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Term paper: why APA format?

If you’ve just been assigned your first APA style term paper, you may be frustrated over learning what seem to be the endless, nitpicky details of writing in a codified style like APA. Many students find doing so tiresome. However, further along in your academic career you’ll become used to the requirements of APA and other styles as well. In the meantime, understand that your instructor is requiring you to use APA style for some very good reasons.

Why do Instructors Insist on a Single, Strictly Formatted Style?

There are two main reasons:

  • Uniform style types are useful in the academic world because they allow the audience to quickly understand the citation types, references, and sources. APA in particular is also well suited to making quantitative results easy to express clearly.
  • Academics and scientists who write for published journals must always abide by the style and formatting rules expected of the journals. This varies by discipline, and APA is a commonly accepted style. By teaching students early on to adopt uniform formatting rules, instructors are helping them to adapt to the level of writing required by professional organizations. Even if your intent is to go into another career field, you’ll find that each field has its own particular, accepted types of formatting. It’s important as any type of professional to comply with these style rules in order to have your writing or submissions taken seriously.

The Main Purpose of APA Style

Aside from the practicalities of citations and future, professional writing endeavors, there is another good reason for using APA style. By adopting a style which gives guidance for minute details like graphics, number representation, those who use it avoid confusing their reader or spending unnecessary time figuring out the best way to present certain types of information. When presenting your research, your energy should be focused on sharing your ideas in a clear, easily understandable way that allows your audience to make their own decisions about your work. You shouldn’t be wasting time or energy on things like determining how to list a journal you used as a reference. Using the APA style allows you to shift your focus away from these details and back on what’s important: clearly communicating the results of your research.

That may seem strange at first, when it feels like there are so many new rules to learn, but with more experience, APA style writing will come easily.