Formatting a College Essay — APA Style
LESSON You will likely be asked to write numerous essays A short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. over the course of your academic career. While the content The text in a writing that includes facts, thoughts, and ideas. The information that forms the body of the work. of your work is significant, it is also essential that you develop strong and accurate formatting The way in which content is arranged, usually following a set of rules. In writing, outlines and essays often follow a format specified by their purpose or where they are published. skills. Formatting an essay correctly is not only good authorship but is also important to instructors who often have to read hundreds of essays over the course of a semester. Your instructors will likely provide you with essay guidelines indicating whether you should use MLA A grammar and reference guide used mainly by students and scholars writing about the humanities (languages and literature). or APA A set of guidelines for citing sources used in literary and academic writing. APA style is most commonly used in the social sciences. style to format your paper. If you are uncertain as to your instructor's expectations, be sure to ask. Instructors appreciate students taking extra measures needed to correctly format essays. In this lesson, you will learn how to correctly format a college essay using APA style. Note: This foundation lesson is not meant to include or cover all of the rules and guidelines for properly formatting an essay. Be sure to refer to the APA style guide to ensure that you follow all of the formatting rules.
Part of formatting an essay is properly formatting in-text citations Information about a source, such as the author, date, and page number, in an essay or research paper that helps readers find the source in the works cited or references page. There are different rules for how to use in-text citations depending on the context of the citation and the style of formatting you are using. and your list of sources A person, book, article, or other thing that supplies information. . APA refers to the list of sources as a reference list An alphabetized list of publication information about the sources used in an APA-formatted essay or research paper. . Keep in mind that in-text citations and the reference list work together. Without one, you cannot have the other. The in-text citations lead readers to the listing of complete source information in the reference list.
Formatting an Essay in APA Style
Headers and page numbers
In APA style, the header Information that appears at the very top of a page and may appear on subsequent pages of a work. appears on each page. In student papers, it includes only a page number, placed flush with the right-hand margin. (Examples will follow in the next section.)
APA style requires the use of a cover page A page that comes before an essay or article and contains basic information about the work, including its title and author. The format of a cover page (also called the title page) will vary depending on the style guide in use. . The cover page should include the title of your essay, your full name, the course name and number, the name of the instructor, and the the date, all double-spaced and centered on the page. It should also include your header, as described above. (Some colleges and/or classes require additional or different information on the cover page; again, if you are unsure, be sure to visit your writing center or ask your instructor.)
APA Cover Page
Below is an example of an APA cover page:
Below is an example of the first page of content in an APA paper:
Note the title, "College to Career," is in bold font.
Margins, font, and spacing
APA has specific requirements with respect to margins, font A set of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks that are the same style. Examples: Times New Roman and Arial are fonts. , and line spacing The vertical distance between lines of text on a page. The most common types of spacing are single and double. . Set one-inch margins on all sides. Use a consistent and accessible font that is legible and includes commonly used special characters. If you are ever in doubt as to which font to use, ask your instructor. Whichever font you choose, remain consistent throughout your essay. Your essay should always be double-spaced throughout. Indent the first line of paragraphs one half-inch from the margin. Use only one space after all end punctuation The punctuation at the end of a sentence, which can be a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. The end punctuation helps define the tone and meaning of a sentence. Notice the difference in tone in these examples: Someone ate my last cookie! (I'm really mad about that.) Someone ate my last cookie. (Oh well, I wasn't hungry anyway.) Someone ate my last cookie? (I'm not sure I even had another cookie.) .
APA Margins, Font, and Spacing
Look online to see samples of a properly formatted APA essay.
Punctuating and Formatting In-text Citations
Here are the guidelines for using in-text citations when using APA style.
- For every in-text reference, provide the author's name (or the work's title if there is no author) and the date of publication.
- In cases where a particular part of a source is cited, include the author's last name, the date of publication, and the location (page number, chapter number or name, time stamp, etc.).
Evan's work has been characterized as "masterful, but distinctly odd" (Thomas, 2011, p. 45).
"(Thomas, 2011, p. 45)" is the in-text citation with the author, year of publication, and page number.
- If the author's name is mentioned in the attributive phrase A short introduction to source material that identifies the author and often the title of a work that will be quoted or discussed in an essay or research paper. , the year of publication should follow the author's name in parentheses. In this case, only the page number appears in the parenthetical in-text citation.
