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How to Write an APA Style Paper

Last Updated: February 14, 2024 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Noah Taxis . Noah Taxis is an English Teacher based in San Francisco, California. He has taught as a credentialed teacher for over four years: first at Mountain View High School as a 9th- and 11th-grade English Teacher, and then at UISA (Ukiah Independent Study Academy) as a Middle School Independent Study Teacher. He is now a high school English at St. Ignatius College Preparatory school in San Francisco. He recived a MA in Secondary Education and Teaching from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. He also received a MA in Comparative and World Literature from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a BA in International Literary & Visual Studies and English from Tufts University. There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 330,211 times.

The American Psychological Association's (APA) method of citation is one of the most widely used styles for writing scientific and research papers, particularly in fields like psychology, sociology, business, economics, and medicine. This style can seem intimidating, but it’s mostly a matter of dividing your paper into the right sections and following basic formatting guidelines. Give your paper a strong intro, then follow up with the methods, results, and discussion sections. Include references, an abstract, and any relevant tables or figures, and you’re good to go!

APA Style Paper Outline

how do i write an apa format paper

Formatting the Title Page and Abstract

Step 1 Set the basic layout parameters.

  • For instance, a title like “Age, Health, and Cities” is too short and vague.
  • ”Age-Based Influences on the Perception of Access to Healthcare in Cities” is more informative.
  • Center the title on the page.

Step 3 Include your name and institution below the title.

  • Age as an Influence on Perceived Access to Healthcare in Cities
  • Rohanda Jenkins
  • University of Toledo

Step 4 Make use of the page header.

  • For example, “AGE AND PERCEIVED ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE”

Step 5 Set the page number in the upper right.

Creating the Main Body

Step 1 Introduce your paper.

  • Your introduction should summarize your topic, it’s relevance to other research, and how you arrived at your hypothesis.
  • Keep things interesting. Avoid boring your readers with lists like “Schmidt concluded in 2009 that…. As Donaldson conferred in 2011…. In 2013, Pavlov then argued…”
  • Instead, write in terms of ideas: “Scholars such as Schmidt and Donaldson have proven that there is widespread variability in access to healthcare. The role of age in creating this variability has not been adequately considered. Knowledge of health care options among the elderly is an important starting point that Pavlov’s research explores, but a more comprehensive study of age-based influences is needed.”

Step 2 Label the methods section.

  • Title each subsection (“Participants,” “Materials,” “Procedures”) in bold print, and set the subsection titles all the way to the left. Begin each paragraph on the next line.
  • If it is necessary to describe the equipment you used, you can also include an “Apparatus” section instead of or in addition to the “Materials” section.
  • The goal of the methods section is to show other researches how to replicate the study, if they wanted to.

Step 3 Share your results.

  • Refer to the APA manual or your specific field for precise information on how to format statistics.
  • Make references to any supplementary materials you have in your paper (charts, images, graphs, tables, etc.). For example, you might write something like “As Figure 1 indicates…”

Step 4 Tell readers the significance of your work in the discussion section.

  • For example, your discussion might say something “Although this study indicated that teens perceive health care as being less accessible than adults over 35, additional research is needed to explore this topic among 18-35 year olds.”

Applying the Finishing Touches

Step 1 Tack on the references section.

  • List the references alphabetically, according to the first author’s last name.
  • Don’t put an extra space between each reference. Regular double spacing is all you need.
  • Use hanging indentation for the reference entries.
  • Make sure to also include APA style in-text citations if you cite a reference in the body of your essay.

Step 2 Include any tables or figures you created.

  • If you are a student, however, your instructor may ask you to incorporate tables or figures into the body of your paper. Always ask if you aren’t sure.

Step 3 Devote a separate page to the abstract.

  • Put the word “Abstract” centered in regular type on the line above the paragraph.
  • You should write the abstract after you’re finished with the paper, put position it on its own page just after the title page.

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how do i write an apa format paper

Thanks for reading our article! If you’d like to learn more about academic writing, check out our in-depth interview with Noah Taxis .

  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa6_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/title-page
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html
  • ↑ https://www.canadacollege.edu/htpcommittee/docs/GUIDELINES%20FOR%20RESEARCH%20PAPER%20S14.pdf
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/discussion-phrases-guide.pdf
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_basic_rules.html
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/tables-figures/figures
  • ↑ https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/abstract-keywords-guide.pdf

About This Article

Noah Taxis

To write an APA-style paper, use a 12-point font size, double spacing, and 1-inch margins all around. You should also include a title page with the title of your paper and your name and institution. Also, include a page header at the top of every page that gives a brief synopsis of your paper's title in under 50 characters. At the end of your paper, make a "References" page that contains all of the sources you used in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. To learn how to write and format the body of an APA-style paper, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / APA Format

APA Format for Students & Researchers

In this guide, students and researchers can learn the basics of creating a properly formatted research paper according to APA guidelines.

It includes information on how to conceptualize, outline, and format the basic structure of your paper, as well as practical tips on spelling, abbreviation, punctuation, and more. The guide concludes with a complete sample paper as well as a final checklist that writers can use to prepare their work for submission.

APA Paper Formatting Basics

  • All text should be double-spaced
  • Use one-inch margins on all sides
  • All paragraphs in the body are indented
  • Make sure that the title is centered on the page with your name and school/institution underneath
  • Use 12-point font throughout
  • All pages should be numbered in the upper right hand corner
  • The manual recommends using one space after most punctuation marks
  • A shortened version of the title (“running head”) should be placed in the upper left hand corner

Table of Contents

Here’s a quick rundown of the contents of this guide on how to do APA format.

Information related to writing and organizing your paper:

  • Paper and essay categories

General paper length

  • Margin sizes
  • Title pages
  • Running Heads
  • APA Outline
  • APA Abstract
  • The body of papers
  • APA headings and subheadings
  • Use of graphics (tables and figures)

Writing style tips:

Proper tone.

  • Reducing bias and labels
  • Abbreviation do’s and don’ts
  • Punctuation
  • Number rules

Citing Your Sources:

  • Citing Sources
  • In-text Citations
  • Reference Page

Proofing Your Paper:

  • Final checklist
  • Submitting your project

APA Information:

  • What is APA
  • APA 7 Updates

What you won’t find in this guide: This guide provides information related to the formatting of your paper, as in guidelines related to spacing, margins, word choice, etc. While it provides a general overview of APA references, it does not provide instructions for how to cite in APA format.

For step-by-step instructions for citing books, journals, how to cite a website in APA format, information on an APA format bibliography, and more, refer to these other EasyBib guides:

  • APA citation (general reference guide)
  • APA In-text citation
  • APA article citation
  • APA book citation
  • APA citation website

Or, you can use our automatic generator. Our APA formatter helps to build your references for you. Yep, you read that correctly.

Writing and Organizing Your APA Paper in an Effective Way

This section of our guide focuses on proper paper length, how to format headings, spacing, and more! This information can be found in Chapter 2 of the official manual (American Psychological Association, 2020, pp. 29-67).

Categories of papers

Before getting into the nitty-gritty details related to APA research paper format, first determine the type of paper you’re about to embark on creating:

Empirical studies

Empirical studies take data from observations and experiments to generate research reports. It is different from other types of studies in that it isn’t based on theories or ideas, but on actual data.

Literature reviews

These papers analyze another individual’s work or a group of works. The purpose is to gather information about a current issue or problem and to communicate where we are today. It sheds light on issues and attempts to fill those gaps with suggestions for future research and methods.

Theoretical articles

These papers are somewhat similar to a literature reviews in that the author collects, examines, and shares information about a current issue or problem, by using others’ research. It is different from literature reviews in that it attempts to explain or solve a problem by coming up with a new theory. This theory is justified with valid evidence.

Methodological articles

These articles showcase new advances, or modifications to an existing practice, in a scientific method or procedure. The author has data or documentation to prove that their new method, or improvement to a method, is valid. Plenty of evidence is included in this type of article. In addition, the author explains the current method being used in addition to their own findings, in order to allow the reader to understand and modify their own current practices.

Case studies

Case studies present information related an individual, group, or larger set of individuals. These subjects are analyzed for a specific reason and the author reports on the method and conclusions from their study. The author may also make suggestions for future research, create possible theories, and/or determine a solution to a problem.

Since APA style format is used often in science fields, the belief is “less is more.” Make sure you’re able to get your points across in a clear and brief way. Be direct, clear, and professional. Try not to add fluff and unnecessary details into your paper or writing.  This will keep the paper length shorter and more concise.

Margin sizes in APA Format

When it comes to margins, keep them consistent across the left, right, top, and bottom of the page. All four sides should be the same distance from the edge of the paper. It’s recommended to use at least one-inch margins around each side. It’s acceptable to use larger margins, but the margins should never be smaller than an inch.

Title pages in APA Format

The title page, or APA format cover page, is the first page of a paper or essay. Some teachers and professors do not require a title page, but some do. If you’re not sure if you should include one or not, ask your teacher. Some appreciate the page, which clearly displays the writer’s name and the title of the paper.

The APA format title page for student papers includes six main components:

  • the title of the APA format paper
  • names of all authors
  • institutional affiliation
  • course number and title
  • instructor’s name

Title pages for professional papers  also require a running head; student papers do not.

Some instructors and professional publications also ask for an author’s note. If you’re required or would like to include an author’s note, place it below the institutional affiliation. Examples of information included in an author’s note include an ORCID iD number, a disclosure, and an acknowledgement.

Here are key guidelines to developing your title page:

  • The title of the paper should capture the main idea of the essay, but should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. For example, instead of using the title “A Look at Amphibians From the Past,” title the paper “Amphibians From the Past.” Delete the unnecessary fluff!
  • Center the title on the page and place it about 3-4 lines from the top.
  • The title should be bolded, in title case, and the same font size as your other page text. Do not underline or italicize the title. Other text on the page should be plain (not bolded , underlined, or italicized ). 
  • All text on the title page should be double-spaced. The APA format examples paper below displays proper spacing, so go take a look!
  • Do not include any titles in the author’s name such as Dr. or Ms. In contrast, for your instructor’s name, use the form they prefer (e.g., Sagar Parekh, PhD; Dr. Minako Asato; Professor Nathan Ian Brown; etc.).
  • The institutional affiliation is the school the author attends or the location where the author conducted the research.

In a hurry? Try the  EasyBib title page maker to easily create a title page for free.

how do i write an apa format paper

Sample of an APA format title page for a student paper:

APA-format-student-title-page

Sample of title page for a professional paper:

APA-format-professional-title-page

Running heads in APA Format

The 7th edition of the American Psychological Association Publication Manual (p. 37) states that running heads are not required for student papers unless requested by the instructor. Student papers still need a page number included in the upper right-hand corner of every page. The 6th edition required a running head for student papers, so be sure to confirm with your instructor which edition you should follow. Of note, this guide follows the 7th edition.

Running heads are required for professional papers (e.g., manuscripts submitted for publication). Read on for instructions on how to create them.

Are you wondering what is a “running head”? It’s basically a page header at the top of every page. To make this process easier, set your word processor to automatically add these components onto each page. You may want to look for “Header” in the features.

A running head/page header includes two pieces:

  • the title of the paper
  • page numbers.

Insert page numbers justified to the right-hand side of the APA format paper (do not put p. or pg. in front of the page numbers).

