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Tips And Tricks For Graduate School: APA Writing

Stock photo of a women working on a laptop with a journal sitting on the table next to herRecently, Stephanie Swanberg (User Services Librarian), Carrie Pyeatt (Director of Student Services), and Andrew Kaleita (Writing Specialist) hosted a series of presentations where they shared their advice for succeeding with your graduate studies. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing their tips in a series of blogs. 

APA Writing Tips

At MSP, students are expected to write most (if not all) of their assignments in APA format. This can be one of the more challenging adjustments for students, especially for those who may not have utilized APA style in their previous academic programs. Fortunately, there are many resources available to help students navigate this change. 


The best resource for APA citations are the APA Style Guides in-text citations and references webpages, but there are some tips to help you avoid common mistakes. 

  • Only the first word of article title is capitalized
    • Unless there is a proper noun or other word in the title that requires capitalization 
  • Make sure every direct quote gets an immediate citation with an author element, date element, and page number element.
    • Example 1: Smith (2022) said, “Full sentence quote” (p. 5).
    • Example 2: Sleep deprivation can lead to “partial sentence quote” (Jones, n.d., p. 5) and other complications.
  • If you paraphrase the writing found in one of your sources or convey ideas that came to you after you read a source, be sure to cite that source narratively or parenthetically. 
    • Avoid citing the same source repeatedly if the source and the topic you’re discussing doesn’t change.
  • Double check that your in-text citations and references match
    • Make sure all sources cited in-text show up in the reference list, and that all sources in the reference list are cited in the paper.
    • Ensure the author names and year are consistent

Create an APA Checklist

Keep a checklist of common APA conventions and use it to check your paper before submitting. When you get feedback from a professor about APA edits you can add it to your list to make sure you don’t make the same mistake again.

Here’s an example of Carrie’s APA Checklist:

  • Double check that no section heading is the last thing on a page – use forced page break to ensure it stays on the next page with the body text
  • Capitalize all use of ethnic identities – Black, White, Hispanic, etc.
  • Double check that all quotations are ” versus the inches symbol
  • In reference list  – do all years have a period after the parenthesis?
    • Ex. (2009). 
  • In reference list – initials of authors all have a space in between the letters
    • Ex. J. K. (versus J.K.)
  • In reference list – only include link if it’s available to the public 
  • In reference list – double check capitalization
  • In reference list – for journal number: Italic Journal Title, 12(1), 1-30.


*Must be logged into an MSP email address. 

Have questions? 

  • Make an appointment with Andrew. Andrew is available to help students navigate the transition to scholarly writing. This could be anything from help with specific assignments to brushing up on APA style.  
  • Make an appointment with Stephanie* or stop by the library. Stephanie (or any of the MSP librarians) can help you navigate the multitude of resources available to you as an MSP student. She’s also a great person to contact if you need help with research. 
  • Email Carrie to talk about your specific support needs, accessibility needs, or anything else. If Carrie isn’t the right person to talk with, she’ll know who is. 

*Must be logged into an MSP email address.