Apa Style Essay Guidelines Middle School

Full OWL Resources for Grades 7-12 Students and Instructors

Summary:

This page provides resources for grades 7-12 instructors and students

Contributors:Lauren Huebsch, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2014-06-24 12:19:35

For resources specifically created for grades 7-12 students, see the other resources in this section. 

For access to all OWL resources, click here. Please click on the links below to access Full OWL resources that may also be useful grades 7-12 instructors and students:

Process

Starting the Writing Process - This resource contains tips for instructors and student on beginning writing.

Prewriting - This section explains the prewriting (invention) stage of the composing process. It includes processes, strategies, and questions to help you begin to write.

Writer's Block / Writer's Anxiety - This resource contains help for overcoming writer's block and a short series of exercises to help students begin writing.

Developing an Outline - This resource describes why outlines are useful, what types of outlines exist, suggestions for developing effective outlines, and how outlines can be used as an invention strategy for writing.

Paragraphs and Paragraphing - The purpose of this resource is to provide some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs.

Transitions and Transitional Devices - This resource discusses transition strategies and specific transitional devices to help students' essays and sentences flow more effectively.

Research: Overview - This section provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?

Searching the World Wide Web - This section covers finding sources for your writing in the World Wide Web. It includes information about search engines, Boolean operators, web directories, and the invisible web. It also includes an extensive, annotated links section.

Evaluating Sources of Information - This section provides information on evaluating bibliographic citations, aspects of evaluation, reading evaluation, print vs. Internet sources, and evaluating internet sources.

Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Summarizing - This resource will help you become more comfortable with the uses of and distinctions among quotations, paraphrases, and summaries. This handout compares and contrasts the three terms, gives some pointers, and includes a short excerpt that you can use to practice these skills.

Avoiding Plagiarism - This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work—there are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts.

Rhetoric and Logic

Creating a Thesis Statement - This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Establishing Arguments - This section discusses the thesis statement and explains argument in writing, which includes using research to support a thesis. This resources also discusses Aristotle's logical proof: ethos, pathos, and logos and the logical fallacies.

Logic in Argumentative Writing - This resource covers logic within writing— logical vocabulary, logical fallacies, and other types of logos-based reasoning.

Rhetorical Situation - This presentation is designed for instructors to use with students to introduce a variety of factors that contribute to strong, well-organiz ed writing. This presentation is suitable for the beginning of a composition course or the assignment of a writing project in any class.

Different Kinds of Essay Genres

Writing a Research Paper - This section provides detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

Writing About Fiction - This resource covers major topics relating to writing about fiction. This covers prewriting, close reading, thesis development, drafting, and common pitfalls to avoid.

Writing About Literature - This material provides examples and description about writing papers in literature. It discusses research topics, how to begin to research, how to use information, and formatting.

Writing About Poetry - This section covers the basics of how to write about poetry. Including why it is done, what you should know, and what you can write about.

Writing Definitions - This resource provides suggestions and examples for writing definitions.

Style and Language

Adding Emphasis in Writing - This handout provides information on visual and textual devices for adding emphasis to student writing including textual formatting, punctuation, sentence structure, and the arrangement of words.

Conciseness - This resource explains the concept of concise writing and provides examples of how to ensure clear prose.

Paramedic Method: A Lesson in Writing Concisely - This handout provides steps and exercises to eliminate wordiness at the sentence level.

Sentence Variety - This resource presents methods for adding sentence variety and complexity to writing that may sound repetitive or boring. Sections are divided into general tips for varying structure, a discussion of sentence types, and specific parts of speech which can aid in sentence variety.

Using Appropriate Language - This section covers some of the major issues with appropriate language use: levels of language formality, deceitful language and Euphemisms, slang and idiomatic expressions; using group-specific jargon; and biased/stereotypical language.

Punctuation - This resource will help clarify when and how to use various marks of punctuation. When speaking, we can pause or change the tone of our voices to indicate emphasis. When writing, we must use punctuation to indicate these places of emphasis.

Proofreading Your Writing - This section provides information on proofreading, finding and fixing common errors.

Commas - This resource offers a number of pages about comma use.

Citation

Annotated Bibliography - This resource provides information about annotated bibliographies.

MLA Formatting and Style Guide - This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th ed.) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page. MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities.

APA Formatting and Style Guide - This resource, revised according to the 5th edition of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. APA (American Psychological Association) is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences.

Writing and Research Help by Email - Still have questions about your writing? Haven't found what you need? Send us an email! Our staff will provide individualized writing help online.

MLA, APA, & CMS: How to Properly Format Your Papers

Knowing the Styles and When to Use Them

In academic writing, how you present your information (technically) is often seen as important as the ideas you are putting forth. Proper citing, quoting and referencing of source material allows you to convey your breadth of research in a language commonly shared by others in your discipline. Giving others a chance to review and compare your work under these established guidelines enables your instructors to better see the work on its own merits, opposed to getting sidetracked by technical inefficiencies.

You MUST follow the rules like every other student: this is not an area where you want to stand out for doing things your own way. Writing for any academic purpose carries with it certain expectations and formatting consistencies, and a failure to properly understand how or why you cite your sources in a specific way can have negative effects on your written projects and communications.

The Big Three: APA, MLA, and CMS

There are three main "Schools of Style" used to properly format an academic paper, referred to as APA, MLA, or CMS.

