Whether you attend a community college, a state college or an Ivy League university, your instructors will require your essays and reports to adhere to an established academic format. The format for disciplines in the social sciences was created by the American Psychological Association. Scholars refer to it as APA style.
Plagiarism Is a Problem
Plagiarism on college campuses is a common problem nationwide. Some students plagiarize on purpose, cutting information from the Internet or other sources and pasting it into their own essays without any attempt to cite their research correctly. Many students who are new to academic writing, however, plagiarize accidentally because they simply do not understand the dynamics of citation. You can avoid this dilemma by formatting your college essays in the appropriate style for your discipline.
APA Style Solves the Plagiarism Dilemma
Adopting APA style in your social science courses will ensure that the sources you cite for your college assignments are credited correctly. APA style requires writers to include in-text citations for all summaries, paraphrases and quotations garnered from secondary sources. In APA style, in-text citations include the source author's name, the publication date of his research and the page numbers for the material being referenced. Thus, the style inherently guides writers to indicate which ideas are not their own.
In addition to ensuring correct attribution of sources, using APA style will help you respond to your instructors' assignments in a professional manner. Showing that you know how to navigate the appropriate style for your discipline will give the impression that you are a serious, well-prepared student who is ready to contribute professionally to the field of study. Even seemingly simple things, such as knowing where to insert the page numbers for your own essay, or how to format long quotations, can give an instructor a positive impression of your work.
The Nuances of Style
As you continue to write and learn the nuances of APA style, your work will continue to become professionalized. For example, in A Writer's Reference, Diana Hacker reminds APA users of one of the stylistic nuances of the style: Sources cited in APA should be introduced in past tense (Hacker, 2009, p. 349). If you write in APA style often enough, this convention will quite naturally become a part of your own professional writing style.
Contributing to the Conversation
Finally, formatting your essays in APA style will allow other scholars to engage with your research. One exciting aspect about creating reports or writing essays in your academic discipline is feeling that you are contributing to a field of study beyond the confines of your classroom assignments. When adopting APA style, you are required to include a list of references as part of your work. This list not only reminds your instructor that you have conducted sound research and have cited your sources correctly, but it also allows student peers and other scholars to engage critically with your work. Readers can consult the sources you reference in order to understand your scholarly activity more fully, or to further their own scholarship. In either case, your careful use of APA style encourages this kind of engagement and allows you to formally contribute to the ongoing research and critical conversations in your field.
- "A Writer's Reference"; Diana Hacker; 2009
Hayley Haugen is an assistant professor of English at Ohio University Southern. She holds a Ph.D. in American literature from Ohio University and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Washington. Haugen has published numerous nonfiction books with Greenhaven Press, Kidhaven and Lucent Books, including titles on literature, social issues, illness and disability.