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The American Psychological Association (APA) documentation technique is used in psychology and other related scientific disciplines. In writing research papers, this APA reference format requires specific guidelines to follow standards. Basically, students and researchers have internalized the APA guidelines as a set of rules without any contextual association. Particularly, an in-depth discussion regarding the APA style’s interesting facts focuses on the origin, modification of the in-text citation format, and effects on the scientific writing genre.

The History of the APA Reference Format

The creation of the APA reference format may have been triggered by an argument between a researcher and an editor. In 1904, Edward B. Titchener made numerous complaints concerning James McKeen Cattell’s attempt. He wanted to establish some form of uniformity in the manuscripts authored by researchers for publication in Science, Psychological Review, and Scientific Monthly, which Cattel edited. Basically, Cattel’s editing role exposed him to multiple writing approaches. For instance, these methods originated from the various trends enforced through studying in different universities. Consequently, Cattel needed to establish a standardized format for scientific manuscripts. This method could ensure all articles in a journal conformed to certain conventions despite their origin. The specific instance that caused the formation of the APA reference format cannot be identified. However, the argument between Titchener and Cattell made a significant contribution to the development of the APA format.

APA reference format

In-Text Citations in the APA Format

In-text citations in the first publication of the APA reference format did not propose the author-date style. People use it in the current APA 6th edition format. For instance, the APA style used numbered footnotes and bibliographical references. In some cases, people cannot incorporate the source’s details into the text of the statement. In this case, the APA formatting used in contemporary scientific writing has undergone much change since the inception of the APA referencing. Moreover, the guidelines focused on the publication needs and made little contribution to the writing style. Basically, the first set of published guidelines on the APA style format did not address any issues concerning the use of language. Instead, the APA style discussed publication needs, such as the general manuscript structure, referencing, and incorporation of tables and illustrations.


A switch from other documentation systems to the APA reference format allows more than knowledge of referencing guidelines. For example, implicit norms in the scientific community have resulted in unique textual features. They distinguished the APA style paper without reliance on the structure of the paper or referencing rules. Also, the APA citation has evolved from a simple set of publication guidelines to a system of writing. This feature influences the core aspects of writing, such as word choice. Therefore, it is easy for an experienced scientific audience to recognize the work of an outsider regardless of the absence of any formatting or citation errors. However, the APA style citation is not limited to the definition of citation rules. In turn, the APA citation format defines the entire concept of scholar writing and results in a stable structure, format, and use of language.

Conclusion on the APA Reference Format

Besides the complex styling rules, the APA reference format has some interesting background information. Basically, the competition between editorial needs and scientific expression of research findings developed the origin of standardized writing through the establishment of guidelines. In turn, the APA writing style has changed to a large extent since the first publication of the APA format book. Over time, the APA reference format has codified communication in the scientific discourse community.

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