APA History and Reasons for Citing

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11770

It's only right and fair to cite the sources you used in writing your paper. It's fair for the sources, and right to show your readers where you found your material. Here is one way to format sources!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


To be professional — and ethical — you should give credit to sources you use in your papers. Here is one style required for writers in certain fields:


Image, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

APA stands for the American Psychological Association.

This association is a non-profit group comprised of professionals and academics working in the social and behavioral science fields. These jobs focus on the study of society and human behavior, so the fields of sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political science, geography, law, criminology, archaeology, and religious studies all fall under the umbrella of social and behavioral science.

In the 1920s, academics and professionals in these fields determined that they needed to standardize the way in which they presented their research in presentations, papers, journal articles, and books, in order to clearly communicate to their readers where they found their research. Accordingly, the APA convened a group of respected professionals working in the social sciences who formulated a standardized format for citing research in writing, which was published in 1929. This format is called the APA style and is published in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition).

It has been revised five times in the past eighty years to reflect changes in research, such as the development of the Internet, so the current (2017) edition of APA style is known as the sixth edition. This most recent edition was published in 2009.

In addition to the social science fields, APA style is also widely accepted in education, business, and nursing, so if you plan on studying any of these fields, you will need to be familiar with APA style for research writing.

To learn more about the origins of the APA style, read the article, The Origins of APA Style, by Anne Breitenbach, courtesy of the American Psychological Association. After reading the article, why do you think there is a need to have a standardized method for citing research? Discuss your answer with your parent or teacher.

The APA has set up a website dedicated to the APA style. There you can find answers to citation questions, learn more about the APA style, and find resource guides. The website, APA Style CENTRAL from the American Psychological Association, is a good site to bookmark if you plan to use APA style in the future.

Now that you know about the APA format and its origins, move on to the Got It? section to learn more about the reasons for using APA citations.

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