Whether you’re a student, researcher, or writer, understanding the principles of APA formatting is essential for creating well-structured and professional documents. In this post, we’ll cover everything from the basics to some of the finer details, ensuring you have the knowledge to confidently tackle your next APA paper.
What Is APA Style?
The American Psychological Association (APA) publishes a style guide, The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, in its seventh edition at publication of this post. APA style is used primarily in the social sciences. Its purpose is to establish a consistent and clear format for academic and professional writing.
How Are APA Papers Formatted?
Formatting an APA paper can seem daunting at first, but once you understand the guidelines, the process becomes more manageable. Here’s a brief overview of the guidelines:
Margins and Spacing
APA papers have one-inch margins on all sides, and the text is double-spaced throughout.
Font Style and Size
APA finds several 10- to 12-point fonts acceptable if they are legible. Check your assignment details. Commonly acceptable fonts are 12-point Times New Roman and 11-point Calibri and Arial.
Page numbers are placed in the top right corner of each page, starting from the title page (the title page is page 1).
A running head (a shortened version of the paper’s title) appears in the header of each page. It is left-justified and all uppercase.
Use a hierarchical system of headings (e.g., level 1, level 2) to organize your content. Each level has specific formatting guidelines.
Examples of APA Citations and References
One of the most distinguishing features of APA reference list entries is their use of sentence case for titles (but words following a colon should be capitalized). Additionally, unlike some of the other common style guides, APA does not require publisher location information.
The reference list should correspond to the in-text citations, which are given in parentheses, with the publication year following the author’s name if the name is mentioned in the main text (see below). If the author’s name isn’t mentioned in the main text, provide it, along with the publication year (and a page number for direct quotations), all in parentheses, in the citation.
In-text citation for a paraphrase or summary with the author’s name mentioned in the main text: According to Smith (2021), the key points are summarized here.
In-text citation for a paraphrase or summary not mentioning the author by name in the main text: The key points are summarized here (Smith, 2021).
In-text citation for a direct quote:“This is a direct quote from the book” (Smith, 2021, p. 45).
Include the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) when it’s available; it provides a stable and unique link to the source.
Do APA Papers Require an Abstract?
APA papers often include an abstract, but whether it’s required depends on the specific assignment or publication guidelines. An abstract, typically around 150 to 250 words, is a concise summary of the paper’s main points. It provides readers with a quick overview of the paper’s purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.
In academic settings, most instructors and institutions will specify whether an abstract is required for a particular assignment. For scholarly articles submitted to journals, abstracts are almost always a mandatory component.
As you learn, you may need to check and recheck your formatting to perfect it. Understanding the basics, such as title pages, citations, reference lists, and headings, is crucial for creating well-organized and credible papers.