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APA Style: Writing & Citation

This Research Guide has been created to help students use APA style in their writing.

Active and Passive Voice

APA recommends that authors use the active voice rather than the passive.  However, the passive voice is still allowed in writing in APA style.  Most papers are composed of sentences that use both the active and passive voice.  APA provides a guideline on when to apply the active or the passive voice. (see page 118 Section 4:13 in the APA 7th edition manual)

1. Use the active voice in the following situations: 

  • To describe your own actions.  Use "I" when referring to yourself or "we" when you are part of a group.
  • To recognize the participants in a study.  It establishes how research subjects completed the actions.

In active voice, the subject is presented first followed by the verb.  The active voice focuses on the performer of the action. 

Examples of Active Voice:

The students completed the survey.

The cat ate the mouse.

I collected all the samples from the river.

2. Use the passive voice in the following situations:

  • .Passive voice is reccommend for expository writing. Expository writing is used to give information on a particular topic.  Passive voice helps to focus on the recipient of an action. 

Examples of Passive Voice:  

The surveys were completed by the students.

The experiments were carried out by the graduate students.

The placebo was given to the patients.


Past and Present Tense

Use Past Tense to discuss events that have already taken place. (see page 117-118, Section 4.12 in the APA 7th edition manual)

Correct - Each cage was fitted with an exercise wheel and a mirror.

Incorrect - Each cage is fitted with an exercise wheel and a mirror.

Present Tense verbs should be used when discussing ongoing research, implications of a study, or to make generalizations.

Correct - Our findings indicate that this method is successful.

Incorrect - Our findings Indicated that this method is successful.



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