Evaluations & Using Sources
APA stands for American Psychological Association. It is also a documentation style put forth by this association that is used at this and many other universities and that provides a format for documenting research in academic writing. It is important to document sources correctly in order to give credit where credit is due and to avoid plagiarism. APA format is a trusted and comprehensive resource for student writers, and it is also the style required in all DeVry University undergraduate courses in which students must include research in their work.
APA format is not about memorizing many different rules. It’s about knowing how to look up what you need to know when you need to know it. For example, if you want to quote from a book, then you need to look up how to do so in your text or on an APA website. Then you look up how to create an APA references page and reference a book using APA style. It can be a little daunting at first, but once you get used to it, you probably won’t find it difficult. This type of writing is technical in nature, in addition to being academic. It’s a bit like filling in the different blanks of a math or science formula. Once you put all the variables in their proper places, the equation comes alive and everything works as it should. Sometimes it can help to think of this sort of writing task in this manner. Source documentation is not about being creative; this is about documenting and putting things in the order that they are assigned. Try doing the citation interactive below:
How did you do? It is fine if didn’t you get it perfectly right; the whole point is to learn how to find out what you need to know. You will find with practice that this type of exercise becomes easier and easier. Using APA format is just like any other skill; the more you practice, the better you become at it. In the past, you may not have had to use such a formal method of documentation. You will find that citing and paraphrasing can really improve the quality and depth of your papers. Having to document all your sources in an APA-style references page can help to keep you on task as far as your research goes. Try another fun interactive:
How did you do with that one? These interactives are just to give you an idea of what goes where when you cite your sources on a references page. Every bit of information is important, but sometimes information is not available. The general rule is that if something is not available, you skip it and go to the next item on the list. However, if many things are not known about a source, it probably wouldn’t be appropriate as research material for a college-level essay.
Academic and Verifiable Sources
Not all sources are suitable for use as reference materials in your essays. For example, many people use Wikipedia to look up general knowledge, but the people who post there are not necessarily experts on the topics they post on. This means that the site is not considered academic. Do not use this site as a reference in your essays.
A good way to begin your research is to visit the DeVry library at http://library.devry.edu. You may use the search engines or ask a librarian for help. Using an academic library will narrow your search exponentially.
Always make sure your sources are verifiable, even when the source comes from a library. You need to know who wrote what you’re reading, and you need to know what their credentials are. For example, if you were writing a position paper on global warming, which source would you rather use?
A. An article written by a professor of geology published in a respected scientific journal
B. A blog by Bob G
If you chose “A” then you are right on target. Blogs are not often considered academic and verifiable, even when written by experts in the field. They would have to be written by someone who is not only considered an expert on the topic but also include full source data from which the expert draws research.
APA format is a tool that you will get used to using. Some people really enjoy the mathematical structure of filling in the blanks. Some people learn to live with it. Whichever way you look at it, know that you will learn this structure and you are able to do this. Be sure to ask for help if you need it. There is also a Writing Center available in the HUB. Use the different resources at your disposal to help you to achieve your goals.