Thomas (2011) characterizes Evan's work as "masterful, but distinctly odd" (p. 45).
"Thomas...characterizes" is the attributive phrase with the author's name. "(2011)" is the year of publication. "(p. 45)" is the page number.
- There are occasions when all pertinent information is included in the attributive phrase. In these cases, a parenthetical citation is not used.
On page 45, Thomas (2011) describes Evan's work as "masterful, but distinctly odd."
"On page 45, Thomas (2011) describes" is the attributive phrase with the author's name, page number, and year of publication. An in-text citation is not needed in this case.
There will be times when all the information for a citation is not available--for example, websites do not always list dates and usually do not include page numbers, sources are sometimes published without authors, and so on. If you cannot obtain all the required information on a source, provide as much information as you can in order to allow readers to find your source.
Here is an example of how to cite a web source without page numbers. In this example, the time stamp from a news video is used to locate the quotation:
According to a recent study, "more than seventy-five percent of payday loans are to people taking out new loans to cover the original one" (CNN, 2014, 2:15-2:20).
"According to a recent study" is the attributive phrase with the year of publication. "(CNN, 2014, 2:15-2:20)" is the source with the time stamp from the news video when the quote occurs.
Here are some more specific requirements with respect to the punctuation Marks such as such as a comma (,), period (.), question mark (?), and exclamation mark (!), among others, that help break a writing into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Different types of punctuation marks give the reader different impressions of the writer’s purpose in that sentence. and format of APA in-text citations:
- The in-text citation goes inside the end punctuation. Remember that the in-text citation is part of the sentence in which the source material Information that is quoted or paraphrased from outside works, such as journal articles, online documents, and books. is used, so it must be included in the sentence by placing the period after the parentheses.
- When citing a quotation An exact copy of the words from a speech or text. These words are placed inside quotation marks to show that they are a perfect repeat of the original. , both the in-text citation and end punctuation go outside the closing quotation marks A set of single or double inverted commas (' ' or " ") that are placed around a word or passage to mark the beginning and end of a direct quotation or a title. . If the quoted material includes an ending period, place it after the in-text citation. This is one of the few instances in which end punctuation goes outside the quotation marks.
- Indent, by 0.5 inches, entire quotations that exceed forty words (however, do not indent the attributive phrase).
- In block quotations A copy of a long section of a text or speech, set off from the rest of a text. Block quotations, like direct quotations, are exact repeats of wording, but because of their length they are indented or printed in a different font rather than placed inside quotation marks. , the in-text citation goes outside the end punctuation.
APA style requires a list of sources at the end of the work. Here are the guidelines for formatting a reference list.
- The reference list should be double-spaced, and in the same font as the rest of the essay. Do not use bold font, do not underline any words, and do not resize the font in any way.
- The reference list should always begin a new page. The title—"References"—should be centered and bold, but not underlined or enclosed in quotes. (Note: if there is only one source, the list should be titled "Reference.")
- Individual citations must be arranged alphabetically by author's last name. If you have more than one article or work from the same author, list the entries chronologically, from the oldest to the most recent.
- Each full citation should have a hanging indent, which means that the first line should be on the left margin and all following lines indented by .5 inches.
- Author(s) (listed by last name then initials)
- Year of publication
- Title of work (chapter, article, web page, etc.)
- Title of larger work, if applicable (book, newspaper, journal, magazine, website, etc.) in italics
- Page numbers, when applicable
- Publisher's name, when applicable
- For online sources, include either the "doi" (direct object identifier), if included in the source's bibliographic information, or the URL.
Note the title is "References" and is in bold face font. The citations are listed in alphabetical order, and each citation has a hanging indent.
You will encounter various situations over the course of your academic career in which you will be required to provide work with properly cited references. For example, imagine that your psychology instructor assigns an essay requiring evidentiary sources Specific media, such as journal articles, newspapers, and research studies that provide the support for claims or viewpoints expressed in an essay and help convince readers that an argument has merit. Evidentiary sources may provide facts and statistics, expert opinions, or anecdotal evidence. . This will require you to research and compile a list of citations for your sources. As you are writing, you will incorporate in-text citations into your essay. Another scenario in which you will need to provide in-text citations and a reference list is when you are asked to write an essay to support your findings in a science lab. While this essay should be based upon your own experiential evidence in the lab, you will need to do research to provide additional support for your findings.
