottom of your essay.

To get the correct reference for your required reading, first check the syllabus to see if the instructor has provided you with it for your convenience. If so, just copy and paste it. If not, simply open your ebook and copy the URL (the http:// stuff) from the top of your computer. Now go to BibMe.org or EasyBib.com. Pick APA as the format, and “website” as the source. Paste the URL in the space provided, and fill in any additional information it asks for. Seconds after you click the button, you’ll have a perfectly formatted reference list to paste to the bottom of each essay. These free resources work for any book, magazine, or website you use.

If you use even a single reference, you must use at least one in-text citation. They’re like evil twins – you never see one without the other! The good news is, in-text citations are easy – unlike references, their format doesn’t vary depending on the type of resource you use. Just hunt for the first “Says who?” sentence in each paragraph – the first sentence that reflects information that isn’t commonly known, and isn’t exclusively your opinion. That’s where the in-text citation goes. At the college or graduate level, most paragraphs will have at least one, since most academic work reflects research.

You need to put at least two things in parenthesis after that “Says who?” sentence: the last name of the author or authors, and the year of publication (separated by a comma). If the in-text citation follows a direct quotation, add a page (p. __) or paragraph (para. __) number, too. Put the one-and-only period after the parenthesis. If the article you’re using doesn’t have an author listed – for instance, a blog – you can use the first three words of the article’s title in quotation marks instead. So if the resource without an author titled “Make Your Money Last During Difficult Times,” you can shorten it to “Make Your Money.” You still need to add a year of publication, of course, and a period after the parenthesis. So your sentence might say: The challenges of a poor economy can play havoc on your pocketbook, but there are plenty of options for saving (“Make Your Money,” 2016).  Easy enough, right?

If you have questions about APA, never fear: Go to the APA website inside VCamp by clicking the Library icon on the top right.  If you haven’t already done so, be sure to watch the short APA video that’s loaded there (http://bethelu.libguides.com/apa101/vcamp).

The resources available to help with APA are just a mouse-click away – and knowing these APA tricks can save you a lot of muttering on this academic journey.

Cindy Chambers

PR Director, College of Professional Studies


Cindy Smith Chambers has 40 years’ experience in public relations and journalism. She serves as PR Director for Bethel University’s College of Professional Studies, and is a fulltime faculty member specializing in college writing and marketing.