The Ultimate Guide to the APA Format Paper Writing 
Jan 28, 2021
APA Format

 

APA Formatting Basics

  • The text of the APA format essay should be double-spaced;
  • The width of the margins on all four sides should be not less than 1 inch;
  • The paragraphs in the body section are always indented;
  • The title of the paper should be centered. The name of the educational institution is to be placed right under the title;
  • There are several recommendations as to the fonts that can be used. The most common font size is 12 pt.;
  • The page number should be put at the top right corner of each page;
  • The majority of the punctuation marks require a space after them;
  • The shortened version of a title that is called a running head is to be placed at the top left corner of the page.

Table of Contents

Writing and organizing your paper:

Arranging Your Paper Effectively

Categories of papers

General paper length

Margin sizes in APA

Title pages in APA

Running heads in APA

Preparing outlines in APA

How to form an abstract in APA

The body of an APA paper

Proper usage of headings & subheadings in APA

Use of graphics (tables and figures) in APA

Writing style tips: 

Verb usage in APA

Proper tone

How to reduce bias and labels

Spelling in APA

Abbreviation do’s and don’ts in APA

Punctuation in APA

Number rules in APA

Citing Your Sources: 

Overview of APA references

In-text APA citations

References page in APA

Proofing Your Paper: 

Final Checklist

Submitting Your APA Paper

APA Information:

What is APA?

What’s New in the 7th Edition? 

Arranging Your Paper in an Effective Way

This chapter elucidates the principles of spacing, heading formatting, proper length of the paper, margin sizes, and other structural APA format tips that would help you properly arrange your paper.  

Categories of papers

To correctly format your research paper, first, determine the exact type of writing you are to deal with. We will focus only on the most popular kinds of paper and describe their main features and goals. Keep reading to learn more about literature reviews, theoretical articles, methodological articles, and case studies. 

Literature reviews

This type of paper aims at conducting a survey of the works of a certain author or a group of authors with their further critical analysis. The main purpose of the literature review is to collect information on the assigned topic and analyze it. This piece of writing elucidates the problem from the author’s perspective, defines the strengths and weaknesses of works, and may offer a completely new solution to the problem that has been brought up. 

 

Theoretical articles

Theoretical papers and literature reviews have a lot in common. The author of the theoretical article also needs to gather, sort, and analyze information on the assigned topic based on other authors’ research works. The main difference between a theoretical article and a literature review though is that the author of the first type of paper needs to come up with their explanation and solution to the problem supported by substantial evidential materials. 

Methodological articles

This piece of writing focuses on new approaches to already existing practices, procedures, or methods. It introduces new modifications and advances. The standpoints elucidated in the article should be supported by the corresponding shreds of evidence and documentation to prove the presented practice is effective. The author should not only explain the novelty of their approach but also describe the principles of the current method to leave room for the reader to carry out their analysis and improve existing practices.

Case studies

Case studies represent the in-depth research of an individual, group of individuals, or a whole community. The information is accumulated from various sources using a wide range of methods. The key goal of the case study is generalizing over several variables. As a rule, the author of this type of paper may also offer the possible solutions to the assigned problem, come up with new theories, and suggest the food for further research.

General paper length

APA format citation style is used mainly for scientific writing. That is why the rule “less is more” applies here well. Make sure all the points are described clearly and the whole text is not overburdened. Avoid the unnecessary details that can make your paper sound unprofessional. Read your work several times and try to make it as concise as possible while preserving the key focuses and supporting evidence.

Margin sizes in APA

Minding the proper size of margins is extremely important not only in APA format but also in all the existing citation styles. Make sure the top, bottom, right, and left sides of the page are consistent. All sides should be at the same distance from the very start. As has already been mentioned, the APA format features at least one-inch margins on each side. The size of margins can be larger but never smaller than one inch. Make sure all the margins are of the same size.   

Title pages in APA

The cover page is the first page of your research paper. The APA format doesn’t usually require the title page to be elaborated at all. However, sometimes the cover page that contains the name of the author and the paper title is a must. Check with your tutor whether you need to include it.