Any time you use the ideas A thought, opinion, or impression. , arguments A set of statements or reasons making a case for or against something. , theories In science, a well tested and widely accepted explanation for a phenomenon. Theories incorporate facts, observations, experiments, laws, and careful reasoning. In more general usage, theory may merely mean an unproven idea, speculation, or guesswork. , or words of another writer, you must provide correct and properly formatted citations. Be sure to check with your instructors regarding what style they prefer for formatting any essay you are assigned.
Exercise 1: APA In-text Citations
This section provides five examples demonstrating incorrect punctuation and format for in-text citations in APA style. As you read, notice the errors and how they should be corrected.
- Marciano (2007) challenges fellow educators to present to students "the other side of history" that "rarely makes it into schools, textbooks, and mass media" (Marciano, 2007).
This sentence contains one error. Since the author's name and the year of publication are given in the attributive phrase, and a particular passage is quoted, the in-text citation should include the page number rather than the author's name and year.
Correction: Marciano (2007) challenges fellow educators to present to students "the other side of history" that "rarely makes it into schools, textbooks, and mass media" (p. 598).
- In The Future Is Up to Us, Peery claims that the U.S. is "by far the most ideological nation on earth" (2002, pg. 235).
This sentence contains three errors. First, the name of the book should appear in italics. Second, the year of publication should appear in parentheses after the author's name when the author's name appears in the attributive phrase. Third, the correct APA page number abbreviation is "p." not "pg."
Correction: In The Future Is Up to Us , Peery (2002) claims that the U.S. is "by far the most ideological nation on earth" (p. 235).
- Arguably, fascist propaganda became more prevalent in U.S. society during the Cold War: "As we know, fascist agitation has by now come to be a profession, as it were, a livelihood. It had plenty of time to test the effectiveness of its various appeals and, through what might be called natural selection, only the most catchy ones have survived" (Adorno, 1951, p. 148).
This sentence contains two errors. Quotations over forty words should be formatted as block quotations, with the entire quotation being indented by one-half inch and without using quotation marks. Second, if the quotation is formatted as a block quotation, the period is placed before the parenthetical citation.
Correction: Arguably, fascist propaganda became more prevalent in U.S. society during the Cold War:
- During the early years of ecology as a field of study, scientists looked to communities of organisms to help them explain human behavior (Mitman; The State of Nature 2003; 352).
This sentence contains three errors. An APA in-text citation does not require the title of the source. Also, commas are used in in-text citations rather than semicolons, and "p." should precede the page number.
Correction: During the early years of ecology as a field of study, scientists looked to communities of organisms to help them explain human behavior (Mitman, 2003, p. 352).
- In the 1950s, anti-union campaigns developed as a reaction to strong union participation in the 1930s and 1940s (Phillips & Fein).
This in-text citation is missing at least one key piece of information: the year of publication. If the citation refers to a complete work, as opposed to a particular page in the work, it would be correct to include only the author(s) and year of publication. If it refers to a particular page, it should include the page number (if available, and preceded by "p."), as well.
Correction: In the 1950s, anti-union campaigns developed as a reaction to strong union participation in the 1930s and 1940s (Phillips & Fein, 2013, p. 503).
Exercise 1: APA In-text Citations
This section provides five examples of in-text citations in APA style. Now it's your turn to determine if the examples have been properly punctuated and formatted. Identify the errors, if any, and correct the in-text citation accordingly.
- The Sabhnanis, Hindu Sindhi immigrants from India, own a perfumery that they run out of their home. They have been incarcerated for their abuses of Samirah and Enung (Konigsberg; page 320; 2008).
This in-text citation contains three errors. The punctuation mark used after "Konigsberg" should be a comma, not a semicolon; the page number should appear after the year of publication, not before it, and be preceded by "p." not "page."
Correction: The Sabhnanis, Hindu Sindhi immigrants from India, own a perfumery that they run out of their home. They have been incarcerated for their abuses of Samirah and Enung (Konigsberg, 2008, p. 320).
- While slaves in the early Americas generally were limited to those from Africa, today the overwhelming majority of the 12.3 million ("U.N. and Partners") migrant domestic workers forced into labor are women and girls from a variety of second- and third-world countries.
This citation includes three errors. The citation is in the wrong place. The United Nations is the author, not the title of the work and should not be in quotation marks. Also, the writer left out the year of publication. (Because the citation refers to a complete study, rather than a quote or paraphrase, no specific page number is required.)
