APA, Meet Google: Graduate students’ approaches to learning citation style

Nancy Van Note Chism, Shrinika Weerakoon


Inspired by Perkins’ Theories of Difficulty concept, this exploratory study examined the learning patterns of graduate students as they grappled with using the style sheet of the American Psychological Association (APA). The researchers employed task performance analysis of three APA formatting tasks, interviews, and observation during a “think aloud” task to gather information on students’ misconceptions and successes. The study was able to document in detail how a group of Internet-savvy students approach the use of a style sheet. Learning APA style was found to be a matter both of overcoming conceptual blocks and personal style preferences. Once understanding of genre and conventions that may be inconsistent with prior experience and with each other are attained, motivation, patience, persistence, and attention to detail are also needed to achieve high levels of performance.


citation error; skill learning; APA style; graduate students

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ISSN 1527-9316