 

In case your paper requires a title page, make sure you know how to properly arrange it. As a rule, it implies six basic points:

 

  • APA format paper title;
  • Author’s name. In case the paper is elaborated by several authors, all the names should be specified;
  • Name of the educational institution or any other institution under the supervision of which the author is writing the paper;
  • Title and number of the course;
  • Name of the professor or a tutor;
  • Paper date.

 

If you are dealing with a professional paper, it also requires a running head. In a student essay, this detail can be skipped. 

 

Sometimes you may be required to add the author’s note in your paper. In this case, place it under the institutional affiliation. The information your author’s note contains should cover the disclosure, acknowledgment, as well as the ORCID iD number. 

 

Check on a couple more handy tips on elaborating the perfect APA format cover page:

 

  • The title of the essay should reflect its central idea. Make sure it doesn’t contain any fluff and conveys a clear message;
  • Indent the top edge of the page by three or four lines and place the title in the very center;
  • The title needs to be of the same font and size as the whole paper. Don’t forget to make it bolded. There is no need to italicize or underline the title. In case your cover page contains any other text, make it plain. Bold text is applied only to a title; 
  • As has already been mentioned, the APA format requires double spacing. Make sure your research paper is double-spaced from the very beginning to the very end;
  • Avoid any titles while specifying the author’s name. For example, using Mr., Ms., or Dr. in this case would be inappropriate. However, when it comes to your instructor, the title is a must. Ask them about the preferable form and use it in combination with their first and second names; 
  • The institution the author belongs to is the educational institution or a place where the given research has been conducted.

 

Running heads in APA

The running head is the main header that should be placed at the top of every page.  According to the 7th edition of the American Psychological Association Publication Manual, student papers do not require any running heads unless specified otherwise. However, your instructor may still be guided by the 6th edition that considers the running heads obligatory for any scientific paper. Talk with your tutor regarding the necessity of the running heads. In any case, every page of your paper needs to have its number at the top right corner. 

 

If guided by the 7th edition, the page header can be considered only from the perspective of the professional pape. In order not to add it manually every time you start a new page, you may easily set up an automatic algorithm that would add the running head at the top of each page. As a rule, the page header consists of two parts:

 

  • The capitalized paper title that needs to be placed in the left corner;
  • The number of the current page that is placed in the right corner. 

 

Provided the title of your paper is too long to be used in the running head, try to shorten it but make sure you preserve the overall sense it conveys.

Preparing outlines in APA

Outlining is not an obligatory requirement of the APA format paper. However, it may be of great assistance to the essay author. The outline helps structure your thoughts, define the scope of work, stay focused, and finally, properly elaborate the subheadings and headings of the research paper.  

 

Since the APA format essay doesn’t require an outline, there are no established norms and features the professionally written outline should correspond to. You can use the combination of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, roman numerals, etc. 

 

To successfully elaborate a research paper outline, you may use the following scheme:

 

  • Start with the thesis statement;
  • Describe the central points that justify your thesis statement. You can list them using the roman numerals;
  • Describe the supporting ideas for each central point. Use the letters to label them;
  • In case your research paper is extensive enough, keep divining each supporting argument into subheadings until the whole outline is brilliantly developed. Use numbers or lowercase letters for labeling.

 

How to form an abstract in APA

In a nutshell, the APA format abstract is a summary of the content of the research paper or an essay. As a rule, case studies or methodological articles are long enough. The abstracts serve to convey the general idea of what a paper is about to help readers decide on whether it is worth their attention.

 

The abstracts of papers are usually showcased in search results while you are browsing some research papers online. They are used as the previews to the essays that are too lengthy to be fully displayed. Elaborating on the essay abstract is a very serious and somewhat challenging process. Make sure your APA format abstracts communicate the central message of the paper and convey the main goal, as they will directly affect the readers’ will to read your essay.

 

Usually, student papers do not contain abstracts as the obligatory part of content. The abstracts are mainly used when the works are being prepared for publishing. In case you have been honored to share your essay with the world, read the requirements as to the abstracts. 