  • APA style: These are the official guidelines put forth by the American Psychological Association, now in its sixth edition. This is the preference of the social sciences, so if you are studying sociology, psychology, medicine, or social work you are going to know APA style.
  • MLA style: The Modern Language Association provides guidelines you will be familiar with if you are focused on the Humanities: so artists, English majors, and theatre students will know MLA as they have used this style now for more than half a century.
  • CMS style: These are the style guidelines put forth in the Chicago Manual of Style, now in its 16th edition.  CMS style is predominantly seen in the humanities, particularly with literature students and those who study advanced segments of history and/or the arts.

While these formatting methods will share many characteristics such as margins and spacing, how they attribute references to source materials is the main differentiator.  For example, APA lists "references" while MLA calls the same thing "works cited" - a small but important distinction that might actually affect your grade.

Typically, you are going to use one style for most of your classes and communications, but there is certainly the possibility that you'll need to know how to use any one of these three common styles. The good news is it is not hard to get up-to-speed on any one of them and use them properly.

Get the Latest Updates
Regardless of which style you are using, it is imperative to get the most recent version of the guidelines to ensure your paper is as accurate as it can be. Each of the sources have updated their guidelines multiple times over the years, so working with the current standards is goal one.

APA and MLA are the most common styles to use, but CMS is not unheard of - just not as common for undergrads. CMS is commonly used in traditional book publishing and academic publishing situations, so if you are doing post-graduate writing, it is good to know.

The main thing that seems to be changing in the rules for all of them is about the proper attribution of web-related sources, so you are going to want to re-check that you are working from the most recent versions of whichever style guide you need.

Beware the Pitfalls

The common mistakes being made in properly styling citations and references might be as simple as not downloading the most recent updates; however, it may also be a case where students are simply not understanding how to infuse referencing properly.

Common APA Mistakes
"One of the most common mistakes I see," stated Professor John Long, who has studied social science and has taught health care administration and career development at a college level for various universities for more than five years, "are errors in properly citing web references." Professor Long and his students - being in the social sciences - have never used anything except APA style. He is currently working on his own education specialist degree (Ed.S.) now at U of Missouri, which is half way to the Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree.

He continues: "While some common APA formatting errors may be issues due to changes in updated guidelines (APA 5 vs. APA 6), there are other, perhaps more common instances where a student fails to properly reference the source materials within writing assignments. This is particularly true when citing content from the Internet. Understanding how to properly reference and cite source materials adds power to any student paper, because the papers can be used to show a proper understanding and blending of source ideas - a critical concept in higher learning."

"Some of the changes to the guidelines seem very dubious and meticulous," he continues, "but standards are there so an evaluator can assess the weight of the material without bias. Many of my students might complain about it, but the ones that succeed are the ones who are actively trying to use citing resources to their own argument's advantage."

Common MLA Mistakes
APA students are not the only ones who have common mistakes in formatting - as evidenced by the following insight offered from Dr. Margaret Walters of Kennesaw State University, where she and her students have used primarily MLA guidelines in their writing, editing and literature classes. Dr. Walters has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate level writing courses at Kennesaw State University for over 15 years.

Dr. Walters said, "The most common problems I see with MLA style occur in the writing, meaning the text itself, not the bibliography or Works Cited...though there are often some problems to address there, too. In the text, the most common problems are:

  • putting a period before and sometimes after the parenthetical citation, as in: ".... and this point is made early on." (Smith 127).
  • placing the closing quotation mark after the citation in parenthesis instead of after the quote: " .... and this point is made early on (Smith 127)".
  • placing quotation marks inside commas and periods instead of after them:  Smith tells us that among the most important rules are the ones regarding use of commas", yet he does not explain how this happens". (127) [those writing British English use the opposite rule--quotation marks inside end punctuation]."

Dr. Walters continued: "In the Works Cited, the most common MLA-related problems are:

  • not alphabetizing (even though this is the easiest rule to follow)
  • mixing up MLA and APA style; e.g. using initials for first names when MLA says use full first names and middle initials
  • leaving off the place of publication - it should be New York: Penguin, 2009 but will instead say Penguin, 2009
  • not knowing rules for using quotations marks or when to underline/italicize

"Students get it right most of the time," Dr. Walters states. "I think the underlying problem is an unwillingness to use the style sheets, handouts, or even the MLA handbook.  If they use the resources offered, most students are not going to struggle to meet the guidelines."

Get More Help

Both Dr. Walters and Professor Long advise students to use strong and verifiable resources to make your formatting job easier. Both instructors advise checking out the OWL (Online Writing Lab) Resources offered by Purdue in addition to the links to the sites listed above.

The writing center at your own university may hold lots of great information and people to help you understand what to do in each situation you face. Not every situation calls for the same style guide, so checking with the experts on your campus is always a smart idea.

For a quick reference, you can also use the handy visual aids created by Capital Community College on MLA and APA styled papers: (http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/library/citing.htm) or look at the MLA vs. APA comparison chart created by the University Writing Center at Appalachian State University.

The Bottom Line

The reality is, depending on your discipline, there may be only one type of style that you need to use, ever. However, this is not saying the rules for how to properly cite resources and references is not going to continue to change and evolve over time. You will be held responsible for being current.

As a student or in post-college academic writing, you want your work to shine and to always show your best efforts. This means checking on the rules to properly style and format your papers. Use the links and information above to help ensure you are forever properly dotting your I's and crossing your T's according to the latest and greatest rules.

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