For all pages of the paper, including the APA format title page, include the “TITLE OF YOUR PAPER” justified to the left in capital letters (i.e., the running head). If your full title is long (over 50 characters), the running head title should be a shortened version.

APA format running head

Preparing outlines in APA Format

Outlines are extremely beneficial as they help writers stay organized, determine the scope of the research that needs to be included, and establish headings and subheadings.

There isn’t an official or recommended “APA format for outline” structure. It is up to the writer (if they choose to make use of an outline) to determine how to organize it and the characters to include. Some writers use a mix of roman numerals, numbers, and uppercase and lowercase letters.

Even though there isn’t a required or recommended APA format for an outline, we encourage writers to make use of one. Who wouldn’t want to put together a rough outline of their project? We promise you, an outline will help you stay on track.

Here’s our version of how APA format for outlines could look:

how do i write an apa format paper

Don’t forget, if you’re looking for information on APA citation format and other related topics, check out our other comprehensive guides.

How to form an abstract in APA

An APA format abstract (p. 38) is a summary of a scholarly article or scientific study. Scholarly articles and studies are rather lengthy documents, and abstracts allow readers to first determine if they’d like to read an article in its entirety or not.

You may come across abstracts while researching a topic. Many databases display abstracts in the search results and often display them before showing the full text of an article or scientific study. It is important to create a high quality abstract that accurately communicates the purpose and goal of your paper, as readers will determine if it is worthy to continue reading or not.

Are you wondering if you need to create an abstract for your assignment? Usually, student papers do not require an abstract. Abstracts are not typically seen in class assignments, and are usually only included when submitting a paper for publication. Unless your teacher or professor asked for it, you probably don’t need to have one for your class assignment.

If you’re planning on submitting your paper to a journal for publication, first check the journal’s website to learn about abstract and APA paper format requirements.

Here are some helpful suggestions to create a dynamic abstract:

  • Abstracts are found on their own page, directly after the title or cover page.
  • Professional papers only (not student papers): Include the running head on the top of the page.
  • On the first line of the page, center the word “Abstract” (but do not include quotation marks).
  • On the following line, write a summary of the key points of your research. Your abstract summary is a way to introduce readers to your research topic, the questions that will be answered, the process you took, and any findings or conclusions you drew. Use concise, brief, informative language. You only have a few sentences to share the summary of your entire document, so be direct with your wording.
  • This summary should not be indented, but should be double-spaced and less than 250 words.
  • If applicable, help researchers find your work in databases by listing keywords from your paper after your summary. To do this, indent and type Keywords : in italics.  Then list your keywords that stand out in your research. You can also include keyword strings that you think readers will type into the search box.
  • Active voice: The subjects reacted to the medication.
  • Passive voice: There was a reaction from the subjects taking the medication.
  • Instead of evaluating your project in the abstract, simply report what it contains.
  • If a large portion of your work includes the extension of someone else’s research, share this in the abstract and include the author’s last name and the year their work was released.

APA format example page:

Example APA abstract

Here’s an example of an abstract:

Visual design is a critical aspect of any web page or user interface, and its impact on a user’s experience has been studied extensively. Research has shown a positive correlation between a user’s perceived usability and a user’s assessment of visual design. Additionally, perceived web quality, which encompasses visual design, has a positive relationship with both initial and continued consumer purchase intention. However, visual design is often assessed using self-report scale, which are vulnerable to a few pitfalls. Because self-report questionnaires are often reliant on introspection and honesty, it is difficult to confidently rely on self-report questionnaires to make important decisions. This study aims to ensure the validity of a visual design assessment instrument (Visual Aesthetics of Websites Inventory: Short version) by examining its relationship with biometric (variables), like galvanic skin response, pupillometry, and fixation information. Our study looked at participants assessment of a webpage’s visual design, and compared it to their biometric responses while viewing the webpage. Overall, we found that both average fixation duration and pupil dilation differed when participants viewed web pages with lower visual design ratings compared to web pages with a higher visual design rating.

Keywords : usability, visual design, websites, eye tracking, pupillometry, self-report, VisAWI

The body of an APA paper

On the page after the title page (if a student paper) or the abstract (if a professional paper), begin with the body of the paper.

Most papers follow this format:

  • At the top of the page, add the page number in the upper right corner of all pages, including the title page.
  • On the next line write the title in bold font and center it. Do not underline or italicize it.
  • Begin with the introduction and indent the first line of the paragraph. All paragraphs in the body are indented.

Sample body for a student paper:

example APA paper body

Most scientific or professional papers have additional sections and guidelines:

  • Start with the running head (title + page number). The heading title should be in capital letters. The abstract page should be page 2.
  • The introduction presents the problem and premise upon which the research was based. It goes into more detail about this problem than the abstract.
  • Begin a new section with the Method and use this word as the subtitle. Bold and center this subtitle. The Method section shows how the study was run and conducted. Be sure to describe the methods through which data was collected.
  • Begin a new section with the Results . Bold and center this subtitle. The Results section summarizes your data. Use charts and graphs to display this data.
  • Draw conclusions and support how your data led to these conclusions.
  • Discuss whether or not your hypothesis was confirmed or not supported by your results.
  • Determine the limitations of the study and next steps to improve research for future studies.

Sample body for a professional paper:

example apa format professional paper body

Keep in mind, APA citation format is much easier than you think, thanks to EasyBib.com. Try our automatic generator and watch how we create APA citation format references for you in just a few clicks. While you’re at it, take a peek at our other helpful guides, such as our APA reference page guide, to make sure you’re on track with your research papers.

Proper usage of headings & subheadings in APA Format

Headings (p. 47) serve an important purpose in research papers — they organize your paper and make it simple to locate different pieces of information. In addition, headings provide readers with a glimpse to the main idea, or content, they are about to read.

In APA format, there are five levels of headings, each with a different formatting:

  • This is the title of your paper
  • The title should be centered in the middle of the page
  • The title should be bolded
  • Use uppercase and lowercase letters where necessary (called title capitalization)
  • Place this heading against the left margin
  • Use bold letters
  • Use uppercase and lowercase letters where necessary
  • Place this heading against the left side margin
  • End the heading with a period
  • Indented in from the left margin

Following general formatting rules, all headings are double spaced and there are no extra lines or spaces between sections.

Here is a visual APA format template for levels of headings:

example apa format headings

Use of graphics (tables and figures) in APA Format

If you’re looking to jazz up your project with any charts, tables, drawings, or images, there are certain APA format rules (pp. 195-250) to follow.

First and foremost, the only reason why any graphics should be added is to provide the reader with an easier way to see or read information, rather than typing it all out in the text.

Lots of numbers to discuss? Try organizing your information into a chart or table. Pie charts, bar graphs, coordinate planes, and line graphs are just a few ways to show numerical data, relationships between numbers, and many other types of information.

Instead of typing out long, drawn out descriptions, create a drawing or image. Many visual learners would appreciate the ability to look at an image to make sense of information.

Before you go ahead and place that graphic in your paper, here are a few key guidelines:

  • Follow them in the appropriate numerical order in which they appear in the text of your paper. Example : Figure 1, Figure 2, Table 1, Figure 3.
  • Example: Figure 1, Figure 2, Table 1, Figure 3
  • Only use graphics if they will supplement the material in your text. If they reinstate what you already have in your text, then it is not necessary to include a graphic.
  • Include enough wording in the graphic so that the reader is able to understand its meaning, even if it is isolated from the corresponding text. However, do not go overboard with adding a ton of wording in your graphic.
  • Left align tables and figures

In our APA format sample paper , you’ll find examples of tables after the references. You may also place tables and figures within the text just after it is mentioned.

Is there anything better than seeing a neatly organized data table? We think not! If you have tons of numbers or data to share, consider creating a table instead of typing out a wordy paragraph. Tables are pretty easy to whip up on Google Docs or Microsoft Word.

General format of a table should be:

  • Table number
  • Choose to type out your data OR create a table. As stated above, in APA format, you shouldn’t have the information typed out in your paper and also have a table showing the same exact information. Choose one or the other.
  • If you choose to create a table, discuss it very briefly in the text. Say something along the lines of, “Table 1 displays the amount of money used towards fighting Malaria.” Or, “Stomach cancer rates are displayed in Table 4.”
  • If you’re submitting your project for a class, place your table close to the text where it’s mentioned. If you’re submitting it to be published in a journal, most publishers prefer tables to be placed in the back. If you’re unsure where to place your tables, ask!
  • Include the table number first and at the top. Table 1 is the first table discussed in the paper. Table 2 is the next table mentioned, and so on. This should be in bold.
  • Add a title under the number. Create a brief, descriptive title. Capitalize the first letter for each important word. Italicize the title and place it under the table number.
  • Only use horizontal lines.
  • Limit use of cell shading.
  • Keep the font at 12-point size and use single or double spacing. If you use single spacing in one table, make sure all of the others use single spaces as well. Keep it consistent.
  • All headings should be centered.
  • In the first column (called the stub), center the heading, left-align the information underneath it (indent 0.15 inches if info is more than one line).
  • Information in other columns should be centered.
  • General . Information about the whole table.
  • Specific . Information targeted for a specific column, row, or cell.
  • Probability . Explains what certain table symbols mean. For example, asterisks,  p values, etc.

Here’s an APA format example of a table:

example apa format table

We know putting together a table is pretty tricky. That’s why we’ve included not one, but a few tables on this page. Scroll down and look at the additional tables in the essay in APA format example found below.

Figures represent information in a visual way. They differ from tables in that they are visually appealing. Sure, tables, like the one above, can be visually appealing, but it’s the color, circles, arrows, boxes, or icons included that make a figure a “figure.”

There are many commonly used figures in papers. Examples APA Format:

  • Photographs
  • Hierarchy charts

General format of a figure is the same as tables. This means each should include:

  • Figure number

Use the same formatting tables use for the number, title, and note.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when it comes to APA format for figures:

  • Only include a figure if it adds value to your paper. If it will truly help with understanding, include it!
  • Either include a figure OR write it all out in the text. Do not include the same information twice.
  • If a note is added, it should clearly explain the content of the figure. Include any reference information if it’s reproduced or adapted.

APA format sample of a figure:

example apa format figure

Photographs:

We live in a world where we have tons of photographs available at our fingertips.

Photographs found through Google Images, social media, stock photos made available from subscription sites, and tons of other various online sources make obtaining photographs a breeze. We can even pull out our cell phones, and in just a few seconds, take pictures with our cameras.

Photographs are simple to find, and because of this, many students enjoy using them in their papers.

If you have a photograph you would like to include in your project, here are some guidelines from the American Psychological Association.

  • Create a reference for the photograph. Follow the guidelines under the table and figure sections above.
  • Do not use color photos. It is recommended to use black and white. Colors can change depending on the reader’s screen resolution. Using black and white ensures the reader will be able to view the image clearly. The only time it is recommended to use color photos is if you’re writing about color-specific things. For example, if you’re discussing the various shades of leaf coloration, you may want to include a few photographs of colorful leaves.
  • If there are sections of the photograph that are not related to your work, it is acceptable to crop them out. Cropping is also beneficial in that it helps the reader focus on the main item you’re discussing.
  • If you choose to include an image of a person you know, it would be respectful if you ask their permission before automatically including their photo in your paper.  Some schools and universities post research papers online and some people prefer that their photos and information stay off the Internet.

B. Writing Style Tips

Writing a paper for scientific topics is much different than writing for English, literature, and other composition classes. Science papers are much more direct, clear, and concise. This section includes key suggestions, explains how to write in APA format, and includes other tidbits to keep in mind while formulating your research paper.

Verb usage in APA

Research experiments and observations rely on the creation and analysis of data to test hypotheses and come to conclusions. While sharing and explaining the methods and results of studies, science writers often use verbs.

When using verbs in writing, make sure that you continue to use them in the same tense throughout the section you’re writing. Further details are in the publication manual (p. 117).

Here’s an APA format example:

We tested the solution to identify the possible contaminants.

It wouldn’t make sense to add this sentence after the one above:

We tested the solution to identify the possible contaminants. Researchers often test solutions by placing them under a microscope.

Notice that the first sentence is in the past tense while the second sentence is in the present tense. This can be confusing for readers.

For verbs in scientific papers, the APA manual recommends using:

  • Past tense or present perfect tense for the explantation of the procedure
  • Past tense for the explanation of the results
  • Present tense for the explanation of the conclusion and future implications

If this is all a bit much, and you’re simply looking for help with your references, try the EasyBib.com APA format generator . Our APA formatter creates your references in just a few clicks. APA citation format is easier than you think thanks to our innovative, automatic tool.

Even though your writing will not have the same fluff and detail as other forms of writing, it should not be boring or dull to read. The Publication Manual suggests thinking about who will be the main reader of your work and to write in a way that educates them.

How to reduce bias & labels

The American Psychological Association strongly objects to any bias towards gender, racial groups, ages of individuals or subjects, disabilities, and sexual orientation (pp. 131-149). If you’re unsure whether your writing is free of bias and labels or not, have a few individuals read your work to determine if it’s acceptable.

Here are a few guidelines that the American Psychological Association suggests :

  • Only include information about an individual’s orientation or characteristic if it is important to the topic or study. Do not include information about individuals or labels if it is not necessary.
  • If writing about an individual’s characteristic or orientation, for essay APA format, make sure to put the person first. Instead of saying, “Diabetic patients,” say, “Patients who are diabetic.”
  • Instead of using narrow terms such as, “adolescents,” or “the elderly,” try to use broader terms such as, “participants,” and “subjects.”
  • “They” or “their” are acceptable gender-neutral pronouns to use.
  • Be mindful when using terms that end with “man” or “men” if they involve subjects who are female. For example, instead of using “Firemen,” use the term, “Firefighter.” In general, avoid ambiguity.
  • When referring to someone’s racial or ethnic identity, use the census category terms and capitalize the first letter. Also, avoid using the word, “minority,” as it can be interpreted as meaning less than or deficient. Instead, say “people of color” or “underrepresented groups.”
  • When describing subjects in APA format, use the words “girls” and “boys” for children who are under the age of 12. The terms, “young woman,” “young man,” “female adolescent,” and “male adolescent” are appropriate for subjects between 13-17 years old; “Men,” and “women,” for those older than 18. Use the term, “older adults.” for individuals who are older. “Elderly,” and “senior,” are not acceptable if used only as nouns. It is acceptable to use these terms if they’re used as adjectives.

Read through our example essay in APA format, found in section D, to see how we’ve reduced bias and labels.

Spelling in APA Format

  • In APA formatting, use the same spelling as words found in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (American English) (p. 161).
  • If the word you’re trying to spell is not found in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, a second resource is Webster’s Third New International Dictionary .
  • If attempting to properly spell words in the psychology field, consult the American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology

Thanks to helpful tools and features, such as the spell checker, in word processing programs, most of us think we have everything we need right in our document. However, quite a few helpful features are found elsewhere.

Where can you find a full grammar editor? Right here, on EasyBib.com. The EasyBib Plus paper checker scans your paper for spelling, but also for any conjunction , determiner, or adverb out of place. Try it out and unlock the magic of an edited paper.

Abbreviation do’s and don’ts in APA Format

Abbreviations can be tricky. You may be asking yourself, “Do I include periods between the letters?” “Are all letters capitalized?” “Do I need to write out the full name each and every time?” Not to worry, we’re breaking down the publication manual’s abbreviations (p. 172) for you here.

First and foremost, use abbreviations sparingly.

Too many and you’re left with a paper littered with capital letters mashed together. Plus, they don’t lend themselves to smooth and easy reading. Readers need to pause and comprehend the meaning of abbreviations and quite often stumble over them.

  • If the abbreviation is used less than three times in the paper, type it out each time. It would be pretty difficult to remember what an abbreviation or acronym stands for if you’re writing a lengthy paper.
  • If you decide to sprinkle in abbreviations,  it is not necessary to include periods between the letters.
  • Example: While it may not affect a patient’s short-term memory (STM), it may affect their ability to comprehend new terms. Patients who experience STM loss while using the medication should discuss it with their doctor.
  • Example : AIDS
  • The weight in pounds exceeded what we previously thought.

Punctuation in APA Format

One space after most punctuation marks.

The manual recommends using one space after most punctuation marks, including punctuation at the end of a sentence (p. 154). It doesn’t hurt to double check with your teacher or professor to ask their preference since this rule was changed recently (in 2020).

The official APA format book was primarily created to aid individuals with submitting their paper for publication in a professional journal. Many schools adopt certain parts of the handbook and modify sections to match their preference. To see an example of an APA format research paper, with the spacing we believe is most commonly and acceptable to use, scroll down and see section D.

For more information related to the handbook, including frequently asked questions, and more, here’s further reading on the style

It’s often a heated debate among writers whether or not to use an Oxford comma (p. 155), but for this style, always use an Oxford comma. This type of comma is placed before the words AND and OR or in a series of three items.

Example of APA format for commas: The medication caused drowsiness, upset stomach, and fatigue.

Here’s another example: The subjects chose between cold, room temperature, or warm water.

Apostrophes

When writing a possessive singular noun, you should place the apostrophe before the s. For possessive plural nouns, the apostrophe is placed after the s.

  • Singular : Linda Morris’s jacket
  • Plural : The Morris’ house

Em dashes (long dash) are used to bring focus to a particular point or an aside. There are no spaces after these dashes (p. 157).

Use en dashes (short dash) in compound adjectives. Do not place a space before or after the dash. Here are a few examples:

  • custom-built
  • 12-year-old

Number rules in APA Format

Science papers often include the use of numbers, usually displayed in data, tables, and experiment information. The golden rule to keep in mind is that numbers less than 10 are written out in text. If the number is more than 10, use numerals.

APA format examples:

  • 14 kilograms
  • seven individuals
  • 83 years old
  • Fourth grade

The golden rule for numbers has exceptions.

In APA formatting, use numerals if you are:

  • Showing numbers in a table or graph
  • 4 divided by 2
  • 6-month-olds

Use numbers written out as words if you are:

  • Ninety-two percent of teachers feel as though….
  • Hundred Years’ War
  • One-sixth of the students

Other APA formatting number rules to keep in mind:

  • World War II
  • Super Bowl LII
  • It’s 1980s, not 1980’s!

Additional number rules can be found in the publication manual (p. 178)

Need help with other writing topics? Our plagiarism checker is a great resource for anyone looking for writing help. Say goodbye to an out of place noun , preposition , or adjective, and hello to a fully edited paper.

Overview of APA references

While writing a research paper, it is always important to give credit and cite your sources; this lets you acknowledge others’ ideas and research you’ve used in your own work. Not doing so can be considered plagiarism , possibly leading to a failed grade or loss of a job.

APA style is one of the most commonly used citation styles used to prevent plagiarism. Here’s more on crediting sources . Let’s get this statement out of the way before you become confused: An APA format reference and an APA format citation are two different things! We understand that many teachers and professors use the terms as if they’re synonyms, but according to this specific style, they are two separate things, with different purposes, and styled differently.

A reference displays all of the information about the source — the title, the author’s name, the year it was published, the URL, all of it! References are placed on the final page of a research project.

Here’s an example of a reference:

Wynne-Jones, T. (2015). The emperor of any place . Candlewick Press.

An APA format citation is an APA format in-text citation. These are found within your paper, anytime a quote or paraphrase is included. They usually only include the name of the author and the date the source was published.

Here’s an example of one:

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is even discussed in the book, The Emperor of Any Place . The main character, Evan, finds a mysterious diary on his father’s desk (the same desk his father died on, after suffering from a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy attack). Evan unlocks the truth to his father and grandfather’s past (Wynne-Jones, 2015).

Both of the ways to credit another individual’s work — in the text of a paper and also on the final page — are key to preventing plagiarism. A writer must use both types in a paper. If you cite something in the text, it must have a full reference on the final page of the project. Where there is one, there must be the other!

Now that you understand that, here’s some basic info regarding APA format references (pp. 281-309).

  • Each reference is organized, or structured, differently. It all depends on the source type. A book reference is structured one way, an APA journal is structured a different way, a newspaper article is another way. Yes, it’s probably frustrating that not all references are created equal and set up the same way. MLA works cited pages are unique in that every source type is formatted the same way. Unfortunately, this style is quite different.
  • Most references follow this general format:

Author’s Last name, First initial. Middle initial. (Year published). Title of source . URL.

Again, as stated in the above paragraph, you must look up the specific source type you’re using to find out the placement of the title, author’s name, year published, etc.

For more information on APA format for sources and how to reference specific types of sources, use the other guides on EasyBib.com. Here’s another useful site .

Looking for a full visual of a page of references? Scroll down and take a peek at our APA format essay example towards the bottom of this page. You’ll see a list of references and you can gain a sense of how they look.

Bonus: here’s a link to more about the fundamentals related to this particular style. If you want to brush up or catch up on the Modern Language Association’s style, here’s a great resource on how to cite websites in MLA .

In-text APA citation format

Did you find the perfect quote or piece of information to include in your project? Way to go! It’s always a nice feeling when we find that magical piece of data or info to include in our writing. You probably already know that you can’t just copy and paste it into your project, or type it in, without also providing credit to the original author.

Displaying where the original information came from is much easier than you think.Directly next to the quote or information you included, place the author’s name and the year nearby. This allows the reader of your work to see where the information originated.

APA allows for the use of two different forms of in-text citation, parenthetical and narrative Both forms of citation require two elements:

  • author’s name
  • year of publication

The only difference is the way that this information is presented to the reader.

Parenthetical citations are the more commonly seen form of in-text citations for academic work, in which both required reference elements are presented at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Example:

Harlem had many artists and musicians in the late 1920s (Belafonte, 2008).

Narrative citations allow the author to present one or both of the required reference elements inside of the running sentence, which prevents the text from being too repetitive or burdensome. When only one of the two reference elements is included in the sentence, the other is provided parenthetically. Example:

According to Belafonte (2008), Harlem was full of artists and musicians in the late 1920s.

If there are two authors listed in the source entry, then the parenthetical reference must list them both:

(Smith & Belafonte, 2008)

If there are three or more authors listed in the source entry, then the parenthetical reference can abbreviate with “et al.”, the latin abbreviation for “and others”:

(Smith et al., 2008)

The author’s names are structured differently if there is more than one author. Things will also look different if there isn’t an author at all (which is sometimes the case with website pages). For more information on APA citation format, check out this page on the topic: APA parenthetical citation and APA in-text citation . There is also more information in the official manual in chapter 8.

If it’s MLA in-text and parenthetical citations you’re looking for, we’ve got your covered there too! You might want to also check out his guide on parenthetical citing .

Would you benefit from having a tool that helps you easily generate citations that are in the text? Check out EasyBib Plus!

how do i write an apa format paper

References page in APA Format

An APA format reference page is easier to create than you probably think. We go into detail on how to create this page on our APA reference page . We also have a guide for how to create an annotated bibliography in APA . But, if you’re simply looking for a brief overview of the reference page, we’ve got you covered here.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind when it comes to the references page in APA format:

  • This VIP page has its very own page. Start on a fresh, clean document (p. 303).
  • Center and bold the title “References” (do not include quotation marks, underline, or italicize this title).
  • Alphabetize and double-space ALL entries.
  • Use a readable font, such as Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, or Lucida (p. 44).
  • Every quote or piece of outside information included in the paper should be referenced and have an entry.
  • Even though it’s called a “reference page,” it can be longer than one page. If your references flow onto the next page, then that’s a-okay.
  • Only include the running head if it is required by your teacher or you’re writing a professional paper.

Sample reference page for a student paper:

Here’s another friendly reminder to use the EasyBib APA format generator (that comes with EasyBib Plus) to quickly and easily develop every single one of your references for you. Try it out! Our APA formatter is easy to use and ready to use 24/7.

Final APA Format Checklist

Prior to submitting your paper, check to make sure you have everything you need and everything in its place:

  • Did you credit all of the information and quotes you used in the body of your paper and show a matching full reference at the end of the paper? Remember, you need both! Need more information on how to credit other authors and sources? Check out our other guides, or use the EasyBib APA format generator to credit your sources quickly and easily. EasyBib.com also has more styles than just the one this page focuses on.
  • 12-pt. Times New Roman
  • 11-pt. Calibri, Arial, Georgia
  • 10-pt. Lucida, Sans Unicode, Computer Modern
  • If you created an abstract, is it directly after the title page? Some teachers and professors do not require an abstract, so before you go ahead and include it, make sure it’s something he or she is expecting.
  • Professional paper — Did you include a running head on every single page of your project?
  • Student paper — Did you include page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of all your pages?
  • Are all headings, as in section or chapter titles, properly formatted? If you’re not sure, check section number 9.
  • Are all tables and figures aligned properly? Did you include notes and other important information directly below the table or figure? Include any information that will help the reader completely understand everything in the table or figure if it were to stand alone.
  • Are abbreviations used sparingly? Did you format them properly?
  • Is the entire document double spaced?
  • Are all numbers formatted properly? Check section 17, which is APA writing format for numbers.
  • Did you glance at the sample paper? Is your assignment structured similarly? Are all of the margins uniform?

Submitting Your APA Paper

Congratulations for making it this far! You’ve put a lot of effort into writing your paper and making sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted. If you’re planning to submit your paper for a school assignment, make sure you review your teacher or professor’s procedures.

If you’re submitting your paper to a journal, you probably need to include a cover letter.

Most cover letters ask you to include:

  • The author’s contact information.
  • A statement to the editor that the paper is original.
  • If a similar paper exists elsewhere, notify the editor in the cover letter.

Once again, review the specific journal’s website for exact specifications for submission.

Okay, so you’re probably thinking you’re ready to hit send or print and submit your assignment. Can we offer one last suggestion? We promise it will only take a minute.

Consider running your paper through our handy dandy paper checker. It’s pretty simple.

Copy and paste or upload your paper into our checker. Within a minute, we’ll provide feedback on your spelling and grammar. If there’s a pronoun , interjection , or verb out of place, we’ll highlight it and offer suggestions for improvement. We’ll even take it a step further and point out any instances of possible plagiarism.

If it sounds too good to be true, then head on over to our innovative tool and give it a whirl. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

What is APA Format?

APA stands for the American Psychological Association . In this guide, you’ll find information related to “What is APA format?” in relation to writing and organizing your paper according to the American Psychological Association’s standards. Information on how to cite sources can be found on our APA citation page. The official American Psychological Association handbook was used as a reference for our guide and we’ve included page numbers from the manual throughout. However, this page is not associated with the association.

You’ll most likely use APA format if your paper is on a scientific topic. Many behavioral and social sciences use this organization’s standards and guidelines.

What are behavioral sciences? Behavioral sciences study human and animal behavior. They can include:

  • Cognitive Science
  • Neuroscience

What are social sciences? Social sciences focus on one specific aspect of human behavior, specifically social and cultural relationships. Social sciences can include:

  • Anthropology
  • Political Science
  • Human Geography
  • Archaeology
  • Linguistics

What’s New in the 7th Edition?

This citation style was created by the American Psychological Association. Its rules and guidelines can be found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . The information provided in the guide above follows the 6th edition (2009) of the manual. The 7th edition was published in 2020 and is the most recent version.

The 7th edition of the Publication Manual is in full color and includes 12 sections (compared to 8 sections in the 6th edition). In general, this new edition differentiates between professional and student papers, includes guidance with accessibility in mind, provides new examples to follow, and has updated guidelines.We’ve selected a few notable updates below, but for a full view of all of the 7th edition changes visit the style’s website linked here .

  • Paper title
  • Student name
  • Affiliation (e.g., school, department, etc.)
  • Course number and title
  • Course instructor
  • 6th edition – Running head: SMARTPHONE EFFECTS ON ADOLESCENT SOCIALIZATION
  • 7th edition – SMARTPHONE EFFECTS ON ADOLESCENT SOCIALIZATION
  • Pronouns . “They” can be used as a gender-neutral pronoun.
  • Bias-free language guidelines . There are updated and new sections on guidelines for this section. New sections address participation in research, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality.
  • Spacing after sentences. Add only a single space after end punctuation.
  • Tables and figures . The citing format is now streamlined so that both tables and figures should include a name and number above the table/figure, and a note underneath the table/figure.
  • 6th ed. – (Ikemoto, Richardson, Murphy, Yoshida 2016)
  • 7th ed. – (Ikemoto et al., 2016)
  • Citing books. The location of the publisher can be omitted. Also, e-books no longer need to mention the format (e.g., Kindle, etc.)
  • Example: https://doi.org/10.1038/s42255-019-0153-5
  • Using URLs. URLs no longer need to be prefaced by the words “Retrieved from.”

New citing information . There is new guidance on citing classroom or intranet resources, and oral traditions or traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples.

Visit our EasyBib Twitter feed to discover more citing tips, fun grammar facts, and the latest product updates.

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) (2020). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

apa format

Published October 31, 2011. Updated May 14, 2020.

Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.

APA Formatting Guide

APA Formatting

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Block Quotes
  • et al Usage
  • Multiple Authors
  • Paraphrasing
  • Page Numbers
  • Parenthetical Citations
  • Sample Paper
  • View APA Guide

Citation Examples

  • Book Chapter
  • Journal Article
  • Magazine Article
  • Newspaper Article
  • Website (no author)
  • View all APA Examples

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We should not use “et al.” in APA reference list entries. If the number of authors in the source is up to and including 20, list all author names and use an ampersand (&) before the final author’s name. If the number of authors is more than 20, list the first 19 authors’ names followed by an ellipsis (but no ampersand), and then add the final author’s name. An example of author names in a reference entry having more than 20 authors is given below:

Author Surname1, F. M., Author Surname2, F. M., Author Surname3, F. M., Author Surname4, F. M., Author Surname5, F. M., Author Surname6, F. M., Author Surname7, F. M., Author Surname8, F. M., Author Surname9, F. M., Author Surname10, F. M., Author Surname11, F. M., Author Surname12, F. M., Author Surname13, F. M., Author Surname14, F. M., Author Surname15, F. M., Author Surname16, F. M., Author Surname17, F. M., Author Surname18, F. M., Author Surname19, F. M., . . .  Last Author Surname, F. M. (Publication Year).

Alvarez, L. D., Peach, J. L., Rodriguez, J. F., Donald, L., Thomas, M., Aruck, A., Samy, K., Anthony, K., Ajey, M., Rodriguez, K. L., Katherine, K., Vincent, A., Pater, F., Somu, P., Pander, L., Berd, R., Fox, L., Anders, A., Kamala, W., . . . Nicole Jones, K. (2019).

Note that, unlike references with 2 to 20 author names, the symbol “&” is not used here before the last author’s name.

APA 7, released in October 2019, has some new updates. Here is a brief description of the updates made in APA 7.

Different types of papers and best practices are given in detail in Chapter 1.

How to format a student title page is explained in Chapter 2. Examples of a professional paper and a student paper are included.

Chapter 3 provides additional information on qualitative and mixed methods of research.

An update on writing style is included in Chapter 4.

In chapter 5, some best practices for writing with bias-free language are included.

Chapter 6 gives some updates on style elements including using a single space after a period, including a citation with an abbreviation, the treatment of numbers in abstracts, treatment for different types of lists, and the formatting of gene and protein names.

In Chapter 7, additional examples are given for tables and figures for different types of publications.

In Chapter 8, how to format quotations and how to paraphrase text are covered with additional examples. A simplified version of in-text citations is clearly illustrated.

Chapter 9 has many updates: listing all author names up to 20 authors, standardizing DOIs and URLs, and the formatting of an annotated bibliography.

Chapter 10 includes many examples with templates for all reference types. New rules covering the inclusion of the issue number for journals and the omission of publisher location from book references are provided. Explanations of how to cite YouTube videos, power point slides, and TED talks are included.

Chapter 11 includes many legal references for easy understanding.

Chapter 12 provides advice for authors on how to promote their papers.

For more information on some of the changes found in APA 7, check out this EasyBib article .

APA Citation Examples

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APA Style (7th ed.): Citation Guide

  • Getting Started with APA

Formatting a Paper in APA

Apa paper visual guide.

  • Citing Sources in APA
  • APA Citation Examples
  • Other APA Resources
  • Citation Guides Homepage

Sample Student Paper

  • Sample APA Paper

screenshot of front page of sample paper

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  • Paper Formatting
  • Headings within the Paper
  • References Page

APA Basic Formatting Rules for Student Papers

The following guidelines are the basic formatting rules outlined in the  APA Publication Manual  7th edition. If your instructor sets different requirements, always use your instructor's guidelines first.

  • clearly legible, regular-sized font
  • recommendations: 12pt Times New Roman, 11pt Arial, 11pt Calibri, 10pt Lucida Sans Unicode, 11pt Georgia
  • double spaced throughout all parts of the paper including title, headings, and footnotes
  • 1-inch margins on all sides
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 1/2-inch (tab)
  • left-justified for the body of the paper

Running Head & Page Numbers:

  • not required to include shortened version of the title for student papers- unless requested by your instructor
  • include the page number in the top right corner of all pages

APA Title Page for Student Papers

Page number:.

  • include the page number in the top right margin. (It will be 1 for the Title Page. Continue numbering throughout the paper and References page.)

Heading about a 1/3 of the way down the page:

  • Paper Title : bold, centered
  • Author : your name
  • Institutional Affiliation : Lone Star College- Online
  • Course : your course number and the name of the course (ex. PSYC 2301: General Psychology)
  • Instructor : your instructor's name (ex- Prof. Jane Smith)
  • Due Date:  Month day, year format (ex- January 1, 2024)

APA Headings within the Body of the Paper

Paper title:.

  • include on the first line of the first page of the body of your paper
  • bold and centered

Headings and Sub-headings (use when needed)

  • APA uses a hierarchy of five levels for headings within the paper
  • short paper may not need headings at all

References Page Formatting

The following guidelines are the basic formatting rules outlined in the APA Publication Manual  7th edition. If your instructor sets different requirements, always use your instructor's guidelines first.

  • needs to start on a new page following the end of your paper
  • include the title References centered on the first line of the page
  • everything after the title is left-justified
  • listed in alphabetical order by the first part of the citation (usually the author)
  • double spaced throughout all parts
  • Each citation should have a hanging indent- or it should start at the left margin and then have all lines after it indented by 1/2-inch

Click on the information circles for tips on how to use Microsoft Word to format your paper in APA Style.

  • << Previous: Getting Started with APA
  • Next: Citing Sources in APA >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 15, 2024 3:18 PM
  • URL: https://lonestar-online.libguides.com/apa

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APA 7th Edition Citation Guide

  • APA 7th Edition Home

Formatting the Paper Itself

  • When and What to Cite
  • In-Text: Multiple Authors
  • In-Text: First and Subsequent Citations
  • In-Text: Authors and Dates Matching
  • In-Text: Direct Quotations
  • In-Text: Secondary Sources
  • Reference Examples: Print
  • Reference Examples: Electronic
  • Reference Examples: Audiovisual Media
  • Step 1: Author (Names)
  • Step 2: Date
  • Step 3: Titles
  • Step 4: Source
  • Help and Training
  • Related Guides

APA Style Checklist

This citation guide is based on The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed., 2020). The contents are accurate to the best of our knowledge.

Content in this guide was copied with permission from Bethel University (TN) Library .

how do i write an apa format paper

The following formatting rules for the paper are strongly recommended:

  • Text should be double-spaced.
  • Margins should be 1" on all sides (top, bottom, left, right).
  • Recommended fonts and font sizes are: Times New Roman 11, Calibri 11, Arial 11, Lucida Sans Unicode 10, Georgia 11, Computer Modern 10, and similar.
  • One (1) space should be used after the period at the end of a sentence.
  • Use double quotation marks to introduce a new, specialized, or novel term the first time it is used.
  • Abstract (may not be required on academic papers)

From the APA Style Blog

Paper Format

Elements of the Title Page

  • Title of the paper
  • Author's name
  • Institutional affiliation
  • Course number and name
  • Instructor name

Click here to see the APA Style Sample Annotated Student Paper .

Click here to see the APA Style Sample Annotated Professional Paper.

For more information, also visit the APA sample paper in Purdue Writing Lab.

Why Time is the Biggest Reason Things Don't Get Done

Grayson P. Finkleton

UT Southwestern Medical Center

COR 101: Course Name

Dr. Professor C. Name

September 9, 2020

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  • Last Updated: Feb 16, 2024 4:01 PM
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How to Write an APA Research Paper

Psychology/neuroscience 201, v iew in pdf format.

An APA-style paper includes the following sections: title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, and references. Your paper may also include one or more tables and/or figures. Different types of information about your study are addressed in each of the sections, as described below.

General formatting rules are as follows:

Do not put page breaks in between the introduction, method, results, and discussion sections.

The title page, abstract, references, table(s), and figure(s) should be on their own pages. The entire paper should be written in the past tense, in a 12-point font, double-spaced, and with one-inch margins all around.

(see sample on p. 41 of APA manual)

  • Title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect content of paper (e.g., IV and DV).
  • Title, your name, and Hamilton College are all double-spaced (no extra spaces)
  • Create a page header using the “View header” function in MS Word. On the title page, the header should include the following: Flush left: Running head: THE RUNNING HEAD SHOULD BE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. The running head is a short title that appears at the top of pages of published articles. It should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. (Note: on the title page, you actually write the words “Running head,” but these words do not appear on subsequent pages; just the actual running head does. If you make a section break between the title page and the rest of the paper you can make the header different for those two parts of the manuscript). Flush right, on same line: page number. Use the toolbox to insert a page number, so it will automatically number each page.

Abstract (labeled, centered, not bold)

No more than 120 words, one paragraph, block format (i.e., don’t indent), double-spaced.

  • State topic, preferably in one sentence. Provide overview of method, results, and discussion.

Introduction

(Do not label as “Introduction.” Title of paper goes at the top of the page—not bold)

The introduction of an APA-style paper is the most difficult to write. A good introduction will summarize, integrate, and critically evaluate the empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s) in a way that sets the stage for your study and why you conducted it. The introduction starts out broad (but not too broad!) and gets more focused toward the end. Here are some guidelines for constructing a good introduction:

  • Don’t put your readers to sleep by beginning your paper with the time-worn sentence, “Past research has shown (blah blah blah)” They’ll be snoring within a paragraph!  Try to draw your reader in by saying something interesting or thought-provoking right off the bat.  Take a look at articles you’ve read. Which ones captured your attention right away? How did the authors accomplish this task? Which ones didn’t?  Why not?  See if you can use articles you liked as a model. One way to begin (but not the only way) is to provide an example or anecdote illustrative of your topic area.
  • Although you won’t go into the details of your study and hypotheses until the end of the intro, you should foreshadow your study a bit at the end of the first paragraph by stating your purpose briefly, to give your reader a schema for all the information you will present next.
  • Your intro should be a logical flow of ideas that leads up to your hypothesis. Try to organize it in terms of the ideas rather than who did what when. In other words, your intro shouldn’t read like a story of “Schmirdley did such-and-such in 1991. Then Gurglehoff did something-or-other in 1993.  Then....(etc.)” First, brainstorm all of the ideas you think are necessary to include in your paper. Next, decide which ideas make sense to present first, second, third, and so forth, and think about how you want to transition between ideas. When an idea is complex, don’t be afraid to use a real-life example to clarify it for your reader. The introduction will end with a brief overview of your study and, finally, your specific hypotheses. The hypotheses should flow logically out of everything that’s been presented, so that the reader has the sense of, “Of course. This hypothesis makes complete sense, given all the other research that was presented.”
  • When incorporating references into your intro, you do not necessarily need to describe every single study in complete detail, particularly if different studies use similar methodologies. Certainly you want to summarize briefly key articles, though, and point out differences in methods or findings of relevant studies when necessary. Don’t make one mistake typical of a novice APA-paper writer by stating overtly why you’re including a particular article (e.g., “This article is relevant to my study because…”). It should be obvious to the reader why you’re including a reference without your explicitly saying so.  DO NOT quote from the articles, instead paraphrase by putting the information in your own words.
  • Be careful about citing your sources (see APA manual). Make sure there is a one-to-one correspondence between the articles you’ve cited in your intro and the articles listed in your reference section.
  • Remember that your audience is the broader scientific community, not the other students in your class or your professor.  Therefore, you should assume they have a basic understanding of psychology, but you need to provide them with the complete information necessary for them to understand the research you are presenting.

Method (labeled, centered, bold)

The Method section of an APA-style paper is the most straightforward to write, but requires precision. Your goal is to describe the details of your study in such a way that another researcher could duplicate your methods exactly.

The Method section typically includes Participants, Materials and/or Apparatus, and Procedure sections. If the design is particularly complicated (multiple IVs in a factorial experiment, for example), you might also include a separate Design subsection or have a “Design and Procedure” section.

Note that in some studies (e.g., questionnaire studies in which there are many measures to describe but the procedure is brief), it may be more useful to present the Procedure section prior to the Materials section rather than after it.

Participants (labeled, flush left, bold)

Total number of participants (# women, # men), age range, mean and SD for age, racial/ethnic composition (if applicable), population type (e.g., college students). Remember to write numbers out when they begin a sentence.

  • How were the participants recruited? (Don’t say “randomly” if it wasn’t random!) Were they compensated for their time in any way? (e.g., money, extra credit points)
  • Write for a broad audience. Thus, do not write, “Students in Psych. 280...” Rather, write (for instance), “Students in a psychological statistics and research methods course at a small liberal arts college….”
  • Try to avoid short, choppy sentences. Combine information into a longer sentence when possible.

Materials (labeled, flush left, bold)

Carefully describe any stimuli, questionnaires, and so forth. It is unnecessary to mention things such as the paper and pencil used to record the responses, the data recording sheet, the computer that ran the data analysis, the color of the computer, and so forth.

  • If you included a questionnaire, you should describe it in detail. For instance, note how many items were on the questionnaire, what the response format was (e.g., a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree)), how many items were reverse-scored, whether the measure had subscales, and so forth. Provide a sample item or two for your reader.
  • If you have created a new instrument, you should attach it as an Appendix.
  • If you presented participants with various word lists to remember or stimuli to judge, you should describe those in detail here. Use subheadings to separate different types of stimuli if needed.  If you are only describing questionnaires, you may call this section “Measures.”

Apparatus (labeled, flush left, bold)

Include an apparatus section if you used specialized equipment for your study (e.g., the eye tracking machine) and need to describe it in detail.

Procedure (labeled, flush left, bold)

What did participants do, and in what order? When you list a control variable (e.g., “Participants all sat two feet from the experimenter.”), explain WHY you did what you did.  In other words, what nuisance variable were you controlling for? Your procedure should be as brief and concise as possible. Read through it. Did you repeat yourself anywhere? If so, how can you rearrange things to avoid redundancy? You may either write the instructions to the participants verbatim or paraphrase, whichever you deem more appropriate. Don’t forget to include brief statements about informed consent and debriefing.

Results (labeled, centered, bold)

In this section, describe how you analyzed the data and what you found. If your data analyses were complex, feel free to break this section down into labeled subsections, perhaps one section for each hypothesis.

  • Include a section for descriptive statistics
  • List what type of analysis or test you conducted to test each hypothesis.
  • Refer to your Statistics textbook for the proper way to report results in APA style. A t-test, for example, is reported in the following format: t (18) = 3.57, p < .001, where 18 is the number of degrees of freedom (N – 2 for an independent-groups t test). For a correlation: r (32) = -.52, p < .001, where 32 is the number of degrees of freedom (N – 2 for a correlation). For a one-way ANOVA: F (2, 18) = 7.00, p < .001, where 2 represents the between and 18 represents df within Remember that if a finding has a p value greater than .05, it is “nonsignificant,” not “insignificant.” For nonsignificant findings, still provide the exact p values. For correlations, be sure to report the r 2 value as an assessment of the strength of the finding, to show what proportion of variability is shared by the two variables you’re correlating. For t- tests and ANOVAs, report eta 2 .
  • Report exact p values to two or three decimal places (e.g., p = .042; see p. 114 of APA manual).  However, for p-values less than .001, simply put p < .001.
  • Following the presentation of all the statistics and numbers, be sure to state the nature of your finding(s) in words and whether or not they support your hypothesis (e.g., “As predicted …”). This information can typically be presented in a sentence or two following the numbers (within the same paragraph). Also, be sure to include the relevant means and SDs.
  • It may be useful to include a table or figure to represent your results visually. Be sure to refer to these in your paper (e.g., “As illustrated in Figure 1…”). Remember that you may present a set of findings either as a table or as a figure, but not as both. Make sure that your text is not redundant with your tables/figures. For instance, if you present a table of means and standard deviations, you do not need to also report these in the text. However, if you use a figure to represent your results, you may wish to report means and standard deviations in the text, as these may not always be precisely ascertained by examining the figure. Do describe the trends shown in the figure.
  • Do not spend any time interpreting or explaining the results; save that for the Discussion section.

Discussion (labeled, centered, bold)

The goal of the discussion section is to interpret your findings and place them in the broader context of the literature in the area. A discussion section is like the reverse of the introduction, in that you begin with the specifics and work toward the more general (funnel out). Some points to consider:

  • Begin with a brief restatement of your main findings (using words, not numbers). Did they support the hypothesis or not? If not, why not, do you think? Were there any surprising or interesting findings? How do your findings tie into the existing literature on the topic, or extend previous research? What do the results say about the broader behavior under investigation? Bring back some of the literature you discussed in the Introduction, and show how your results fit in (or don’t fit in, as the case may be). If you have surprising findings, you might discuss other theories that can help to explain the findings. Begin with the assumption that your results are valid, and explain why they might differ from others in the literature.
  • What are the limitations of the study? If your findings differ from those of other researchers, or if you did not get statistically significant results, don’t spend pages and pages detailing what might have gone wrong with your study, but do provide one or two suggestions. Perhaps these could be incorporated into the future research section, below.
  • What additional questions were generated from this study? What further research should be conducted on the topic? What gaps are there in the current body of research? Whenever you present an idea for a future research study, be sure to explain why you think that particular study should be conducted. What new knowledge would be gained from it?  Don’t just say, “I think it would be interesting to re-run the study on a different college campus” or “It would be better to run the study again with more participants.” Really put some thought into what extensions of the research might be interesting/informative, and why.
  • What are the theoretical and/or practical implications of your findings? How do these results relate to larger issues of human thoughts, feelings, and behavior? Give your readers “the big picture.” Try to answer the question, “So what?

Final paragraph: Be sure to sum up your paper with a final concluding statement. Don’t just trail off with an idea for a future study. End on a positive note by reminding your reader why your study was important and what it added to the literature.

References (labeled, centered, not bold)

Provide an alphabetical listing of the references (alphabetize by last name of first author). Double-space all, with no extra spaces between references. The second line of each reference should be indented (this is called a hanging indent and is easily accomplished using the ruler in Microsoft Word). See the APA manual for how to format references correctly.

Examples of references to journal articles start on p. 198 of the manual, and examples of references to books and book chapters start on pp. 202. Digital object identifiers (DOIs) are now included for electronic sources (see pp. 187-192 of APA manual to learn more).

Journal article example: [Note that only the first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words would be capitalized.] 

Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

Book chapter example: [Note that only the first letter of the first word of both the chapter title and book title are capitalized.]

Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3 rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599-658). New York: Random House.

Book example: Gray, P. (2010). Psychology (6 th ed.). New York: Worth

Table There are various formats for tables, depending upon the information you wish to include. See the APA manual. Be sure to provide a table number and table title (the latter is italicized). Tables can be single or double-spaced.

Figure If you have more than one figure, each one gets its own page. Use a sans serif font, such as Helvetica, for any text within your figure. Be sure to label your x- and y-axes clearly, and make sure you’ve noted the units of measurement of the DV. Underneath the figure provide a label and brief caption (e.g., “Figure 1. Mean evaluation of job applicant qualifications as a function of applicant attractiveness level”). The figure caption typically includes the IVs/predictor variables and the DV. Include error bars in your bar graphs, and note what the bars represent in the figure caption: Error bars represent one standard error above and below the mean.

In-Text Citations: (see pp. 174-179 of APA manual) When citing sources in your paper, you need to include the authors’ names and publication date.

You should use the following formats:

  • When including the citation as part of the sentence, use AND: “According to Jones and Smith (2003), the…”
  • When the citation appears in parentheses, use “&”: “Studies have shown that priming can affect actual motor behavior (Jones & Smith, 2003; Klein, Bailey, & Hammer, 1999).” The studies appearing in parentheses should be ordered alphabetically by the first author’s last name, and should be separated by semicolons.
  • If you are quoting directly (which you should avoid), you also need to include the page number.
  • For sources with three or more authors, once you have listed all the authors’ names, you may write “et al.” on subsequent mentions. For example: “Klein et al. (1999) found that….” For sources with two authors, both authors must be included every time the source is cited. When a source has six or more authors, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited (including the first time). 

Secondary Sources

“Secondary source” is the term used to describe material that is cited in another source. If in his article entitled “Behavioral Study of Obedience” (1963), Stanley Milgram makes reference to the ideas of Snow (presented above), Snow (1961) is the primary source, and Milgram (1963) is the secondary source.

Try to avoid using secondary sources in your papers; in other words, try to find the primary source and read it before citing it in your own work. If you must use a secondary source, however, you should cite it in the following way:

Snow (as cited in Milgram, 1963) argued that, historically, the cause of most criminal acts... The reference for the Milgram article (but not the Snow reference) should then appear in the reference list at the end of your paper.

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How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format — A Complete Guide

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Completed your research experiments and collated your results? Does it feel like you have crossed a major hurdle in your research journey? No, not even close! What lies next is — publishing your research work for it to reach the science world! The process of publishing a research paper is so intricate, if you miss one aspect, you could end up struggling with revisions and reworks or getting a rejection! Thus, there is a necessity of following an exceptional mode of writing. The APA style research format comes to a researcher’s rescue.

This article discusses how to effortlessly write an APA style research paper and how it is necessary to understand the basic elements of APA style research paper in order to write an article in APA style research format.

Table of Contents

What Is APA Style?

The APA format is the official style of American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences. APA research paper format is widely used in the research publishing industry.

Students and researchers usually get confused with various research paper writing formats and are unclear about the requirements from the research publication journals. Therefore, the best way to deal with beginning to write a research paper is to first know the journal’s requirement and then follow the guidelines accordingly.

Though the reference section may change over the course of time, the information related to the other sections in APA research paper format is similar and could be referred to, for writing an exemplary research paper.

Guidelines for APA Style Paper (7th edition)

An APA style research format is different as compared to a term paper, a creative writing paper, a composition-style paper, or a thought paper. Throughout the paper you need to apply these guidelines while writing the paper –

Page Layout:

Type the content and keep double-space on standard-sized paper (8.5” x 11”), with 1” margins on all sides.

You should indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches

Include a page number on every page.

You could use an accessible font like Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.

APA Research Paper Sections

The APA research paper format is based on seven main components: title page, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, and references. The sections in APA-style paper are as follows:

1. Title Page

As per the APA research paper format, the title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect the essence of the paper. After writing the title, write your name followed by name of the college. Furthermore, create a page header using the “View Header” function in MS Word and on the title page include a running head — a short title that appears at the top of pages of published articles (flush left) and page number on the same line (flush right). The running head should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing. Moreover, you could use the toolbox to insert a page number, so that it automatically numbers each page.

APA research paper format

2. Abstract

Abstract should contain no more than 120 words , and should be one paragraph written in block format with double spacing. Additionally, state the topic in a sentence or two. Also, provide overview of methods, results, and discussion.

APA research paper format

APA Style – Abstract in APA Style

3. Introduction

An introduction of APA research paper format is the most difficult section to write. A good introduction critically evaluates the empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s) in a way that defines the knowledge gap and expresses your aim for your study and why you conducted it. However, the challenge here is to keep the reader’s interest in reading your paper.

A good introduction keeps readers engaged with your paper. For writing an interesting introduction, researchers should introduce logical flow of ideas which will eventually lead to the research hypothesis . Furthermore, while incorporating references into your introduction, do not describe every single study in complete detail. Summarize the key findings from the article and do not quote from the articles, instead paraphrase the content .

The method section in APA research paper format is straightforward. However, the protocol and requirements should be mentioned precisely. The goal of this section is to describe your study and experiments in detail, so that there is no issue in reproducibility of results and other researchers could duplicate your methods effectively.

This section includes Materials and/or Apparatus and Experiments/Procedures/Protocols. Furthermore, keep the procedures brief and accurate, and make sure to read through so as to not repeat the steps or avoid redundancy.

In this section, you could describe how you analyzed the data and explain your findings. If your data analyses are complex, then break the section into subsections, ideally a subsection for each hypothesis and elaborate the subsections by using statistical analysis and including tables or figures to represent results visually. Most importantly, do not share interpretation of the results here. You can interpret and explain the results in the discussion section.

6. Discussion

Results are interpreted and understood in this section. Discussion section helps understand the research hypothesis better and places the results in the broader context of the literature in the area. This section is the reversal of introduction section, wherein you begin with the specifics and explain the general understanding of the topics.

In discussion, you start with a brief of your main findings, followed by explaining if your research findings support your hypothesis. Furthermore, you could explain how your findings enhance or support the existing literature on the topic. Connect your results with some of the literature mentioned in the introduction to bring your story back to full circle. You could also mention if there are any interesting or surprising findings in your results. Discuss other theories which could help you justify your surprising results.

Explain the limitation of your study and mention all the additional questions that were generated from your study. You could also mention what further research should be conducted on the topic and what are the knowledge gaps in the current body of research. Finally, mention how your results could relate to the larger issues of human existence and highlight “the big picture” for your readers.

7. References

Provide an alphabetical listing of the references. Do not keep extra spaces between references and double-space all the references. The second line of each reference should be intended. You could refer to the examples (mentioned below) to know how to format references correctly.

I. Journal Article:

Only first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words are capitalized.

Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21 , 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

II. Book Chapter:

Only the first letter of the first word of both the chapter title and book title are capitalized.

Example: Stephan, W. G. (1985). Intergroup relations. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 599-658). New York: Random House.

Example: Gray, P. (2010). Psychology (6th ed.). New York: Worth

There are various formats for tables, depending upon the information you wish to include. So, be thorough and provide a table number and title (the latter should be italicized). Tables can be single or double-spaced.

Be sure to mention x- and y-axes clearly. Underneath the figure provide a label and brief caption. The figure caption typically includes variables and units of measurements. Also, include error bars in your bar graphs, and note what the bars represent in the figure caption – Error bars represent one standard error above and below the mean.

VI. In-Text Citation:

  • Mention the authors’ names and publication date while citing sources in your paper.
  • When including the citation as part of the sentence, use AND: “According to Jones and Smith (2003), the…”
  • When the citation is written in parentheses, use &: “Studies have shown that priming can affect actual motor behavior (Jones & Smith, 2003; Kiley, Bailey, & Hammer, 1999). The studies in parentheses should appear alphabetically by first author’s last name, and separate it with semicolons.
  • You should avoid quoting directly, but in case you do – along with the name and date, include the page number.
  • For sources with three or more authors, once you have listed all the authors’ names, you may write “et al.” on subsequent mentions: “Klein et al. (1999) found that…”.
  • Meanwhile, when source has six or more authors, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited.

VII. Secondary Source:

It is a term used to describe material that is cited in another source. Avoid using secondary sources in your papers. Try to find the primary source and read it before citing in your work. However, if you must mention a secondary source, refer to the APA style paper example below:

Primary source author’s last name (as cited in secondary source author’s last name, year) argued that…

7 Tips for Writing an Error-free APA Style Research Paper

APA research paper format

  • Although there are exceptions, minimize using first person while writing.
  • Avoid including personal statements or anecdotes.
  • Although there are exceptions, use past tense while writing.
  • Do not use contractions. (e.g., “it does not follow” rather than “it doesn’t follow”)
  • Avoid biased language – Be updated with appropriate terminologies, especially if you are writing a paper that includes gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.
  • Be certain to cite your sources.
  • Try to paraphrase as much as possible, and do not directly quote from source articles.