 

The given requirements may contain the following points:

 

  • Abstracts of the paper should be placed in the page following the cover page;
  • The title Abstract is to be provided on the first line of the mentioned page;
  • Describe the central points of your paper, introduce the theme you have been dealing with and questions raised, briefly mention the research process you’ve experienced, and conclusions made. Don’t make the abstract too lengthy: a couple of logically built sentences will be enough.  Make sure your abstract doesn’t contain more than 250 words;
  • As a rule, the abstract is also double-spaced but not indented;
  • In case you want your paper to be easily findable online, staff your summary with the proper keywords;
  • Choose active voice instead of passive. Make the subject carry out the action but not receive it;
  • Don’t include evaluation in the abstract. It serves for reporting the summary of the paper;
  • Provided your paper implies a great deal of someone else’s research, mention the author’s name. Don’t forget to indicate the title of the work and the date it has been published.

 

The body of an APA paper

If you are working on an essay, a page with the body section goes right after the cover page. If you are dealing with a professional paper, start the body paragraph after the abstract page. 

 

The format that can be followed to elaborate on the professional APA format paper body:

 

  • Put the page number at the top right corner of the page;
  • Place the title in the center of the page right in the next line. Make it bold;
  • Right under the title, make an indention, and start writing your first paragraph. 

 

In case you are dealing with a professional scientific essay, follow the guidelines below:

 

  • In addition to the page number, indicate the paper title. Make the running head. Remember it should be capitalized; 
  • Elaborate an introduction. In this type of paper, the introduction should imply the key problems the whole essay is based on. The introduction needs to be more specific than an abstract;
  • Draft the Method section describing the research and analysis processes;
  • Summarize the data in the Results section. Make sure you have used graphics and charts to effectively display the information;
  • Make the conclusions supported by the data mentioned in the body section. State whether you have reached planned results. Indicate the next steps that should be made in the given field. 

Proper usage of headings & subheadings in APA

Any properly organized research paper couldn’t be elaborated without headings and subheadings. They help clearly convey the message and nominally structure the essay idea in the reader’s mind. Besides, headings and subheadings provide a glimpse of what the given section of the paper is about. 

 

Overall, the APA format features five levels of headings. Each of them requires corresponding formatting:

 

Level 1

Title of the paper that should be performed in bold and properly centered.

 

Level 2

This level of heading requires placement of the heading on the left side of the page. It also must be bold. 

 

Level 3

The headings of this level should be placed against the margin on the left. Make them bold and put the period after the heading.

 

Level 4

Make an indent from the left margin and place the heading. Make it bold and put the period after the heading.

 

Level 5

In addition to indented and bolded, this type of heading should be italicized and ended with the period. 

Use of graphics (tables and figures) in APA

If you want to juice up your paper, make it more interesting and informative using various charts, images, drawings, and tables. However, you need to know how to properly integrate them into text. So here’s how to do that:

 

  • Number all the graphics no matter their type;
  • Use the graphics only in case they help perceive the information better. Make sure the graphics support what has been stated in the text;
  • The graphics may not be deprived of the wording that can explain the overall meaning. However, do not overburden the graphic part with a lot of text;
  • Tables and figures should be left-aligned.

Writing Style Tips

Scientific papers differ much from essays of all disciplines. The main difference is in the enhanced complexity of the scientific works. Besides, the latter need to be far more concise, direct, and clear. Any uncertainty is unacceptable. Read the given section to learn all the key tips on the APA format and properly elaborate your paper. 

Verb usage in APA

While working on your scientific research paper, you will have to complete at least a couple of experiments and analysis. Sharing conclusions that have been made after all the stages of the research and analysis have been completed requires proper verb usage. There are several important rules on how to use verbs in your APA format essay:

 

  • Make sure all the verbs are used in the same tense;
  • Each action or process described in the paper requires its tense, for example:
  • In case you want to explain a procedure, use Present Perfect or Past Simple;
  • The results are usually elucidated with the help of Past Simple;
  • Conclusions and further steps require Present or Future Tenses.

 

Proper tone

Despite the nature of the APA format scientific paper that often elucidates the issues that might be quite complex for the regular reader, try to make the overall text sound interesting and inspiring. Dull and boring essays won’t be useful even for those who are directly engaged in the given topic. 

