from the Student Writing Guide
This list is taken verbatim from Fama and Carson (2001) and is available to students in their student writ-
ing guide and from your tutorial website.
The primary purpose of APA style is to report information and findings in the field of psychology. Its
goal is a clear, concise, and orderly flow of ideas presented in a scholarly and objective manner.
Appropriate citation of the work of others is also paramount. The following do's and don'ts of writing
are based on mistakes (both APA style errors and scholarly writing errors) commonly made by begin-
ning writers in psychology. Many of the points raised earlier have been boiled down and summarized
here, as well as more detailed points that bear specifically on APA rules. Do check your paper against
this list before turning it in!
DON'T make your thesis a guessing game! Your reader should not have to guess at the main point
of the paper.
DO formulate a restricted and concise thesis. Make your thesis very clear and narrow enough in
scope that you can thoroughly address it in your paper. State the thesis early in the paper (first
or second paragraph). Then do not wander away from the thesis.
Example: (thesis of the paper is italicized)
"Nightmares have been blamed for everything from wars to divorces. These disturbing and
vivid dreams have been looked upon as omens of doom by some cultures. It has even been
suggested that the Christian description of "Hell" is founded upon the relatively common
nightmare experience of being roasted alive... but what exactly is a nightmare? This paper
will review evidence suggesting that both physiological and psychological elements combine
to create these powerful and awe-evoking experiences."
DON'T expect your reader to automatically understand the importance of your thesis.
DO present a motive for your thesis early in the paper. Why is your thesis important? What larg-
er question or problem will your thesis, when properly supported,make strides toward answer-
ing? Give your reader a reason for wanting to read your paper.
Example (note how this introductory paragraph, taken from an actual student essay, immediately suggests
the importance of the essay topic.):
"Can color influence a person's emotions or behaviors? It is by no means a trivial question.
If colors can be used to alter moods or behaviors, the applications would be plentiful.
Advertisers could use color to enhance their product's desirability. Employers could use
color to enhance their worker's productivity. Even school designers could use color to
improve student performance. Although a large body of research has addressed the ques-
tion of whether color affects emotions and performance, the results of this research appear
rather contradictory and inconclusive. A more robust definition of color, however, including
brightness and saturation in addition to hue, can be used to avoid the confusion of classic
color experiments. Using such a definition, this paper will suggest that color does in fact
A TF's GUIDE TO TEACHING WRITING FOR PSYCHOLOGY