Joys and Pains within the APA Process

Joys and Pains within the APA Process

The American Psychological Association (APA) format has been used in colleges and Universities since 1892, at Clark University (APA, 2018).  Since then, colleges and universities from all over the globe have adopted this type of writing style. APA is vital in writing research papers for college students.  However, both students and faculty have their challenges with this writing format.  For the students, common challenges include understanding when to and not to include a citation, how to format a reference page, when appropriate citations are needed within a paper, and how to generate a cover page or headers.  Further, admittedly, faculty seem to have similar challenges when they do not use APA formatting at a regular frequency.  So, why does this matter?  For students, this can have extreme consequences because there are repercussions, such as receiving deductions or failing an assignment, or (in severe infraction) failing a course or being expelled from the college or university. 

For faculty, there can also be harsh consequences. If it is determined a faculty member has committed plagiarism, repercussions can include formal reprimand, possible termination, or intellectual property-based lawsuits.  Further, the faculty member can sustain irreparable damage to their reputation, marring their current and future academic career. Within this article, I will discuss some of the challenges students and faculty have when it comes to projects that include APA requirements.  Then, I will offer some possible suggestions to combat some of these challenges. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Student Perspective

Students often have mixed feelings and experiences using APA formatting within assignments.  Some students successfully and effortlessly are able to use APA formatting while others may absolutely dread the process and are never quite successful at understanding either the process of formatting or its functional purpose within academic writing.  As a former student myself, I understand there is a plethora of information you have to comprehend to learn APA and I emphasize with those who struggle with the process.  However, I quickly discovered if you look at each area of your assignment needing APA formatting individually (like a puzzle), you can begin to grasp the basics and understand them.  Most universities libraries offer numerous resources on APA formatting.  Also, locating a handbook on APA is one of the best investments you can make within your academic journey.  In addition, there are several online web pages that offer very comprehensive APA-based resources. 

Faculty Perspective

I am sure we can agreed that we sometimes encounter challenges when it comes to the APA format.  As students turn in their written assignments, although most have developed an acceptable document, you may realize there are a few students that have either turned in a poorly written assignment or did not turn in one at all. In the case of the poorly written assignment, this is where faculty have the opportunity to provide mentoring to assist in student success.  Therefore, if you feel the student needs additional assistance and resources, you can direct the student to the University’s Writing Center or provide direct assistance. A combination of both can be highly effective in assisting students on this process.  One thing I learned is that no matter what level of education we have, we are all students and, as students, we have an imperative to assist one another in our academic journeys.


According to the research, researchers and scholars have studied for a lifetime regarding the skill of writing expertise (Landrum, 2013).  Landrum further states the writing process begins with comprehensive brainstorming, translating information into a form of text generation (writing), and ending with a review and revision process. As a writer progresses through this process, it is helpful to keep the APA citation and referencing requirements in mind. Sometimes, it is apparent that a writer has attempted to cite at the end of the process, which can lead to missing a citation or forgetting to add a reference. Also, the writer may not be aware that a passage needs a citation.  Recognizing the thoughts of another in comparison to individual thoughts is a situation that often occurs in academic writing.  Especially when reading a large amount of research, the fine line between the two can become blurred.  It is an honest mistake, in many cases, but it is one that writers should remain aware of as they write and cite within scholarship.

Understandably, APA is a challenging process in the beginning and even seasoned writers occasionally refer to some type of APA resource. Yet, there are some helpful suggestions to assist students in the development of assignments and faculty in the process of guiding students through the APA process:

Discuss the Value of APA.  It is important for writers to understand the value of APA and how it will benefit them in the future in the future (McDonald, 2011). For example, I advise my MBA students to comprehend the art of writing, since the student will more than likely be in the format of a managerial position that requires a lot of writing.  This will enable the student to hone in on their writing skills a bit closer and be more accurate with the writing.  Also, I stress the importance of utilizing another individual's work and providing credit to the author for the usage of their work.  In doing so, it provides a clear expectation of APA usage in the course and, ultimately, the use of proper APA formatting in future documents.

Creating a Culture of Best Practices.  McDonald (2011), stresses the importance of providing access to additional resources, such as writing tutorials and APA reference pages.  This is helpful to students because, if there is a question and no one is immediately available, the student can look up the information for themselves. As faculty and staff, we have to ensure that we are all well versed on APA in order to provide appropriate guidance to all of our students.  Also, knowledge of APA remains an essential element of our own research and scholarship as we develop as academics and practitioners...

Providing Meaningful Feedback and Examples.  According to McDonald (2011), providing thorough feedback and specific examples are most helpful to writers who wish to improve writing skills.  In practice, I am open to guiding students in their comprehension of the writing process and understanding the value of good writing skills, including APA usage. 

Take Advantage of the University of Phoenix Writing Center.  Fortunately, our University of Phoenix academic community has access to several valuable writing-focused resources within the Writing Center, offered within the various Library resources.  These resources include writing examples, grammar checkers, citation generators, and APA resources. Please go to the following URL for more information:


As a writer, what challenges have you encountered with APA or other aspects within the writing process?  How do you overcome them to create great writing projects?




The American Psychological Association (2018). The history of the American Psychological Association.  Retrieved from

Landrum, R.E. (2013). Writing in APA style: Faculty perspectives of competence and importance. Psychology Learning and Teaching. 12(3), 259-265.  Retrieved from

McDonald, K. E. (2011). Teaching the 6th edition of APA style of writing in counselor education. Journal of Counselor Preparation and Supervision, 3(2), 5. Retrieved from

McGuire, S.L., Gerber, D.E,, & Currin, M.D. (2001). Helping students use APA format. Journal of Nursing Education, 40(9), 414-416. Retrieved from

University of Phoenix (2018). The University of Phoenix University online library. Retrieved from






James Ashton's picture James Ashton | October 5, 2018 11:25 am MST

This blog talks about the challenges that students and faculty can have at times regarding the APA format. The blog also offers recommendations to those challenges.

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