How to reduce bias and labels

Avoiding bias related to people with disabilities, racial communities, gender, age, or sexual orientation is extremely important when working on the APA format paper. One false move, and instead of appreciation, you can be judged for your standpoint. Check a few tips as to reducing bias and labels in your essay:

 

  • Ask someone to read your paper. If you have several people you can refer to, it would be perfect. As s rule, an author may inadequately perceive their work, so it is better to rely on someone else in determining the unacceptable expressions and phrases;
  • Characteristics and orientation of the individual can be mentioned in the text only when it is really important for your paper, with a direct relation to its overall idea;
  • While describing the person’s orientation or characteristics, always mention the word “people” first. For example, write “people with autism” instead of “autistic people”;
  • Choose broader terms instead of narrow ones. For example, if you are writing about elderly people who have participated in your research, you can name them “participants” and in such a way avoid referring to them from the perspective of their age;
  • Stay gender neutral. Use “they”, “their”, “them” no matter the gender;
  • Ethic or racial identity also needs a special term. “Minority” is not acceptable as it may be considered as something that has less importance. Choose neutral terms instead. For example, “people of Korean descent”. Always capitalize the names of ethnic and racial groups;
  • Avoid biased judgement. It is unacceptable to use terms like “upper class” or “lower class”;
  • The words “boys” and “girls” may be used in the context of talking about kids under 12. The age group of 13-17 should be referred to as young women or young men. Those above 18, can be called just women or men. “Older adults” can be used when referring to older people. 

Spelling in APA

The APA format paper cannot tolerate inaccuracy. As a rule, this type of essay is staffed with terminology and specific concepts. The error even in one letter can lead to the incorrect interpretation of the overall essay idea. If you have doubts regarding any word or term, check it in the dictionary. Among the recommended ones are Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary or Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.

 

Abbreviation do’s and don’ts in APA

Abbreviations may be challenging, especially when it comes to the APA format paper. Check on this guide to use them correctly:

 

  • Do not integrate too many abbreviations. The excessive usage of abbreviations can make the whole text unreadable. Besides, the abbreviations don’t contribute to making the text smooth and comprehensive; 
  • One of the most important rules states that in case the abbreviation is used in the text three times or less, you need to provide its full meaning every time it is typed;
  • No need to use periods each time you integrate the abbreviation;
  • When integrated for the first time, the abbreviation should be typed in parentheses right after the full description of the abbreviated notion;
  • If there is a figure used with the units of measurements, you can abbreviate the latters. In case the units of measurements are used alone, type them in full.

Punctuation in APA

One space after punctuation marks

As a rule, the APA style format requires using one space after each punctuation mark. However, you should always check on this issue with your tutor, as sometimes educational institutions introduce their own rules as to the format of spaces after punctuation marks. 

Number rules in APA

It is hardly possible to imagine the research paper without numbers, as science essays are always staffed with various charts, lists, and tables. The numbers that are less than 10 should be written out. The bigger numbers can be used in the form of numerals.

 

However, if the numbers are used in a graph or table, perform the reference function, are used with the units of measurements, showcase the match equation, or display date, time, or day, they should always be used as numerals. 

 

Numbers that should be written out, usually stand at the very beginning of the sentence, represent the commonly used words or phrases, or include a fraction. 

 

Overview of APA references

It is extremely important to properly arrange the references as they serve as a credit to the authors whose works you have used in your paper. Not including the citing of sources in your paper means plagiarizing other people’s ideas, which could lead to serious consequences. 

 

Before proceeding to the example of the APA format reference, it is necessary to determine the difference between reference and citation in order not to mix these notions. References imply the display of the whole information about the source that has been used: its title, the name of the author, year of publishing, etc. The references are provided on the final page of the paper.

Here’s an example of a reference:

 

Darwin, J. (2007). After Tamerlane: The Global History of the Empire Since 1405. London: Allen Lane. 

 

Generally, the APA format references can be arranged according to a simple formula:

 

Last name of the author, First letter of his first name. Middle name initial. (Year of publication). Source. URL.

