How to Write an APA Style Paper
Three Parts:Formatting the Title Page and AbstractCreating the Main BodyApplying the Finishing TouchesCommunity Q&A
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!
Part 1Formatting the Title Page and Abstract
Set the basic layout parameters. An APA style paper should use a 12 point font size and be double spaced throughout. One inch margins all around are also recommended. Use this basic layout on every page of your paper.
2Dream up a title that’s fairly brief. The APA recommends that titles the short but sweet, and to the point. Ten to twelve words is a good length, and the title should give readers a sense of exactly what your paper is about.
- 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.
3Include your name and institution below the title. Double-spacing is fine here. There’s no need to include extra spaces between the title and this information. It should look something like this:
- Age as an Influence on Perceived Access to Healthcare in Cities
- Rohanda Jenkins
- University of Toledo
4Make use of the page header. Every page of your paper, including the title page, should have a running header. This should be a brief synopsis of your paper’s title. Style it in all caps, and keep it under 50 characters.
- For example, “AGE AND PERCEIVED ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE”
Set the page number in the upper right. The page number should appear on the same line as the running header, all the way to the right. Set the page number to show up automatically on every subsequent page.
Part 2Creating the Main Body
1Introduce your paper. The first section of an APA style paper will be the introduction, but it doesn’t have to be labeled. Just write the title of your paper (in regular type) on the start of the next page, then begin writing your introduction on the line below it.
- 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.”
2Label the methods section. In bold print, just after your introduction, center the word “Method.” This section is a little easier. It should describe, in simple terms, the exact design of your research. Create subsections to describe the participants, materials, and procedures you used in your study. Do not use page breaks between these subsections or any other sections of your paper).
- 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.
3Share your results. Put the word “Results” in bold print and center it after the last of your methods subsections. Make sure to include statistics analyzing your study, if applicable.
- 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…”
4Tell readers the significance of your work in the discussion section. Label this section “Discussion” in bold print, centered, just after the results section. Discuss things like whether or not your findings matched your hypothesis (and your guess as to why). Make sure to acknowledge any limits to your study. You can also mention what other scholars might do next based on your findings.
- 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.”
Part 3Applying the Finishing Touches
1Tack on the references section. All sources that you use in your study should be cited according to current APA style guidelines. After your discussion section, you should also include a list of full bibliographical information for these references, following the word “References” centered in bold type.
- 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.
2Include any tables or figures you created. The formatting of tables and figures varies based on your field as well as the design of your study. Check with the most recent APA style manual or authorities in the field if you want to see recommendations. If you include multiple tables and figures, give each its own page.
- 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.
3Devote a separate page to the abstract. Write a paragraph that summarizes topic, methods, results, and discussions. Limit it to 150-250 words. Like the rest of your paper, this should be double spaced. It should be block format, however (don’t indent the first line).
- 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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What's the difference between APA and MLA?
There are many differences, but the biggest difference is in when each format is used. APA formatting is used for writing papers in the sciences and social sciences, while MLA formatting is intended more commonly for papers written in the humanities/liberal arts areas. As for the formatting itself, MLA formatted papers don't have a title page or abstract while APA papers do. In-text citations in MLA include author and page, while APA citations include author and date. There are differences in the titles and layouts of the reference lists for each type of paper. This is just a sampling, reviewing the style manuals for each will reveal many other differences.
Ask a Question
APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).
Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:26:13
Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in APA.
To see a side-by-side comparison of the three most widely used citation styles, including a chart of all APA citation guidelines, see the Citation Style Chart.
You can also watch our APA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.
General APA Guidelines
Your essay should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11"), with 1" margins on all sides. You should use a clear font that is highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.
Include a page header (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page. To create a page header/running head, insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.
Major Paper Sections
Your essay should include four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.
The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page. Please note that on the title page, your page header/running head should look like this:
Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
Pages after the title page should have a running head that looks like this:
TITLE OF YOUR PAPER
After consulting with publication specialists at the APA, OWL staff learned that the APA 6th edition, first printing sample papers have incorrect examples of running heads on pages after the title page. This link will take you to the APA site where you can find a complete list of all the errors in the APA's 6th edition style guide.
Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.
Beneath the title, type the author's name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).
Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.
Image Caption: APA Title Page
Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).
Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.
You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.
Image Caption: APA Abstract Page
Please see our Sample APA Paper resource to see an example of an APA paper. You may also visit our Additional Resources page for more examples of APA papers.
How to Cite the Purdue OWL in APA
Contributors' names and the last edited date can be found in the orange boxes at the top of every page on the OWL.
Contributors' names (Last edited date). Title of resource. Retrieved from http://Web address for OWL resource
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/