Columbia School of Social Work Library

Purdue OWL – APA Formatting and Style Guide

Tips from the CSWR Editorial Board:

  • Make sure your paper has a clear thesis and that each paragraph builds upon that thesis.
  • Try and make your paper relevant to the greater social work community. What are the implications (micro, mezzo, macro)?
  • Do not internalize knowledge. While you conduct your research, you will become very familiar with the subject material. Your readers do not know as much as you do, so be cautious to provide the appropriate context and/or definitions for the topic you are addressing in your paper.
  • Embrace your own style of writing. Even if you are working on a research paper, make sure that you allow yourself to incorporate personal aspects into your writing, like your own voice, anecdotes, and understanding of the research material.
  • Simplicity is key with good writing; every word should serve a function.
  • If you’re having trouble getting started, write the introduction and conclusion last.  Start with the body of the paper.
  • Readers should be able to answer the question “so what?” after reading your paper.  In other words, your paper should answer “why is this issue important to social workers, and why do more people need to know about this?”

Recommended Books to Help Writers:

  • Green, W., & Simon, B. L. (Eds.). (2012). The Columbia guide to social work writing.  New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
    • More information at
  • Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2008). The craft of research.  Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
  • *Strunk, Jr., W., & White, E. B. (2000). The elements of style (4th ed.).  Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
  • *Zinsser, W. (2001).  On writing well (6th ed.).  New York, NY: Harper Collins.

*These texts are available for free online in PDF form.