The Importance of APA Style in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice is one of the fundamental factors of stability in the contemporary society. Criminal justice is also a science that provides professionals with thorough knowledge and, at the same time, demands consistency and logic. No science is possible without writing, and criminal justice is not an exception to this rule. Students and professionals in criminal justice must write thousands of pages to meet their grade requirements and fulfill their workplace obligations. Everything, from completing forensic scene reports to carrying out empirical research, requires thorough knowledge of the basic writing standards. Using APA style in criminal justice is important, because it brings consistency, facilitates information processing, and enables criminal justice professionals to trace the origins of the idea and give credit to its author.

The questions of standards in criminal justice writing are not new. Today, writing is an inseparable element of all criminal justice studies. According to Faigley and Hansen (1985), writing is one of the major components in the criminal justice science. Unfortunately, many professionals in this field experience difficulties with learning and applying the principles of APA formatting. Tartaro and Levy (2010) published the results of an APA assessment conducted among the faculty members of the Criminal Justice Program and discovered that they scored below average in their knowledge of APA style: less than 42% of the APA assessment questions were answered correctly. It seems that not all students in criminal justice courses realize the importance of APA style in their discipline. Another problem is that not all educators can successfully deliver the knowledge of APA formatting and style (Faigley & Hansen, 1985). Yet, succeeding in criminal justice without exceptional APA writing skills is virtually impossible, because APA is the fundamental style used across most, if not all, criminal justice studies.

One reason why using APA style is important in criminal justice is because it brings consistency and facilitates standardization across the entire field. For years, the field of criminal justice has relied on the American Psychological Association's principles of referencing and citation. Using APA style in criminal justice is important, because it fits in the accepted standards of professional writing in the field. Just a quick look at the recent reports and articles published in criminal justice journals confirms this fact. For example, in their article, Redlich, Liu, Steadman, Callahan and Robbins (2012) speak about the relevance of diversion programs for the offenders diagnosed with mental illness. The researchers use APA 6th edition in their article, as a standard approach to criminal justice writing and research. In addition, the use of APA style in criminal justice is justified by the need to standardize and speed up information processing and exchange. Criminal justice professionals do not need to learn more than one citation and referencing style to cope with their workplace obligations. With a firm grasp of APA style, they can easily manage available research and practical information. They are well-trained to deliver their findings in a comprehensive and easy-to-read format.

APA style is important in criminal justice, because it enables professionals to trace the origins of the idea and give credit to its author. Tracing external sources and evaluating their validity is important in any field, but nowhere else is the importance of this task as pronounced as it is in criminal justice. When the lives and fates of defendants and victims are at stake, criminal justice professionals need to act quickly and apply ideas effectively. APA style makes it easier to apply the new and existing ideas in ways that benefit the society and, at the same time, do not violate the rights of the person, who has created this idea. Besides, with APA style, criminal justice professionals make it easier for other researchers to trace the origins of their work. In this sense, the use of APA style makes it easier for the future generations of professionals to check the origins of various criminal justice principles and findings.

Finally, APA style emphasizes concepts and ideas, unlike MLA style that emphasizes parenthetical citations and the beauty of language.  Criminal justice is the field, which does not tolerate redundancy. Brevity, conciseness, and comprehensibility are the guiding principles of exceptional writing in the field. APA style meets the criteria of quality writing in criminal justice and enables students and professionals to deliver their findings in a brief and comprehensive format. It is the style that is used for accuracy and saves a lot of time. Most criminal justice researchers and practitioners simply want to inform the audience about the circumstances of a particular event or the conditions of carrying out their studies. APA style provides such an opportunity. Besides, unlike MLA, ASA, and other styles that are discipline-specific, the citation style of the American Psychological Association is successfully used in almost all social disciplines, including psychology. Criminal justice brings together the knowledge from numerous disciplines, and APA style guarantees consistency and understanding across these disciplines. As a result, criminal justice professionals who use APA style have better chances to expand their outlook and cope with their primary functions, by borrowing well-cited and referenced knowledge from other disciplines and fields.


Using APA style is crucial for the entire field of criminal justice. Numerous reasons justify the relevance of this style for criminal justice professionals, from standardization and consistency to the links with other sciences. Today, no criminal justice professional can be successful without possessing remarkable APA style skills. Using APA style and formatting is extremely important for the criminal justice field. More importantly, as long as criminal justice brings together the knowledge and achievements of many other disciplines, APA style will remain the most feasible element of research and practice in this field. However, given the difficulties encountered by the criminal justice faculty, college and university courses should emphasize its importance. More time should be devoted to the analysis and understanding of APA style by future criminal justice professionals and researchers. It is through the use of APA style that criminal justice professionals will be able to expand their own and their colleagues' knowledge of the discipline. 

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