APA Style

Capitalization/Punctuation    Headings    Numbers    Spacing   Tenses

Musical Titles and Terms   Running head    My Word!








In the field of Music Education, most journals use the  APA style format


Follow the APA Style link and read "About APA Style"





Why use a particular style at all?



A standardized form . . .


. . . provides consistency in writing within a discipline.

. . . gives you credibility as a writer and shows professionalism.

. . . facilitates understanding and allows the reader to focus on content.

. . . codifies elements for clear communication.

. . . demonstrates that you have research skills.

. . . improves the quality of your writing.

. . . points to the original sources and gives due credit; avoids plagiarism by correct citation.

. . . avoids inconsistency among articles within a journal.


And finally, the Devil is in the details!  Your attention to these details (now where does that comma go??) demonstrates that the details matter!

Otherwise, if your formatting is sloppy, why should I believe your research conclusions??


Or, why should you be trusted in larger matters if you overlook those details?


Have you ever heard the story about Van Halen and brown M&Ms?




As part of the contract from Van Halen's world tour in 1982, the band specified that M&Ms were to be provided backstage, but there should absolutely be no brown ones




Some thought that this was just an example of entitled rock stars demanding unreasonable accommodations.


But here is where the details come in.


They were bringing to each event-site truckloads of equipment for a huge production and had sent very detailed technical specifications, weight limit requirements, door clearances, etc. in their contracts.

If the technical specifications in the contract was not been followed carefully, there would be problems, malfunctions, delays, and even dangerous situations.


How would they know if the contract had been carefully read and details followed to the letter??


First, they went backstage to see if there was a bowl of M&Ms


and then checked to see if there were any brown ones.


If there were no M&Ms or if there were brown ones in the bowl, they knew the contract had not been carefully read.


Pretty clever for entitled rock stars who know that details matter!!




OK, back to APA details


Here are some resources to use in combination with your APA Style Manual:


Sample paper written in APA 7 format (Word doc)

Sample paper written in APA 7 format with explanations (pdf)

Online help







Some general things to remember about APA Style:


Use numerals for numbers 10 and above.

Use numerals for numbers preceding units of measurement (15 mg, 7 cm).

Do not begin a sentence with a numeral - spell it out or revise your sentence.

Use numerals for numbers representing mathematical or statistical functions, percentages, ratios, and percentiles (divided by 2, 11%, a ratio of 22:1, the 10th percentile).
Write out page numbers in full, such as pp. 186-197 (NOT pp. 186-97)
Use commas to separate groups of three digits, except for page numbers.
Use numerals for centuries (18th century, 21st century)
Use numerals for time (3 months, 2 weeks) and age (7-year-old, aged 40 years); Grade 8 (but eighth grade)
Use words to express approximations of days, months, and years (I started working out about four years ago).
Do not use an apostrophe when adding an s to a number (1990s)
Use numbers to identify measures (ms. 12-15 or measures 12-15, but be consistent)
Capitalization and punctuation

Not all words are capitalized in the title of a reference.  See p. 101 in your APA manual.  Students miss this one a lot!

Use 1 space after a period at the end of a sentence, and one space after colons (:) and semi-colons (;) in the body of a paper.

Use one space after a period in a reference.
Commas and periods go inside quotation marks.
No quotation marks on block quotes.
Use serial commas ( . . . trombones, trumpets, and euphoniums . . .) Yes, even the one before the and!
Use a semicolon only in 3 ways: 1) as a "soft period" connecting 2 closely related independent clauses, 2) in a list to separate items that contain commas within the items, and 3) with a transitional phrase (Ex: . . . ; however, . . .)
No contractions unless contained in a direct quotation. [it's, don't, I'm]
Use quotation marks to introduce a word or phrase used as an ironic comment, as slang, or an invented or coined expression (only the first time used) or when referring to a word as a word (Ex: The word "love" is overused.)




Use past tense when referring to an occurrence at a specific, definite time in the past [Smith and Jones (2008) noted . . . ]

Use present perfect tense to refer to an occurrence that did not occur at a specific time or for an action beginning in the past and continuing to the present [Researchers (Smith, 2008; Jones, 2007) have drawn conclusions . . .]

