How to Use APA Format: A Nursing Student’s Guide


In Chamberlain’s RN to BSN Online Option, students use American Psychological Association (APA) style frequently for their work.

Using APA style allows students to support the ideas in their work, helps the reader locate the materials used, gives credit to the author and provides a standard format so everyone is on the same page and understands the elements and meaning of the citation.

Chamberlain Visiting Professors Michele Hannon, MSN, RN and Jacqueline Pagel, MSN, RN recently answered questions and provided more information on how to use APA format successfully.

What will I need to include for APA format?
APA format includes the following:

  • Title page with running head and page numbers
  • Lines are double-spaced
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Times New Roman 12-point font
  • Headings (per instructor guidelines)
  • Citations
  • Reference page

How do we document sources used?
Citations are needed for both paraphrasing and using quotations. A references page should include complete information about each source used in your citations.

How do you use citations when paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is using the author’s ideas in the student’s words. You do not add any new ideas. If the author states, “The grass is green,” you might paraphrase by writing either of the following:

  • Green is the color of the grass (Author surname, year).
  • According to Author (year), green is the color of the grass.

    Make sure to pay attention to punctuation – it’s very important in APA style!

How do you cite a quote?
Quoting is using the author’s ideas and exact words. Do not add or change words. For the quotation, “The grass is green,” you might cite this quotation in either of the following formats: 

  • According to Author surname (year), “the grass is green” (p. xx).
  • “The grass is green” (Author surname, year, p. xx).

What does a reference page look like?
A few things to keep in mind: A reference page should be double-spaced with no added spaces between lines and in alphabetical order, based on the first author of each source. The second line of each reference should be indented. Here’s an example:

Page layout example in document editor for a References page

What should the title page look like?
Check out this example and notes to see what a title page for your Chamberlain courses should look like:

Page layout in document editor, showing title page placements for running head, page number, and title section

Any tips or hints for using APA style correctly?
Yes, of course! For each course, check out the lesson, syllabus or instructor’s discussion post. Chances are your instructor has used correct APA citations and references.

Also, make sure to use your APA Manual. It’s not necessary to read it cover to cover – use the index to find the pages you need and mark them, as you will use them often. The table of basic citation examples and examples of references are particularly helpful.

And finally – use the APA resources that Chamberlain offers! If you log into your course, navigate to Modules - > Course resources -> Scroll to program resources - > APA resources. There you will find

a template that will help you so that you don’t have to format a paper yourself. You’ll also find an example of a properly-annotated paper, among other resources.

Still have questions?
We encourage you to reach out to your instructor, who will be happy to help you master APA style!

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