Correction: While slaves in the early Americas generally were limited to those from Africa, today the overwhelming majority of the 12.3 million migrant domestic workers forced into labor are women and girls from a variety of second- and third-world countries (United Nations, 2007).
- According to two online sources, the Involuntary Domestic Servitude Report from the U.S. Department of State (2010), as well as the U.S. Department of State's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report , domestic workers typically work without contracts or legal protection.
The year of publication is included in the attributive phrase introducing the first work, and is part of the title of the second source. Page numbers aren't required when summarizing a source.
No correction necessary.
- With difficulty, she found help to leave this terrible situation and start her life over (Montouvalou 35).
This citation is not complete. Assuming it refers to a particular page in the source, it must contain the author's name, the year of publication, and the page number, all separated by commas. The page number should be indicated by the abbreviation "p."
Correction: With difficulty, she found help to leave this terrible situation and start her life over (Montouvalou, 2013, p. 35).
- Smith and Donnerstein argue that "young children are less able to distinguish fantasy from reality, or to draw appropriate inferences from a violent story line, than are older children and adults." ("Harmful effects of exposure to media violence").
This citation contains four errors. The year of publication should follow the authors' names in the sentence. The name of the article in parentheses is not necessary because the reader will learn what article by Smith and Donnerstein is referenced by consulting the reference list. Since the reference is a quotation, the page number should be included. Finally, the period should not appear at the end of the quote, but only after the closing parenthesis.
Correction: Smith and Donnerstein (2008) argue that "young children are less able to distinguish fantasy from reality, or to draw appropriate inferences from a violent story line, than are older children and adults" (p. 286).
It is important to correctly format my essays because instructors expect this of their students. Plus, if I turn in properly formatted essays, my instructors will know that I have made an effort to follow their guidelines, so it will probably positively impact my grade and reflect well on the quality of my work.
Neither the in-text citation information nor the reference list provide enough information regarding your sources by themselves. In-text citations and the reference list work together to allow you to write a smooth and cohesive essay (rather than one that is broken up by full citations), provide the details required by APA style, and enable your readers to locate any of your sources.
This lesson follows the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual , published in 2019. Check the APA Publication Manual for updates.
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- Guide on APA Essay Formatting
- Easy Guide to APA Essay Format
What Is the APA Essay Format?
General apa guidelines, major apa paper sections, apa essays checklist for college students..
Do you need the best advice on how to write an essay in APA format? Have no idea on how to make a header? In this article, you will find everything you need to know about APA essay format to write successful college-level papers and get good marks.
Keep reading this easy guide to find answers to your questions and learn about APA key elements and the requirements of the latest APA style version. If you are looking for information about other citation styles like MLA or Chicago, please check more articles on our blog .
Are you wondering what is the APA essay format and how it differs from other academic citation styles? APA is the official publication style of the American Psychological Association which has created a set of formatting guidelines and citation rules. Let's view its purpose.
These rules are important to ensure that professional papers, scholarly writings, and student works meet a professional standard of academic integrity. APA is used in social sciences, psychology, sociology, education. It determines how to structure the academic content and how to present elements of your work that you have written using various effective strategies . How to create the best academic content in APA style ? There are two aspects you should focus on:
- Formatted visual text elements on pages of your study such as headings, titles, charts, graphs, page numbers, and more to organize your papers and make them readable.
- In-text citations to give credit to your sources and avoid plagiarism when you are summarizing, quoting, and paraphrasing.
Let's have a look at the basic tips of the APA essay format you should follow. They will give you a general idea of how to present your APA essay . We also suggest checking specific guidelines given by your instructor because they may have some requirements not included in the official APA Publication Manual. To get a better idea and good examples of how APA papers should look like, you can buy a good paper sample. Follow the rules below:
- Type your piece of writing on a sheet of paper with a standard size of 8.5” x 11”.
- Your document should be double-spaced with 1-inch margins.
- APA Manual recommends using a well-readable font like Times New Roman 12 pt.
- Indent the first word in all your paragraphs.
- At the top of all pages, you have to include a running head which should be no more than 50 characters with spaces in length. It’s a shortened version of your paper’s title. Note that on the Title Page, your header should contain the term “Running head” and after the colon – the “TITLE OF YOUR PROJECT” in capital letters. The running head has to be left-justified.