In-text APA citations

APA format citation means an in-text quote that includes the name of the author and the year of publishing in parentheses. 

Example

Strive for the development of good form in study. Especially is this necessary at the start. Now is the time when you are laying the foundations for your mental achievements in college. Keep a sharp lookout, then, at every point, to see that you build into the foundation only those materials and that workmanship which will support a masterly structure. (Harry D. Kitson, 2004).

References page in APA

The reference section in APA format paper always represents a separate page. If you don’t know how to properly arrange it, read the tips below. They will help you create a brilliant APA reference page:

 

  • The title “References” should be placed right at the top of the page. Make the inscription bold and don’t forget to center it. No need to underline the title or put quotation marks. Italicization is also unnecessary;
  • All entries should be double-spaced and alphabetized;
  • While choosing the font for your reference page, try to pick one that is easily readable; 
  • Reference every quote that you have used in your paper;
  • Reference page can imply more than one page. If your essay is extensive enough and you have used a lot of sources, list everything without hesitation;
  • As a rule, the reference page doesn’t require a running head. However, it is always better to double-check with your tutor on the necessity to use it.

Final Checklist

Now that you know everything about the APA format paper, let’s make a summary of the key points. This will help you make sure you have taken all the rules into account before submitting your paper:

 

  • Make the overall text double-spaced;
  • All the quotes and information used in your APA format paper should be credited;
  • Avoid the flight of fantasy while formatting the title of your APA format essay. Follow the accepted norms: simple font of 11-12 pt in size and double spaces;
  • Check with your professor on the necessity to include an abstract in your paper; 
  • Depending on the type of your paper, check whether your essay requires a running head. If you are dealing with a professional essay, make sure there is a running head on every page. If this is a student paper, place a number of a page at the top right corner;
  • Check the formatting of the headings of all chapters and sections;
  • Make all the tables and graphics as clear as possible. Include a detailed explanation if needed;
  • Mind the format of abbreviations. Check if your paper hasn’t turned into an alphabet soup;
  • Check the formatting of the numbers;
  • Mind the margins. Adjust them according to the mentioned rules.

Submitting Your APA Paper

The glorious moment has finally come: your effort has been rewarded, and you are ready to submit your APA format paper. We believe you have worked hard, so make sure nothing is missed and you have followed all the above recommendations as to proper formatting. 

 

In case you are planning to submit your paper for publishing, don’t forget to support it with the cover letter. As a rule, cover letters should disclose the authors’ name and contact details, a statement that confirms the authenticity of the paper, as well as other data that may be required by the submission norms of the publishing office or a website you are sending your APA format paper to. 

What is APA?

APA stands for the American Psychological Association. APA format implies arranging the paper based on certain norms and standards. APA format is used when you have to deal with any kind of scientific essay. In case the topic of your paper relates to the social, cultural, and behavioral analysis of humankind that may include such disciplines as Economics, Anthropology, Political Science, Linguistics, Human Geography, Archaeology, Neuroscience, Psychology, Sociology, and Cognitive Science, choose APA format. 

What’s New in the 7th Edition?

The 7th edition of the American Psychological Association formatting norms has been issued in 2020 and is nominally divided into 6 sections of the updates on how to structure the content of your scientific essay. 

 

The most significant amendments of the APA 7th edition are as follows:

 

  • The cover page of the student’s paper should contain the title of the essay, the name of the author, affiliation, title and number of the student’s course, tutor’s name, as well as the due date;
  • The size of the font needs to be within 11-12 pt. Choose among Calibri, Times New Roman, Georgia, Arial, Sans Unicode, Lucia, or Computer Modern. You may pick another one; however, make sure it looks formal and readable enough;
  • Running heads are applicable only to the professional APA format papers;
  • It is advisable to use the gender-inclusive pronoun “they” to define the gender;
  • Punctuation marks require a single space after them;
  • Both figures and tables need to have numbers and names on top of them. Notes should be placed below;
  • The shortening of the reference is acceptable in case there are three or more sources;
  • You don’t have to mention format and publisher’s location anymore;
  • Digital object identifiers need to be used in the URL form;
  • No need to put the words “Retrieved from” before URLs.