APA Formatting - Quick Guide

APA Sample Paper

Downloadable version of the OWL Purdue information on APA citations

Visit the OWL Purdue site

Visit APA Style Central

Audio Tutorial

A flash plug-in for your browser may be required to play this presentation.


  • 1’’ margins
  • Times New Roman, size 12 font
  • Double-spaced
  • Indent all new paragraphs


  • Use active voice.
  • Be specific and concise.
  • Avoid poetic or figurative language; scientific writing is the most appropriate for APA.
  • Use past or present perfect tense (researchers have shown) for a lit review and description. Use past tense when referring to results and experiments previously conducted (pp. 77-79).

Title Page

  • “Running head” and TITLE flush left, and page number flush right at top of page.
  • Double-click the header, click ‘different first page,’ and then insert page number on the right side.
  • Type ‘Running head:’ and your title (or shortened version of your title if the original is longer than 50 characters) in all caps (e.g. Running head: TITLE OR SHORTENED TITLE).
  • On subsequent pages use just the title or shortened title in all caps.
  • The following information will be centered in the upper-middle of the page (approx. 5-6 double-spaced lines down):
  • Title of Paper (first, last, and all important words capitalized)
  • Your name
  • Name of institution


  • The word “Abstract” should be centered on the first line.
  • 150-250 words long
  • Brief, comprehensive summary of the paper
  • Do not indent the first line of the abstract.
  • The abstract is not an introduction to the paper and will not contain any citations.
  • See pp. 25-27 of the APA manual for what information to include in an abstract.
  • If required, one line under the abstract, indent once, and insert and italicize Keywords followed by a colon. Then, separated by commas, insert 3-6 of your paper’s keywords.

Main Body

  • Before writing, center the Paper Title on the first line. Your introduction will begin on the next line, unless your professor asks for a heading to be included for the introduction. In that case, “Introduction” will be on the second line as a level 1 heading.


  • APA papers must use headings to separate paper sections and establish a hierarchy of information.
  • Always use headings in order, beginning with level 1.
  • For each section, include at least two subsection headings or none at all. This follows the same principle as an outline: section one would be divided into sections A and B or more. A cannot stand alone. (see p. 62)
    • First level: centered, boldface, uppercase and lowercase heading
    • Second level: left-aligned, boldface, uppercase and lowercase heading
    • Third level: indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period
    • Fourth level: indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period
    • Fifth level: indented, italicized, lowercase heading with a period

In-Text Citations

  • An in-text citation is used whenever another author’s work is directly quoted or paraphrased.
  • Citations for paraphrases use an author/date format: (Author, Publication Year), e.g. (Smith, 2007)
  • The citation for a direct quote should also include the page number: (Author, Year, p. #)
  • You can move information from the in-text citations to other parts of the sentence that the quote is part of as long as all required elements are present: e.g. Smith (2007) says, “...” (p. 8).
  • Any quotation longer than 39 words should be made into a freestanding block of text and have the quotation marks removed (see p. 171). Block quotes should be indented one-half inch from the left margin and end with the in-text citation outside of the period.
  • If no author is given, use a shortened version of the title in the citation.
  • If the publication date is unknown, use “n.d.” in its place.
  • If you are using an electronic source that does not include page numbers, use paragraph numbers with the in-text citation including the author and date (Author, Year, para. #). (See pp.171-172.)
  • For works with 3 or more authors, list up to 5 in the first citation: e.g. (Smith, Jones, & Brown, 2010).  In subsequent citations, list the first author and “et al.”: e.g. (Smith et al., 2010).
  • For citations that have 6 or more authors, cite the surname of the first author followed by “et al.” in text: e.g. (Smith et al., 2012).


  • Center “References” in the middle of a new page to begin references page.
  • If a work has more than 7 authors, list the first 6 followed by an ellipsis.  Include the last author immediately after the ellipsis as the final author mentioned.
  • There are only two types of sources that are cited only in-text and not mentioned on the references page: classical works and personal communications. The Bible is considered a classical work in APA. When citing the Bible in-text, include the reference and version used: e.g. (1 Cor. 13:1, Revised Standard Version). (See pp. 171-174.)
  • Excluding abbreviations and proper nouns, capitalize only the first word of article titles.
  • Evenly double-space references, use hanging indents, and alphabetize all entries.

Reference List

  • Book

    Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.
  • Article in a periodical

    Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue
           number), pages.
  • Article from an online periodical

    Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number

           (issue number if available). Retrieved from http://www.someaddress.com/full/url/
  • Website

    Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of document. Retrieved from

            http://Web address

Back to top