Impact Lives

Prepare to Step Out in APA Style!

You have probably heard the following comments before:

  • “I do not know what the APA fuss is about…”
  • “I hate APA Style!”
  • “You’d think this was ‘APA Style 309’ instead of ‘MPH 609’…”

The American Psychological Association writes on its APA Style website:

When editors or teachers ask you to write in APA Style®, they are referring to the editorial style that many of the social and behavioral sciences have adopted to present written material in the field. APA Style was first developed 80 years ago by a group of social scientists who wished to establish sound standards of communication. Since that time it has been adopted by leaders in many fields and has been used by writers around the world.

APA's style rules and guidelines are set out in a reference book called The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” (2012, para. 3-4).

APA Style is "more than a list of rules and guidelines; it also contains sound advice on the craft of writing. Thus APA Style will help you improve your writing skills, not only for the courses in which it is required, but also for any writing that you do" (American Psychological Association, 2010b, p. 5). Improving your APA writing skills will serve you well as you follow your courses in the MPH program. Learning to use the latest version of APA Style will benefit you immensely as you continue to work in the field of public health.

Here are a few suggestions so that you can step out in APA Style, as an MPH student:

  1. Get a copy of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition. It is the style manual of choice for writers, editors, students and educators in the social and behavioral sciences. The manual provides guidance on all aspects of the writing process, including the ethics of authorship, reducing bias in language, tone, tables, figures, headings and references and citations (American Psychological Association, 2010a).
  2. Go to the APA Style Facebook page ( and click “Like.” You will get a daily dose of APA Style tips if you do so. You can also check the questions that students pose to the APA Style experts on the Facebook page. You will learn from the experts’ responses.
  3. Take a free tutorial at the APA Style website,
  4. Follow APA Style on Twitter,
  5. Start an APA Style club online. Invite your instructor to one of your meetings!

A team from one of my classes last year plans to publish their team project. They indicated that the process is much easier because they paid attention to APA formatting of their team paper. Many publishers in public health require conformity to the latest version of APA Style.

Are you eager to step out in APA Style? Take the basic tutorial at and then analyze the listings below:


American Psychological Association. (2010a). Mastering APA Style: Student workbook and training guide. Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association. (2010b). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association. (2012). About APA Style. Retrieved from

About the Author

JM Alexis Smalec (Dr.PH) is a seasoned professional with many years of experience in public health initiatives. She has a track record of successful work with several non-profit and academic institutions including PATH, UNICEF, UNFPA, FAO, l’agence Francophonie, Cornell University Cooperative Extension, and the University of the West Indies. Dr. Smalec is an adjunct faculty member in the online MPH program at Benedictine University. She tweets on public health topics at