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NS-664 Community Principles & Theories

APA Format

Please Visit our Guide dedicated to APA 6th Edition or APA 7th Edition

Common writing problems and Faculty “pet peeves”

Common Writing Mistakes Image

  1. Lack of an introduction and/or conclusion: Introduce your paper by outlining the purpose and topic of your paper. Conclude with a summary of the major points and take-away message of your paper. So not introduce new information in your conclusion.

  2. Overuse of quotations: Integrate the evidence, information and data from your sources into your discussion. Use your own words as much as possible and summarize and synthesize what you learn from your reading of the literature.

  3. Word use and semantics matter: The words elderly and homeless are not nouns and should not be used as the subject of a sentence. Although you will often see writers referring to an entire population group as "the elderly" or "the homeless", this is grammatically incorrect and might also be perceived as dehumanizing.

    Preferred terms include “older adults” and “persons who are homeless”. In addition, referring to people as “addicts” or “diabetics” focuses on their disease rather than their personhood – people with addiction or people with diabetes are more person-centric descriptions.

  4. Let your citations do their job. Please do not include the full name of authors, name of journals and titles of journal articles or books in your text. This is the purpose of the citation. Also remember that articles are written by authors, not journals

  5. Terms for race and ethnicity: In APA format, the terms that describe race or ethnicity are proper nouns and are capitalized, including White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, European, and Native American. You may see many publications where White and Black are not capitalized – remember that not all journals and authors use APA format.

  6. Avoid starting sentences with a number. When you do use numbers to start a sentence, spell out the number in words. Always spell out numbers less than ten. The following are examples of correct APA format for reporting numbers or statistics within sentences in APA format

    Thirty percent (30%) of older adults in the state reported having exercised for 20 minutes or more five or more days a week in the past month on the most recent National Health Interview survey.  Statistics Image

    The majority (52%) of people who attended the workshop reported knowing their usual blood pressure reading.

  7. The word data is plural for datum and this should be reflected in your writing. The following sentences are grammatically correct (data are for illustration purposes only)

    The data show that the rate of homelessness among families with children under the age of 18 has increased 25% in the past decade.

    Data are unavailable for the proportion of the older population who identify as gay or bisexual

APA Citation Errors

Citation Decipher Image

  1. Use of words and phrases from sources: Use quotation marks and a full citation when using the words or phrases of one of your sources. Changing a few words or the order of words in a passage is not paraphrasing. Always use a full citation including a page or paragraph number (for sources like website that do not have page numbers) in every citation for a quotation.

  2. Incorrect format and punctuation in references
    • Use a hanging indent and double spacing for references.
    • Use a period after the author name and after the parentheses for year. Do not include abbreviations or et al. in references.
    • The punctuation for journal articles for APA is different from AMA format (used by PubMed). Example of correct format (note italics for journal title and volume, issue in parentheses not in italics, comma before page numbers):

      American Journal of Public Health112(5), 1133-1357.

    • Do not include the date of retrieval for electronic sources except for Wikis and similar sources where the content is subject to change.
    • Include a full date only for newspapers, blogs, press releases, and similar sources.
    • References ending with web address or doi number do not have a period at the end.

  3. Incorrect format for citations
    • The punctuation at the end of a sentence comes after the citations
    • Quotation marks end before the citations
    • Citations for quotations must include a page or paragraph number. Abbreviate page as p. and multiple pages as pp. Abbreviate paragraph as para.
    • There is no comma between the author’s last name and et al. Example: (Smith et al., 2010).
    • Use lower case letters to distinguish between two sources with the same author published in the same year. Example citations: (CDC, 2010a) and (CDC, 2010b). Use the same letter after the year in the reference as well so that your citations and references match.
    • Spell out the full name of an organization in the first citation or use in the paper, and introduce an accepted abbreviation in brackets within a citation or in parentheses within the text. Example

      Surveillance activities include the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), both conducted annually (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014).

  4. Citing Healthy People 2020: The author of Healthy People 2020 is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). You may want to Healthy People 2020 Image cite several sections of this website in your paper. You may use one reference for the entire source and then include the section or objective number in the citation so that you reader can locate your source. See example below. Alternatively, you may write references for each specific page or section of the website and use a matching citation.

    “Many of the strongest predictors of health and well-being fall outside of the medical care setting” (HHS, 2014, LHI: Clinical preventive services across life stages, para.4).

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). Healthy People 2020. Retrieved from


Would you like more help?

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Want to see more APA examples, learn how to avoid plagiarism, and/or how to manage your citations? Check out these additional guides: