Find tips on how to properly format your APA-style paper.


The APA style manual puts forth a detailed guide as to how to cite in your paper according to the American Psychological Association’s framework.  It is important to properly cite the research you’ve used in your paper so you are not plagiarizing. Attribution is more than important, and APA style allows a succinct and steady way to show where you’ve taken information included in your essay from. You will need to use these guidelines most often in papers written about the social sciences. The social sciences encompass topics such as psychology, of course, economics, and sociology. Always check with your teacher or professor as to which citation style is expected (there are two other options – MLA and Chicago style- that may be used to reference your sources). For a detailed understanding of the expectations of APA style, check out the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed., 2nd printing). There you’ll find way more information than you can imagine on the subject! For the basics, read on


APA style is a way to guide and standardize the content and writing style of your essay. It allows readers to establish consistent footing for finding and locating resources you’ve compiled that may be helpful or of interest. It also allows for a streamlined organization that does not distract from your content! In other words, it provides a basic framework for your essay according to the standards of the field it concerns. APA style is about clarity and conciseness. This is not the place for flowy, poetic language! Instead, APA requires brief, clear, and well-organized arguments free of any superfluous or romantic speech. This is the place for professional research. It is important to begin with the standard format – typed, double-spaced standard paper (8.5” x 11”) with 1” margins on all sides. APA style prefers Times New Roman 12 pt. font; however, you may use another font so long as it is clear and readable. An important component necessary to follow APA style is the “running head.” This is a header included at the top of every page of your essay. You can insert it easily within the Microsoft Suite by inserting page numbers flush right (an automatic way to place page numbers in your document). Then, typing in front of the number, in all caps, write the TITLE OF YOUR PAPER. As you can imagine, the running head helps readers establish where they are in your paper. APA style also includes four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References. These all are required to maintain consistency and function. Further, APA style dictates certain rules for in-text citations we will discuss later.



The title page for APA is pretty basic. Remember what we’ve discussed with running heads? Now’s the place to start yours! Remember, this includes the title of your paper in all caps and the page number. On the cover page you’ll want to format this as follows: Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER. Afterwards, you’ll erase that “Running head” and colon and progress just with the TITLE OF YOUR PAPER before the page number. All text will be typed double-spaced throughout your paper starting here. Type your title at the center of your document. Remember to write a concise yet specific title for your essay. Underneath the title write your name. Then, finally, write the institution that you are affiliated with. For example, a University – or wherever the place you conducted your research is.


An abstract is a concise summary of the argument put forth in your paper that is around 150-250 words. One is included in all APA-style papers. It is very important to be concise and specific, for this component sets up your entire paper. At the very least, your abstract should go over your research topic, the questions you’ve developed, participants in your study, the methods you’ve used, your results, the analysis of your data and what conclusions you’ve made based on your data, though you may also add what implications your findings have for further research. This is all a single paragraph, so remain concise and know what you are talking about! The format is simple. In the center of the page, type “Abstract” – just like that; no underlines, italics, or other fluffy formatting. Then, type away! It may be helpful, but is not necessary, to include a Keywords list. A Keywords list helps readers find valuable and relevant texts – when they glance at your abstract, it gives them an idea of what your paper will be discussing instantly. If you’d like to include one, at the bottom of your Abstract paragraph simply type Keywords: as is – yes, you do italicize! Then list your keywords (no italics).


One of the most important components of APA style is that it offers a consistent way to attribute sources. Read on to learn how.


Reference citations in text are covered on pages 169-179 of the Publication Manual, if you’d like to learn in detail! You may also find through Purdue OWL a detailed account of how to cite specific media you may have consulted in your research, such as Video. There are different rules for each specific media, so be sure to check, but we’ll only be touching the basics today. Before you begin making in-text citations, you should know that the manual asks you use past or present perfect tense to describe an author’s research – so, “Mr. Blah found” or “Mr. Blah has found.” When you cite an author, title, etc., use standard and proper punctuation and capitalization. When you directly quote, don’t you dare forget a citation at the end! Include the author’s name, the year the work was published, and the page number in parentheses following APA-style – this looks quite simply like this: (Blah, 2015, p. 2). Again, that’s the author’s last name, the year the work was published and the page you found it! You list these using a comma, and indicate page as “p.” It’s really quite easy! If you paraphrase, you should do exactly the same, though, if it is better suited you are not required to list the page number! Never say anything you didn’t know on your own without citing the source from which you gained the knowledge! A final word – for longer quotations, or those over 40 words, to be specific, you will “block” off the lines without using quotation marks as you would in a shorter quotation. This would be indented ½ inch off the margin, like a new paragraph. The parenthetical still goes at the end of the quote. Here’s a basic example.

        Mr. Blah’s study (2015) has found that:

 It really isn’t so bad using the guidelines put forth by the American Psychological Association. Once you’ve gone over the basic components, you can look online for more detail and specific questions, and it won’t be long until you have a concise and polished essay according to these standards. (p.2000).

Easy, right? Keep this in mind if you have several authors:

An ampersand for in-text between two authors (Blah & Boring, 1998, p. 15).

Commas separate a list of 3-5 (Blah, Boring, No, More, 1998, p. 15).

Et. al indicates there were six or more authors (Blah et. al, 1998, p. 15).

If you don’t know the author, just do the publication year and page!

If the author is an organization, type the organization in place of an author name.



Each citation in-text should match a reference to that work included at the end of your document! This is simply called the Reference page. You can find a list for varying types of media resources online, but the basic format is to       put “References” in center of the page – just as is- and alphabetically list works according to the following format:

Last Name, First Name (Year of Publication). Title of the article. Title of the Work/Journal from Which it Comes, Volume, Pages Used.

If you’re a visual learner, use this:

Blah, Mister (2015). You Too Can Use APA. It’s Not So Bad, 1, 1-2000.