The structure of your research essay format APA should consist of the next parts:
Please be informed that APA 7 gives various guides for the title page of professional documents intended for publication and student manuscripts for college or high school.
The Title Page contains four pieces of information: the running head, the title of your work, the name of the author, and the institutional affiliation. A student document also contains the number of the course, the name of the instructor, and the deadline for this task. The page header should be included flush left and the page number flush right at the page top.
The word "title" should be typed centered in the upper half of your page in upper and lowercase. The title itself must be typed in boldface and centered in the upper half of your page, may take up two lines, and have no more than 12 words. Don’t include any abbreviations. It should inform readers what your APA article is about. You should make it concise and clear and don’t use any words that have no purpose. Please remember you should double-space all the text on this page.
Under the title, you have to write the name of the author, including the first, middle, and last name. Don't use any titles like Dr. or any degrees like Ph.D. here.
Beneath, you should mention the institutional affiliation to indicate the author's location. Your readers will understand where your research was conducted.
As for a professional paper, it must have the author note written after the institutional affiliation. It should be placed in the bottom half of the page and separated into several parts. The first part must include the name of the author, and both the symbol and URL for the ORCID iD. Omit authors who don't have an ORCID iD. The second part must contain any changes in affiliation or any authors' deaths. In the third part, you should place acknowledgments or disclosures. This might be an acknowledgment of finances and any other activity, registration of your work, disclosure of reports, open practices, etc. In the fourth part, you should place all the needed information for readers to contact the author.
Please remember that if you're making a student document, an author note isn't required.
The Abstract begins on the new page. It should include the page header without the words “Running head”. Center and bold the word “Abstract” on the first line. Remember you don't need any quotation marks, underlining, or italics here. On the next line, start writing a summary of the research you have made and mention the key findings and results. Don’t indent this paragraph. Please double-space it and make sure you have written no more than 250 words. The abstract must contain the next things: a research topic and questions, its participants, methods, data analysis, results, and conclusions. Here you can write any implications of your work and any future research that may be provided on your results. Remember the whole abstract should look like a single paragraph.
After your summary, you can write a list of keywords, to help other people find your APA paper in the databases. Indent to start a new paragraph and type the word ‘Keywords” in italics. Then list all the keywords, and other researchers will be able to find your work easily.
Follow the next requirements if you're writing a student paper:
- Write a page number in the right upper corner of all pages, starting from the title page. The pages of the main body should include the running head and the number.
- Write your title in the center of the page in bold font. Please do not italicize or underline it.
- Start your introduction and indent your paragraph's first line. Make sure all the paragraphs in your main body are indented. If your project is long, use headings for different sections.
The APA essay format has 5 levels of headings, and each level has specific requirements. Don’t forget to cite your sources - include the author’s name and the year of publication. If your quote is longer than 40 words, you need to make a block quotation.
If you're making a professional document, follow these guidelines:
- Write your running head (the title and a page number). Type the heading title in capital letters. Make sure the abstract is placed on the second page.
- In the introduction, you have to present a certain problem for readers. It should contain more details than in the abstract.
- Start a new section with the centered and bold subtitle Method. This part shows how your research was conducted. You have to describe the methods you have used for research.
- Start a new section with the centered and bold subtitle Results. Here you have to make a summary of your data. Feel free to place graphs and charts to display the data to your readers.
- Start a new section with the centered and bold subtitle Discussion. In this part, you need to analyze your results.
- Make conclusions and summarize how your results led to the conclusions.
- Analyze if your hypothesis was confirmed or disproved by the received results.
- Define the study limitations and write about the next steps that can improve your research in future papers.
Center the word “References” and make sure it's not italicized and not bold. List your sources alphabetically according to the last name of the author. Use a hanging indent. This section should include all the sources that you read and cited in your work.
Remember that you should make an entry for every article or other scholarly sources that you have mentioned in your document to avoid plagiarism.
All the citations in APA format consist of a parenthetical citation and the full reference. You have to follow the particular instructions for each book, webpage, article, or any other source. Of course, you may simplify your life and use an online citation generator to cite all your sources without problems. Just find a reliable APA citation generator, enter the ISBN or URL, and both in-text citation and full reference will be generated automatically.
Use this easy checklist for formatting your APA projects. Follow these steps to ensure that all APA papers you have to complete are written and organized to meet the highest standards.
- Create a Title Page for your essay or a research paper.
- Create headers and page numbers in the entire text.