When presenting results (specific variables manipulated or outcomes measured), use past tense: [In three interviews, participants mentioned . . .]
When discussing results and presenting conclusions with continuing applicability, use present tense [The results indicate an underlying theme . . .]


Absolutely everything is double spaced (no extra space after paragraphs, no single spacing in block quotes; even the bibliography is double spaced). 


Set your Word page formatting to double space everything with no extra spaces.

Google the instructions to set this global default in Word or your word processing program.






Not specific to APA formatting, but some help with musical titles and terms

Musical Titles

Generic titles are capitalized, but not italicized.  Sonata in E Minor, op. 90

Other titles are capitalized and italicized (if it is a title given by the composer, not assigned later).  Moonlight Sonata

the Eroica Symphony by Beethoven

Schumann's Scenes from Childhood

Sections of larger works, titles of songs, and other short compositions are in quotation marks.  "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" from Messiah

Terms for genres are not capitalized unless part of a specific title.  sonata, concerto, symphony

Other examples:  Andante from Mozart's Symphony in G Minor

Kyrie from Beethoven's Missa Solemnis

"On a Rainy Night" from Beckwith's Lyrics of the T'ang Dynasty

"Contentedness" from Schumann's Scenes from Childhood

"Air with Variations" (The Harmonious Blacksmith) from Handel's Suite no. 5 in E Major


Musical Terms


Use hyphens for adjectives, not nouns:  twentieth century (twentieth-century music); quarter note (quarter-note passage); eighth note (eighth-note triplet), etc.


Italicize foreign terms, unless they are commonly used in English:  tempi, celli, opera comique (tempo, cello, symphony)


Instruments are not capitalized:  trumpet, violin

Musical styles are not capitalized;  baroque, jazz, neoclassicism

Stylistic eras should be capitalized:  Baroque era, Swing era, Classical style


middle C, E, G-natural, A-flat, F-sharp

the keys of F# minor and Eb major

the triad D-F#-A






Format for Five Levels of Heading in APA Format


Level of headingFormat

Centered, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.

2Flush Left, Boldface, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.

3 Flush Left, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading

     Text begins as a new paragraph.

4     Indented, Boldface Title Case Heading Ending with a Period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.
5     Indented, Boldface Italic, Title Case Heading Ending with a Period. Paragraph text continues on the same line as the same paragraph.


Sample Heading Levels

Chapter 1
Heading Levels Normally Used in a Thesis or Paper
[Level 1]

              Begin the first chapter with one to three paragraphs that set up the thesis and explains what it is about.  Subsequent chapters should begin with a paragraph or two that explains the main focus of that chapter and sets up the major sections in it.  The introductory section of a paper does not require a heading.  Note there is no extra space between headings or paragraphs.

Major Section Headings [Level 1]

            A section consists of paragraphs and possibly subsections.  Usually an introductory paragraph is used to set up the main themes in the section before the first subsection heading.  If short, there may be no subsection headings.  Generally avoid stacking two headings without intervening text.

Subsection Headings [Level 2]
            Subsections typically contain much of the basic data in a paper. Occasionally they also contain secondary order subsections.
Secondary Order Subsection Headings. [Level 3]

            Secondary subsections contain sub themes within a subsection.



Don't forget the Running head!

The running head should look like this on top of every page of your paper:

SHORTENED TITLE OF YOUR PAPER [of course a shortened version of YOUR title :-); notice that this shortened title is in all caps] and the page number should always be on the same line as the running head and right-justified!!

Note:  Your shortened title should be the most important words of your title so that a reader can still recognize the content from the running head.  Don't make it so short that your reader has to search for the full title to get the gist of it.

Be sure your running head is the same font as the rest of your paper.  Although APA guidelines allow several different fonts, in your courses with me, please use Times New Roman throughout.

Note: The 7th edition of the APA manual says that student papers do not require a running head. Please ignore that and use one! You are a scholar!


Sample In-text Citation

According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time" (p. 199).


Sample Article Reference

Basic format:

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. http://dx.doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy


Scruton, R. (1996). The eclipse of listening. The New Criterion, 15(3), 5-13.


Sample Book Reference

Basic format:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.


Calfee, R. C., & Valencia, R. R. (1991). APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publication. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson