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Style standards

Following is a brief summary of key aspects of the American Psychological Association (APA) style guidelines. Refer to the Publication Manual of the APA for more information. Depending on the practice of your faculty/department, the MLA, CBE style manual, or other guide may be preferred.

Double quotation marks

  1. Introduces a word or phrase used in a special or unusual way.
  2. Reproduces material that is quoted verbatim. Note that if this material extends for more than 40 words, you should set it out as a block quotation indenting both left and right margin 5 spaces.


Use abbreviations sparingly. Use them:

  1. without explanation if they are used as word entries in the dictionary (e.g. IQ);
  2. even if they are not in the dictionary but are frequently used in a relevant journal;
  3. for standard Latin terms, statistics, and reference terms;
  4. for metric units.

Any other abbreviations (or acronyms) you decide to use should be explained in a List of Abbreviations and Acronyms.


  1. Percentiles should be expressed in figures.
  2. Use arabic rather than roman numerals. Use roman where convention calls for their use.
  3. Use decimal notation instead of mixed fractions wherever possible.

Numbers expressed in words: (i) between zero and nine inclusive; (ii) to begin a sentence.

Numbers expressed in figures: (i) greater than or equal to 10; (ii) ages; (iii) times and dates; (iv) percentages; (v) ratios; (vi) fractions or decimals; (vii) scores and points on scales; (viii) sample or population sizes.


Within a paragraph: indicate by lower case letters written in parentheses: The five categories of words were (a) fruits, (b) animals, (c) nuts, (d) countries, and (e) oceans.

Of paragraphs: indicate by Arabic numerals followed by full-stops: "The experimenter used a three-step procedure:

  1. The experimenter requested ...
  2. A man was requested ...
  3. The man was observed to be ..."

Figures and tables

Label tables above the table and figures below the figure.

Refer to the table or figure in the text.

Tables and figures should be self-explanatory.

A table or figure from an outside source should be referenced like any other outside information.

Keep titles brief: you can include explanatory notes if needed as footnotes under the table or figure.


Data presented in an appendix should be there: a) because if it were in the body of the thesis it would interrupt the flow, and b) because it contains information which is essential to the thesis.

Appendices may contain:

  • documents,
  • raw data,
  • detailed experimental results,
  • lengthy calculations.

Note: figures and tables in the appendices should still be labelled.


The References section of a paper contains an alphabetical list of the generally available references cited in the text of the paper. References to more than one work of the same author are arranged by order of date of publication, with earlier works listed first.

Here are some examples:

American Association for Purity in Writing. (1958). Collected homilies. Nantucket: AAP Press.

Clearly, I. C. (1989a). The professional proofreader. Los Angeles: Precision Press.

Clearly, I. C. (1989b). The proofreader's tools. Los Angeles: Precision Press.

Frearly, I. P. (1998). The importance of body hydration for cohesion in prose. Cohesion and the body archive. <http//> (Retrieved 13 February 1999).

Gates, W. (1999). Does the computer assist the writing process? New York: Microsoft Digest.

Joyce, J., and Woolf, V. (1919). The writer's handbook. Dublin: Simplicity Publications.

Lix, P. R. O. (1975). Conciseness in academic writing (Vol I3). In Done, O. V. R. (ed) The academic dissertation. Honolulu: Redundancy Press.

Macdonald, R. J. (1998). Nutrition and its effects on student concentration. San Francisco: Extreme Press.

Ostrophe, A. P. (1998). Perfecting punctuation. NJ: Colon Press.

Passion, A. T. (1988). Rhetorical devices in the results section of the thesis. English for emotive purposes, 15, 63-68.

Portentous, I. (1995). Encyclopaedia of the English language (2nd ed.). London: Worldwide.

Toocheet, I. (ed.) (1998). Avoiding plagiarism. Sydney: Demidenko Press.

Buy or borrow the APA guide, Commonwealth Style Manual, or other approved style manual for conventions governing unpublished and electronic or other non-written material.

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