- Include the title of your paper before the body paragraphs.
- Make in-text citations for your summaries, direct quotations, and any paraphrased material.
- Make the list of references and include there all in-text citations.
- Compare your completed academic paper with APA format example essay.
- Proofread your work to make sure that everything fits the required style. Fix all the mistakes if you've found them.
Use this checklist every time you prepare your document for publication or submission. It will help you stay focused.
Now you have an idea on how to organize the structure of your college project in APA essay format on different essay topics . As you see it is time-consuming and requires some practice before you will learn to control the entire process and avoid mistakes in citing sources to omitting plagiarism. Make sure that your piece of writing is flawless and deserves a high grade.
Do you think this is complicated? Then you may need to take advantage of a well-written APA format essay template on your topic that you can order on our website . Our professional writers can provide you with a perfect sample of a college work that you can use to master the complexities of English academic style and boost your writing skills.
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How to Write an Essay in APA Format
Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.
What Is APA Format?
Apa essay format basics.
- Steps to Follow
Frequently Asked Questions
If your instructor has asked you to write an APA format essay, it might at first seem like a daunting task, especially if you are accustomed to using another style such as MLA or Chicago. But you can master the rules of APA essay format, too.
An essay is one type of paper that can be written in APA format; others include lab reports, experimental reports, and case studies. Before you begin, familiarize yourself with some of the basic guidelines for writing a paper in APA format. Of course, it will also be important to follow any other formatting instructions that are part of your assignment.
How do you write an essay in APA format? The basic elements you need to include are:
- A title page
- An abstract
- An introduction, main body, and conclusion
- A reference section
- Proper APA formatting with regard to margins, layout, spacing, titles, and indentations
This article discusses how to write an essay in APA format, including the basic steps you should follow and tips for how to get started.
Whether you’re taking an introductory or graduate-level psychology class, chances are strong that you will have to write at least one paper during the course of the semester. In almost every case, you will need to write your paper in APA format, the official publication style of the American Psychological Association . It is also used for academic journals.
Such rules are generally the same whether you are writing a high school essay, college essay, or professional essay for publication.
APA format is used in a range of disciplines including psychology , education, and other social sciences. The format dictates presentation elements of your paper including spacing, margins, and how the content is structured.
Most instructors and publication editors have strict guidelines when it comes to how your format your writing. Not only does adhering to APA format allow readers to know what to expect from your paper, but it also means that your work will not lose critical points over minor formatting errors.
While the formatting requirements for your paper might vary depending on your instructor's directions, writing APA essay format means you will most likely need to include a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and reference sections.
Your APA format essay should have a title page . This title page should include the title of your paper, your name, and your school affiliation. In some instances, your teacher might require additional information such as the course title, instructor name, and the date.
- The title of your paper should be concise and clearly describe what your paper is about.
- Your title can extend to two lines, but it should be no longer than 12 words.
An abstract is a brief summary of your paper that immediately follows the title page. It is not required for student papers, according to APA style. However, your instructor may request one.
If you include an abstract , it should be no more than 100 to 200 words, although this may vary depending upon the instructor requirements.
Your essay should also include a reference list with all of the sources that were cited in your essay,
- The reference section is located at the end of your paper.
- References should be listed alphabetically by the last name of the author.
- References should be double-spaced.
- Any source that is cited in your paper should be included in your reference section.
When writing in APA essay format, the text will include the actual essay itself: The introduction, body, and conclusion.
- There should be uniform margins of at least one inch at the top, bottom, left, and right sides of your essay.
- The text should be in Times New Roman size 12 font or another serif typeface that is easily readable.
- Your paper should be double-spaced.
- Every page should include a page number in the top right corner.
- The first word of each paragraph in your paper should be indented one-half inch.
For professional papers (usually not student papers), every page of the essay also includes a running head at the top left. The running head is a shortened form of the title, often the first few words, and should be no more than 50 characters (including spaces).
Steps to a Successful APA Format Essay
In addition to ensuring that you cite your sources properly and present information according to the rules of APA style, there are a number of things you can do to make the writing process a little bit easier.
Choose a Topic
Start by choosing a good topic to write about. Ideally, you want to select a subject that is specific enough to let you fully research and explore the topic, but not so specific that you have a hard time finding sources of information.
If you choose something too specific, you may find yourself with not enough to write about. If you choose something too general, you might find yourself overwhelmed with information.