This article contains only a few aspects of an APA research paper format. There are many APA style rules which can be explored before you begin to write an APA style research paper. Many of the APA research paper format rules are dynamic and subject to change, so it is best to refer to 7 th edition (latest) of the APA Publication Manual and be thorough with every section’s format before writing a research paper.

Have you used an APA research paper format to write your article? Do write to us or comment below and tell us how your experience writing an APA style paper was?

Frequently Asked Questions

The APA format is the official style of American Psychological Association (APA) and is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education and social sciences.

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. It is a professional organization that focuses on the field of psychology and related disciplines.

Citing sources in APA format involves specific guidelines for different types of sources. In-text Citations: For a paraphrased or summarized idea from a source, include the author's last name and the publication year in parentheses. Example: (Smith, 2021) Reference List Entry for a Journal Article: Only first letter of the first word of the article title is capitalized; the journal name and volume are italicized. If the journal name had multiple words, each of the major words are capitalized. Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

The APA (American Psychological Association) style is primarily used by researchers, scholars, and students in the social sciences, including psychology, sociology, education, and related fields. However, the APA style is not limited to these disciplines and is also used in other academic and scientific fields when writing research papers or scholarly articles.

As per the 7th edition of APA citation (published in 2020), the last name and first/middle initials for all authors (up to first 20 authors) are mentioned in the bibliography. If there are 21 or more authors, an ellipsis (but no ampersand) is used after the 19th author, and then the final author’s name is added. Generic format: Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, Volume # (issue number), Pages. https://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy Example: Ebner-Priemer, U. W., & Trull, T. J. (2009). Ecological momentary assessment of mood disorders and mood dysregulation. Psychological Assessment, 21, 463-475. doi:10.1037/a0017075

When quoting in APA format, you need to properly incorporate and cite direct quotations from sources. Introduce the Quote: Begin with a signal phrase or an introductory statement to lead into the quote. This helps provide context and relevance for the quotation. Provide In-text Citation: Immediately after the closing quotation mark, include an in-text citation that provides the author's last name, publication year, and, if applicable, page number(s) of the quoted material. Example: (Smith, 2021, p. 25) Cite the Source in the Reference List: Include a corresponding entry in the reference list for the source you are quoting. The format for the reference list entry depends on the type of source being quoted (e.g., book, journal article, website).

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In-Text Citations: The Basics

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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.

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 .

Reference citations in text are covered on pages 261-268 of the Publication Manual. What follows are some general guidelines for referring to the works of others in your essay.

Note:  On pages 117-118, the Publication Manual suggests that authors of research papers should use the past tense or present perfect tense for signal phrases that occur in the literature review and procedure descriptions (for example, Jones (1998)  found  or Jones (1998)  has found ...). Contexts other than traditionally-structured research writing may permit the simple present tense (for example, Jones (1998)  finds ).

APA Citation Basics

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, like, for example, (Jones, 1998). One complete reference for each source should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but  NOT  directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference.

On the other hand, if you are directly quoting or borrowing from another work, you should include the page number at the end of the parenthetical citation. Use the abbreviation “p.” (for one page) or “pp.” (for multiple pages) before listing the page number(s). Use an en dash for page ranges. For example, you might write (Jones, 1998, p. 199) or (Jones, 1998, pp. 199–201). This information is reiterated below.

Regardless of how they are referenced, all sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

In-text citation capitalization, quotes, and italics/underlining

  • Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.
  • If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source:  Permanence and Change . Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs:  Writing New Media ,  There Is Nothing Left to Lose .

( Note:  in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized:  Writing new media .)

  • When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word:  Natural-Born Cyborgs .
  • Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's  Vertigo ."
  • If the title of the work is italicized in your reference list, italicize it and use title case capitalization in the text:  The Closing of the American Mind ;  The Wizard of Oz ;  Friends .
  • If the title of the work is not italicized in your reference list, use double quotation marks and title case capitalization (even though the reference list uses sentence case): "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds;" "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."

Short quotations

If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference (preceded by "p." for a single page and “pp.” for a span of multiple pages, with the page numbers separated by an en dash).

You can introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.

If you do not include the author’s name in the text of the sentence, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.

Long quotations

Place direct quotations that are 40 words or longer in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout, but do not add an extra blank line before or after it. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Because block quotation formatting is difficult for us to replicate in the OWL's content management system, we have simply provided a screenshot of a generic example below.

This image shows how to format a long quotation in an APA seventh edition paper.

Formatting example for block quotations in APA 7 style.

Quotations from sources without pages

Direct quotations from sources that do not contain pages should not reference a page number. Instead, you may reference another logical identifying element: a paragraph, a chapter number, a section number, a table number, or something else. Older works (like religious texts) can also incorporate special location identifiers like verse numbers. In short: pick a substitute for page numbers that makes sense for your source.

Summary or paraphrase

If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference and may omit the page numbers. APA guidelines, however, do encourage including a page range for a summary or paraphrase when it will help the reader find the information in a longer work. 

  • Bipolar Disorder
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  • Types of Therapy
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  • Understanding Emotions
  • Self-Improvement
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  • Student Resources
  • Personality Types
  • Verywell Mind Insights
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  • Mental Health in the Classroom
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  • Meet Our Review Board
  • Crisis Support

How to Write an Outline in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

how do i write an apa format paper

Amanda Tust is a fact-checker, researcher, and writer with a Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

how do i write an apa format paper

  • Before Starting Your Outline
  • How to Create an Outline

Writing a psychology paper can feel like an overwhelming task. From picking a topic to finding sources to cite, each step in the process comes with its own challenges. Luckily, there are strategies to make writing your paper easier—one of which is creating an outline using APA format .

Here we share what APA format entails and the basics of this writing style. Then we get into how to create a research paper outline using APA guidelines, giving you a strong foundation to start crafting your content.

At a Glance

APA format is the standard writing style used for psychology research papers. Creating an outline using APA format can help you develop and organize your paper's structure, also keeping you on task as you sit down to write the content.

APA Format Basics

Formatting dictates how papers are styled, which includes their organizational structure, page layout, and how information is presented. APA format is the official style of the American Psychological Association (APA).

Learning the basics of APA format is necessary for writing effective psychology papers, whether for your school courses or if you're working in the field and want your research published in a professional journal. Here are some general APA rules to keep in mind when creating both your outline and the paper itself.

Font and Spacing

According to APA style, research papers are to be written in a legible and widely available font. Traditionally, Times New Roman is used with a 12-point font size. However, other serif and sans serif fonts like Arial or Georgia in 11-point font sizes are also acceptable.

APA format also dictates that the research paper be double-spaced. Each page has 1-inch margins on all sides (top, bottom, left, and right), and the page number is to be placed in the upper right corner of each page.

Both your psychology research paper and outline should include three key sections:

  • Introduction : Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis
  • Body : Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis
  • Conclusion : Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position

Headings and Subheadings

APA format provides specific guidelines for using headings and subheadings. They are:

  • Main headings : Use Roman numerals (I, II, III, IV)
  • Subheadings: Use capital letters (A, B, C, D)

If you need further subheadings within the initial subheadings, start with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3), then lowercase letters (a, b, c), then Arabic numerals inside parentheses [(1), (2), (3)]

Before Starting Your APA Format Outline

While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance. Prior to drafting your psychology research paper outline using APA writing style, taking a few important steps can help set you up for greater success.

Review Your Instructor's Requirements

Look over the instructions for your research paper. Your instructor may have provided some type of guidance or stated what they want. They may have even provided specific requirements for what to include in your outline or how it needs to be structured and formatted.

Some instructors require research paper outlines to use decimal format. This structure uses Arabic decimals instead of Roman numerals or letters. In this case, the main headings in an outline would be 1.0, 1.2, and 1.3, while the subheadings would be 1.2.1, 1.2.2, 1.2.3, and so on.

Consider Your Preferences

After reviewing your instructor's requirements, consider your own preferences for organizing your outline. Think about what makes the most sense for you, as well as what type of outline would be most helpful when you begin writing your research paper.

For example, you could choose to format your headings and subheadings as full sentences, or you might decide that you prefer shorter headings that summarize the content. You can also use different approaches to organizing the lettering and numbering in your outline's subheadings.

Whether you are creating your outline according to your instructor's guidelines or following your own organizational preferences, the most important thing is that you are consistent.

Formatting Tips

When getting ready to start your research paper outline using APA format, it's also helpful to consider how you will format it. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Your outline should begin on a new page.
  • Before you start writing the outline, check that your word processor does not automatically insert unwanted text or notations (such as letters, numbers, or bullet points) as you type. If it does, turn off auto-formatting.
  • If your instructor requires you to specify your hypothesis in your outline, review your assignment instructions to find out where this should be placed. They may want it presented at the top of your outline, for example, or included as a subheading.

How to Create a Research Paper Outline Using APA

Understanding APA format basics can make writing psychology research papers much easier. While APA format does not provide specific rules for creating an outline, you can still develop a strong roadmap for your paper using general APA style guidance, your instructor's requirements, and your own personal organizational preferences.

Typically you won't need to turn your outline in with your final paper. But that doesn't mean you should skip creating one. A strong paper starts with a solid outline. Developing this outline can help you organize your writing and ensure that you effectively communicate your paper's main points and arguments. Here's how to create a research outline using APA format.

Start Your Research

While it may seem like you should create an outline before starting your research, the opposite is actually true. The information you find when researching your psychology research topic will start to reveal the information you'll want to include in your paper—and in your outline.

As you research, consider the main arguments you intend to make in your paper. Look for facts that support your hypothesis, keeping track of where you find these facts so you can cite them when writing your paper. The more organized you are when creating your outline, the easier it becomes to draft the paper itself.

If you are required to turn in your outline before you begin working on your paper, keep in mind that you may need to include a list of references that you plan to use.

Draft Your Outline Using APA Format

Once you have your initial research complete, you have enough information to create an outline. Start with the main headings (which are noted using Roman numerals I, II, III, etc.). Here's an example of the main headings you may use if you were writing an APA format outline for a research paper in support of using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for anxiety :

  • Introduction
  • What CBT Is
  • How CBT Helps Ease Anxiety
  • Research Supporting CBT for Anxiety
  • Potential Drawbacks of CBT for Anxiety and How to Overcome Them

Under each main heading, list your main points or key ideas using subheadings (as noted with A, B, C, etc.). Sticking with the same example, subheadings under "What CBT Is" may include:

  • Basic CBT Principles
  • How CBT Works
  • Conditions CBT Has Been Found to Help Treat

You may also decide to include additional subheadings under your initial subheadings to add more information or clarify important points relevant to your hypothesis. Examples of additional subheadings (which are noted with 1, 2, 3, etc.) that could be included under "Basic CBT Principles" include:

  • Is Goal-Oriented
  • Focuses on Problem-Solving
  • Includes Self-Monitoring

Begin Writing Your Research Paper

The reason this step is included when drafting your research paper outline using APA format is that you'll often find that your outline changes as you begin to dive deeper into your proposed topic. New ideas may emerge or you may decide to narrow your topic further, even sometimes changing your hypothesis altogether.

All of these factors can impact what you write about, ultimately changing your outline. When writing your paper, there are a few important points to keep in mind:

  • Follow the structure that your instructor specifies.
  • Present your strongest points first.
  • Support your arguments with research and examples.
  • Organize your ideas logically and in order of strength.
  • Keep track of your sources.
  • Present and debate possible counterarguments, and provide evidence that counters opposing arguments.

