A Complete Guide to Using Purdue Owl APA Resources

A Complete Guide to Using Purdue Owl APA Resources
Table Of Content

Introduction to Purdue Owl APA

The Purdue Owl APA website (https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html) is an invaluable resource for students and professionals who need to write papers in APA format. APA stands for American Psychological Association and is a commonly used citation style for papers in the social sciences like psychology, education, and business. Learning APA can be tricky, but the Purdue Owl breaks it down into easy-to-understand guidelines and examples.

Overview of APA Format

APA format has a number of defining features that set it apart from other citation styles like MLA and Chicago. Here are some of the key components of APA to understand:

  • In-text citations - When citing a source in the text, you provide the author's last name and year of publication in parentheses like (Jones, 2019).
  • References page - At the end of your paper, you include a References page with full bibliographic information for every source cited.
  • Page numbers - Each page has a page number in the top right corner.
  • Headings - Headings help organize your paper and reflect the relative importance of sections.
  • Title page - The title page includes important information like the title, author's name, and institutional affiliation.
  • Abstract - Research papers in APA require a concise abstract summarizing the paper.

Citing Sources in APA

Properly citing sources is a key component of APA. The Purdue Owl covers in-text citations and how to format the References page in detail. Here are some highlights:

  • In-text citations go inside sentences and include just the author, year, and page number if it's a direct quote.
  • On the References page, sources are listed alphabetically by the author's last name.
  • The basic structure for a reference is: Author, A.A.. (Year). Title of work. Publication source. URL or DOI if available.
  • References are double spaced with a hanging indent so the first line is flush left and subsequent lines indent.
  • Common source types like books, journal articles, and websites each have their own reference structure.

The Purdue Owl provides examples of how to cite every type of source imaginable in APA from websites, government reports, interviews, and more. Their reference examples make citing correctly much easier.

Formatting Papers in APA Style

In addition to citations and references, the overall format and structure of an APA paper is important to get right. The Purdue Owl covers all aspects of formatting like:

  • Margins - One inch margins on all sides.
  • Line spacing - Double spaced throughout.
  • Font - Standard, readable fonts like Times New Roman 12pt.
  • Running head - Appears on every page along with the page number.
  • Active voice - Papers should be written in active voice, avoiding passive voice.
  • Headings - Headings create structure and identify the content of each section.

Paying attention to these formatting guidelines makes your paper conform to the professional APA standard. The Purdue Owl pages display properly formatted sample papers that illustrate the look and placement of each element.

APA for Special Paper Types

In addition to the guidelines for standard research papers, the Purdue Owl offers APA help for other document types like:

  • Literature reviews - Literature reviews have their own organization method and flows differently than a typical research paper.
  • Lab reports - The structure of an APA lab report includes elements like an introduction, method, results, and discussion sections.
  • Case studies - APA case studies outline the characteristics and complexities of a particular individual, group, or situation.

The pages at Purdue Owl break down how APA formatting applies to each of these special paper types with useful examples. This kind of guidance can help you apply APA appropriately as the conventions can vary.

APA Guidelines for Grammar, Style, and Usage

Along with citation and document formatting guidelines, APA has standards for writing style, grammar, word usage, and reducing bias. The Purdue Owl's extensive APA resources touch on key rules such as:

  • Write concisely to avoid wordiness.
  • Avoid poetic or figurative language.
  • Use the active voice rather than passive voice.
  • Check for proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Aim for clarity, conciseness, and plain language.
  • Provide adequate explanation and detail.
  • Avoid gendered, racial, and other biased language.

Mastering these style and usage tips along with the technical aspects of APA makes your writing clearer and more professionally polished.


Using the comprehensive Purdue Owl website as a guide for any APA need is an excellent way for students and writers to ensure they are applying APA formatting and style appropriately. With its detailed guidelines, plethora of examples, and advice for special cases, Purdue Owl equips anyone writing a paper in APA format for success. Check it out and save yourself headaches trying to figure APA details out alone.


How do I cite an image or figure from another source?

The Purdue Owl has guidelines for citing images, tables, graphs, and other visual elements. In your paper, you would refer to the figure in text and include the citation below the image. On your References page, provide the full reference for the source.

What if I need to cite a source type not listed on Purdue Owl?

While extensive, Purdue Owl may not have an exact reference example for every source type. In that case, find the example that is most similar to your source and follow that format. You can also check the latest APA Manual for guidance.

Is Purdue Owl updated with the newest APA rules and standards?

Yes, the Purdue Owl website is continuously updated by staff to reflect the newest APA rules and conventions. They regularly revise content to match the latest APA Manual edition.

Can I rely solely on Purdue Owl to learn APA?

Purdue Owl covers all aspects of APA in detail. However, also getting the official APA Manual and using it alongside Purdue Owl can help strengthen your understanding.

Does Purdue Owl have sample papers in APA format?

Yes, Purdue Owl provides properly formatted sample papers for reference. These illustrate how a full APA paper should look from the title page, abstract, headings, citations, and references.

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