Research Your Topic
Start doing research as early as possible. Begin by looking at some basic books and articles on your topic to help develop it further. What is the question you are going to answer with your essay? What approach will you take to the topic?
Once you are more familiar with the subject, create a preliminary source list of potential books, articles, essays, and studies that you may end up using in your essay.
Remember, any source used in your essay must be included in your reference section. Conversely, any source listed in your references must be cited somewhere in the body of your paper.
Write Your Rough Draft
With research in hand, you are ready to begin. Some people like to create an outline to organize their argument prior to drafting. You may want to start with a very rough outline, and then add details.
Once you have a detailed outline, the next step is to translate it from notes to complete sentences and paragraphs. Remember, this is a first draft. It doesn't have to be perfect.
As you write your paper in APA essay format, be sure to keep careful track of the sources that you cite.
How do you start an APA paper? Your paper should begin with an introduction that includes a thesis statement that presents your main ideas, points, or arguments. Your introduction should start on the third page of your paper (after the title page and abstract). The title of your paper should be centered, bolded, and typed in title case at the top of the page.
Review and Revise
After you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, it's time to revise, review, and prepare your final draft. In addition to making sure that your writing is cohesive and supported by your sources, you should also check carefully for typos, grammar errors, and possible formatting mistakes.
When citing information or quotations taken from an interview, APA format requires that you cite the source, how the information was collected, and the date of the interview. They should not be included in the reference section, however, because they are not something that can be located by a reader in any published source or searchable database.
Instead, the information should be cited parenthetically in the main body of the text. For example: “There was an increase in the number of college students who screened positive for depression/anxiety” (R. Heathfield, personal communication, May 9, 2021).
If the essay is in a chapter of a book, edited collection, or anthology, APA format states that you should cite the last name, first name, title of essay, title of collection, publisher, year, and page range. For example: Smith, John, "The Light House," A Book of Poems , editing by Peter Roberts, Allworth Press, 2005, pp. 20-25.
According to APA format, a two-part essay is formatted the same as an essay, however, you'll need to create two title pages.
If you're including a short direct quote in your APA-format essay, you will need to cite the author, year of publication, and page number (p.) or page number span (pp.). Quotations longer than 40 words should omit the quotation marks and be put in the text using block quotation formatting, on its own line and indented 1/2 inch from the left margin.
The cover page or "title page" in APA essay format should always include the title of your paper, your name, and school affiliation as well as the course title, instructor name, and date, if requested by your teacher.
Nagda S. How to write a scientific abstract. J Indian Prosthodont Soc. 2013;13(3):382-383. doi:10.1007/s13191-013-0299-x
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2019.
By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."
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APA 7th Edition Citation Guide
Order of elements: apa student essays, title page and header, table of contents, body and section headings, references page, video tutorial: formatting essays.
- Paraphrase and Summary
- Bibliographic Citations
- Sources with Multiple Authors
- Sources with No Author, Date, Title or Page Numbers
- Journal Articles
- Magazine and Newspaper Articles
- Reference Articles, Encyclopedia and Dictionary Entries
- Books and eBooks
- Conference Proceedings and Presentations
- Dissertations and Theses
- Films, Video and Audio
- Government Documents, Non-Profit and Corporate Reports
- Images and Advertisements
- Personal Communications (E-mails, Interviews, and etc.)
- Religious Texts
- Social Media
- Statutes, Legal Documents and the Constitution
- Avoiding Plagiarism
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APA formatted student essays typically contain the following elements in the order listed:
Note : Individual instructors may not require that you include all of these elements. If you are unsure of which elements to include in your essay, read your assignment's guidelines or ask your instructor.
1:20 General Formatting and Paper Set-Up
3:23 Title Page
7:11 Writing the Main Text
9:08 Section Headings
12:42 End Matter: References, Footnotes, Tables, Figures, Appendices
15:56 Closing Thoughts
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Purdue Online Writing Lab Purdue OWL® College of Liberal Arts
Welcome to the Purdue OWL
This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.
Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.
Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in APA.
You can also watch our APA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel .
General APA Guidelines
Your essay should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11"), with 1" margins on all sides. Include a page header (also known as the “ running head ”) at the top of every page. For a professional paper, this includes your paper title and the page number. For a student paper, this only includes the page number. To create a page header/running head , insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.