Update Your Final Outline

The final version of your outline should reflect your completed draft. Not only does updating your outline at this point help ensure that you've covered the topics you want in your paper, but it also gives you another opportunity to verify that your paper follows a logical sequence.

When reading through your APA-formatted outline, consider whether it flows naturally from one topic to the next. You wouldn't talk about how CBT works before discussing what CBT is, for example. Taking this final step can give you a more solid outline, and a more solid research paper.

American Psychological Association. About APA Style .

Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Types of outlines and samples .

Mississippi College. Writing Center: Outlines .

American Psychological Association. APA style: Style and Grammar Guidelines .

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

In-text citation

  • Reference list
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Audiovisual
  • Books and chapters
  • Conferences
  • Course materials
  • Government and business reports
  • Medicine and health sources
  • Music scores
  • Tables and figures
  • Theses and dissertations
  • Web and social media
  • Other sources
  • Print this page
  • Other styles AGLC4 APA 7th Chicago 17th (A) Notes Chicago 17th (B) Author-Date Harvard MLA 9th Vancouver
  • Referencing home

The APA 7th style uses in-text citations when referring to or quoting people’s work. The essential elements of an in-text citation are the author surname/s and year.

Two types of in-text citations

1. author prominent format.

Use this format if you want to emphasise the author. Their name becomes part of your sentence.

Jones (2018) concluded that the treatment was effective in 74% of cases.

Author prominent citations are also referred to as parenthetical citations.

2. Information prominent format

Use this format if you want to emphasise the information. It cites the author’s name, typically at the end of a sentence.

...as evidenced by a recent Australian study of the treatment's effectiveness (Jones, 2018).

Information prominent citations are also referred to as narrative citations.

The following examples show how to form in-text citations according to number of authors and other considerations.

Surname, Year

Hawkins (2020) reported that the results of the study were inconclusive.

. . . the results of the study were inconclusive (Hawkins, 2020).

Two authors

Both surnames in the order listed on the publication and the year.

For author prominent citations, use “and” between the author names.

For information prominent citations, & between the author names.

Bovey and Hede (2013) argue that . . .

. . . is a significant factor (Bovey & Hede, 2013).

Three or more authors

Cite the first author followed by et al. and year

Robbins et al. (2017) note that leadership empathy and good communication are key to negotiating successful organisational change.

They may be required to work harder now there are … perform the same tasks (Robbins et al., 2017).

Different authors, same surname

When two or more authors have the same surname, add their initials to distinguish between them

P. R. Smith (1945) adopted a unique approach . . . . . . later in the text . . . This idea was first advanced by S. Smith (1935).

Research conducted by W.O. Brown and Jones (1985) was influenced by the work of S.A. Brown and Smith (1961).

The corresponding information prominent citations would be:

(P.R. Smith, 1945)

(S. Smith, 1935)

(W.O. Brown & Jones, 1985)

(S.A. Brown & Smith, 1961)

Multiple authors, ambiguous citations

Distinguish identical multiple-author citations with the same year by adding an additional surname, followed by a comma and et al.

Instead of just Brown et al. (1998), add additional author surnames to distinguish between separate works that Brown co-authored that year:

Brown, Shimamura, et al. (1998)

Brown, Taylor, et al. (1998).

The corresponding information prominent citations would be (Brown, Shimamura, et al., 1998), and (Brown, Taylor, et al., 1998).

  • For further guidance see the APA Style website - Citing multiple works…

Same author, two or more works

Author surname, then years separated by a commas, in chronological order.

Reimer (2017, 2018, 2019) considered this phenomenon across various studies . . .

. . . this phenomenon was considered across various studies (Reimer, 2017, 2018, 2019).

Same author, multiple works and same year

Assign a suffix of a, b, c, d, etc. after the year, according to alphabetical listing by title in the reference list.

Stairs (1992b) examined . . . . . . later in the text . . . According to Stairs (1992a) . . .

. . . was recently considered (Stairs, 1992b) . . . . . . later in the text . . . . . . the results were inconclusive (Stairs, 1992a).

  • For multiple references by the same author with no date, after n.d. add a hyphen and then the suffix e.g. (Dreshcke n.d.-b)

Multiple works from various authors

You may want to cite works from various authors to more strongly support a particular point you are making.

List each work alphabetically by surname in alphabetical order, separated by semicolons.

. . . as proposed by various researchers (Adams et al., 2020; Green, 2019; Hall & Clark, 2021).

Green (2019), Adams et al. (2020), and Hall and Clark (2021) analysed . . .

  • In the author prominent citation there is no requirement to order the citations alphabetically

If the author is identified as 'Anonymous'

Use 'Anonymous' as the surname.

Anonymous (2019)

(Anonymous, 2019)

Unknown author

Give the first few words of the title. If the title is from an article or a chapter, use double quotation marks. If the title is from a periodical, book brochure, or report, then use italics.

. . . the worst election loss in the party's history ("This is the end," 1968).

Corporate or group author

If the organisation has a recognisable abbreviation

First listing: Organisation name [Abbreviation], Year Subsequent: Abbreviation, Year

Where the organisation abbreviation is not widely known

Use the name in full every time

Census data gives valuable insights into... (Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], 2021).

Australia's next census will be held on 10th August 2021 (ABS, 2021).

Author quoted directly

Occasionally it may be necessary to include in your work a quotation from an author.

Always include a page number when you have to cite directly from a source.

If no page numbers are available (e.g. in a website), include a paragraph number.

Use accepted abbreviations like p. for page and para. for paragraph

Gittins (2006) suggests that "the key to understanding microeconomics is to realise that its overwhelming focus is on the role of price" (p. 18).

Weston (1988) stated "the darkest days were still ahead" (p. 45).

A patient is in pain when they tell you and "it is important to believe the patient so as to build a trusting relationship" (Phipps et al., 1983, p.45).

Personal communications

Private letters, e-mail and conversations require only an in-text citation, which includes the date of the communication (Month DD, YYYY).

Personal communications are not included in reference lists, as they are not accessible to others.

R. Smith (personal communication, January 28, 2020) . . .

. . . (R. Smith, personal communication, January 28, 2020)

Author referred to in a secondary source

The original author is cited together with the secondary author.

Only do this when the original is unavailable and only include what you have actually read.

Farrow (1968, as cited in Ward & Decan, 1988) . . .

Ward and Decan (1988) cited Farrow (1968) as finding . . .

. . . (Farrow, 1968, as cited in Ward & Decan, 1988).

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Frequently asked questions

How do i format a paper in apa style.

To format a paper in APA Style , follow these guidelines:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial
  • Set 1 inch page margins
  • Apply double line spacing
  • Include a title page
  • If submitting for publication, insert a running head on every page
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
  • Apply APA heading styles
  • Cite your sources with APA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a reference page at the end

Frequently asked questions: Writing a research paper

A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.

The best way to remember the difference between a research plan and a research proposal is that they have fundamentally different audiences. A research plan helps you, the researcher, organize your thoughts. On the other hand, a dissertation proposal or research proposal aims to convince others (e.g., a supervisor, a funding body, or a dissertation committee) that your research topic is relevant and worthy of being conducted.

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

Research questions anchor your whole project, so it’s important to spend some time refining them.

In general, they should be:

  • Focused and researchable
  • Answerable using credible sources
  • Complex and arguable
  • Feasible and specific
  • Relevant and original

All research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly

Writing Strong Research Questions

A research aim is a broad statement indicating the general purpose of your research project. It should appear in your introduction at the end of your problem statement , before your research objectives.

Research objectives are more specific than your research aim. They indicate the specific ways you’ll address the overarching aim.

Once you’ve decided on your research objectives , you need to explain them in your paper, at the end of your problem statement .

Keep your research objectives clear and concise, and use appropriate verbs to accurately convey the work that you will carry out for each one.

I will compare …

Your research objectives indicate how you’ll try to address your research problem and should be specific:

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarize the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in Chicago style are to:

  • Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Use 1 inch margins or larger
  • Place page numbers in the top right or bottom center
  • Cite your sources with author-date citations or Chicago footnotes
  • Include a bibliography or reference list

To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .

The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:

  • Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
  • Center the paper’s title
  • Use title case capitalization for headings
  • Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
  • List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end

No, it’s not appropriate to present new arguments or evidence in the conclusion . While you might be tempted to save a striking argument for last, research papers follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the results and discussion sections if you are following a scientific structure). The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

The conclusion of a research paper has several key elements you should make sure to include:

  • A restatement of the research problem
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or findings
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

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The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

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  15. Formatting the Paper Itself

    Formatting the Paper Itself. The following formatting rules for the paper are strongly recommended: Text should be double-spaced. Margins should be 1" on all sides (top, bottom, left, right). Recommended fonts and font sizes are: Times New Roman 11, Calibri 11, Arial 11, Lucida Sans Unicode 10, Georgia 11, Computer Modern 10, and similar.

  16. How to Write an APA Research Paper

    The entire paper should be written in the past tense, in a 12-point font, double-spaced, and with one-inch margins all around. Title page (see sample on p. 41 of APA manual) Title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect content of paper (e.g., IV and DV). Title, your name, and Hamilton College are all double-spaced (no extra spaces)

  17. Instructional aids

    These instructional aids will help you improve your APA Style skills. Access free tutorials and webinars, handouts and guides, and sample papers; learn about instructional products such as the Mastering APA Style Student Workbook; and request desk or exam copies of APA Style books as well as ancillary materials related to course adoption.New to APA Style?

  18. How to Write a Research Paper in APA Format

    1. Title Page As per the APA research paper format, the title should be between 10-12 words and should reflect the essence of the paper.

  19. APA Abstract (2020)

    Follow these five steps to format your abstract in APA Style: Insert a running head (for a professional paper—not needed for a student paper) and page number. Set page margins to 1 inch (2.54 cm). Write "Abstract" (bold and centered) at the top of the page. Place the contents of your abstract on the next line. Do not indent the first line.

  20. In-Text Citations: The Basics

    Use the abbreviation "p." (for one page) or "pp." (for multiple pages) before listing the page number (s). Use an en dash for page ranges. For example, you might write (Jones, 1998, p. 199) or (Jones, 1998, pp. 199-201). This information is reiterated below.

  21. How to Write an Outline in APA Format

    Introduction: Highlights the main points and presents your hypothesis Body: Details the ideas and research that support your hypothesis Conclusion: Briefly reiterates your main points and clarifies support for your position Headings and Subheadings APA format provides specific guidelines for using headings and subheadings. They are:

  22. Setting Up the APA Reference Page

    Place the section label "References" in bold at the top of the page (centered). Order the references alphabetically. Double-space all text. Apply a hanging indent of 0.5 inches. Generate accurate APA citations with Scribbr Instantly correct all language mistakes in your text Be assured that you'll submit flawless writing.

  23. In-text citation

    The APA 7th style uses in-text citations when referring to or quoting people's work. The essential elements of an in-text citation are the author surname/s and year. Two types of in-text citations 1. Author prominent format. Use this format if you want to emphasise the author. Their name becomes part of your sentence.

  24. How do I format a paper in APA Style?

    To format a paper in APA Style, follow these guidelines: Use a standard font like 12 pt Times New Roman or 11 pt Arial. Set 1 inch page margins. Apply double line spacing. Include a title page. If submitting for publication, insert a running head on every page. Indent every new paragraph ½ inch.