The 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual requires that the chosen font be accessible (i.e., legible) to all readers and that it be used consistently throughout the paper. It acknowledges that many font choices are legitimate, and it advises writers to check with their publishers, instructors, or institutions for guidance in cases of uncertainty.
While the APA Manual does not specify a single font or set of fonts for professional writing, it does recommend a few fonts that are widely available. These include sans serif fonts such as 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, and 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode as well as serif fonts such as 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Georgia, 10-point Computer Modern.
Major Paper Sections
Your essay should include four major sections: the Title Page , Abstract , Main Body , and References .
Note: APA 7 provides slightly different directions for formatting the title pages of professional papers (e.g., those intended for scholarly publication) and student papers (e.g., those turned in for credit in a high school or college course).
The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name , and the institutional affiliation . A professional paper should also include the author note . A student paper should also include the course number and name , instructor name , and assignment due date .
Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. The title should be centered and written in boldface. APA recommends that your title be focused and succinct and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.
Beneath the title, type the author's name : first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).
Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation , which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.
A professional paper should include the author note beneath the institutional affiliation, in the bottom half of the title page. This should be divided up into several paragraphs, with any paragraphs that are not relevant omitted. The first paragraph should include the author’s name, the symbol for the ORCID iD, and the URL for the ORCID iD. Any authors who do not have an ORCID iD should be omitted. The second paragraph should show any change in affiliation or any deaths of the authors. The third paragraph should include any disclosures or acknowledgements, such as study registration, open practices and data sharing, disclosure of related reports and conflicts of interest, and acknowledgement of financial support and other assistance. The fourth paragraph should include contact information for the corresponding author.
A student paper should not include an author note.
Note again that page headers/page numbers (described above for professional and student papers) also appear at the top of the title page. In other words, a professional paper's title page will include the title of the paper flush left in all capitals and the page number flush right, while a student paper will only contain the page number flush right.
Student APA title page
Title page for a student paper in APA 7 style.
Professional paper APA title page
Title page for a professional paper in APA 7 style.
Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center and bold the word “Abstract” (no italics, underlining, or quotation marks).
Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced. Your abstract should typically be no more than 250 words.
You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.
Abstracts are common in scholarly journal articles and are not typically required for student papers unless advised by an instructor. If you are unsure whether or not your work requires an abstract, consult your instructor for further guidance.
APA Abstract Page
Abstract page for a student paper in APA 7 style.
Please see our Sample APA Paper resource to see an example of an APA paper. You may also visit our Additional Resources page for more examples of APA papers.
How to Cite the Purdue OWL in APA
The page template for the new OWL site does not include contributors' names or the page's last edited date. However, select pages still include this information.
In the absence of contributor/edit date information, treat the page as a source with a group author and use the abbreviation "n.d." for "no date":
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). Title of resource. Purdue Online Writing Lab. http://Web address for OWL resource
Purdue Online Writing Lab. (n.d.). General Writing FAQs. Purdue Online Writing Lab. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/general_writing_faqs.html
The generic APA citation for OWL pages, which includes author/edit date information, is this:
Contributors' names. (Last edited date). Title of resource . Site Name. http://Web address for OWL resource
Note: This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style can be found here .
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- How to Format Essays
HOW TO FORMAT ESSAYS
Once your revisions are complete, it’s time to format your essay — or arrange the way it is presented.
The first rule to writing in College Essay format is simple: ask your professor. He or she may prefer a special format.
If they say “Use MLA” or “Use APA,” follow the instructions below.
MLA Format Essay
Title page: Usually no — check with professor Margins: 1 inch all around Font: Usually Times Roman, 11 to 12 point Heading: Yes — follow illustration below Page number: Yes — upper left hand, with last name.
Instructions on automatically setting up this information using Microsoft Word.
First, second and Works Cited page of MLA formatted essay.
MLA Format Page 1 See enlarged image (GIF)
MLA Format Page 2 See enlarged image (GIF)
MLA Format Work Cited See enlarged image (GIF)
Title page: Usually yes — check with professor Margins: 1 inch all around Font: Usually Times Roman, 11 to 12 point Heading: Yes — follow illustration below Page number: Yes — upper left hand, with last name.
Instructions on automatically setting up this information using Microsoft Word .
First, second and Works Cited page of APA formatted essay.
APA Format Page 1 See enlarged image (GIF)
APA Format Page 2 See enlarged image (GIF)
APA Format Page 3 See enlarged image (GIF)