Skip to main content

APA Style Quick Tips

L.C. David is a freelance writer from Florida whose hobbies include watching others enjoy boat rides, theme park rides, and car rides.

APA Style is not hard to master.

APA Style is not hard to master.

APA Tips and Tricks

This article contains a:

  • Basic overview of APA including formatting
  • How to do citations
  • Sample APA paper (at the end)

At first, using APA Style (American Psychological Association) can be daunting. The style is often used for papers in science fields, psychology and business classes. Most English classes use MLA style. If you are used to MLA style, switching to APA may seem daunting at first.

But putting together an APA-style document is not super hard. Here are the basics you need to know and why APA style is useful for some types of papers.

Why Use APA Style?

APA style focuses on dates of the research you cite within your paper. When you post a citation in the paper itself, the date is included..

Why would this be important?

If you are writing a paper on scientific research, articles published two decades ago are not as likely to be relevant as current research since science changes and evolves as more information is gathered and theories are refined.

So papers (and classes) that depend on current research are much more likely to require APA style. Use APA when the date matters.

Parts of an APA Paper

The basic components of an APA-style paper are:

  1. The Cover Page
  2. The Abstract
  3. The Body of the Paper
  4. The Reference Page

While there are other components that can be added, most basic APA papers require these to be a true APA paper. Your teacher or professor may require more or less so be sure to clarify with them which parts they want.

1. The Cover Page

Make sure that your entire paper is written in Times New Roman, 12 pt. (unless otherwise instructed). Then you can begin to create your paper.

The cover page of an APA paper usually consists of a shortened version of your title (or running head) and the page number. These are placed in the header of your paper (which you can access in MS Word very easily by double-clicking).

The shortened title is something that you will use on every page of your paper.

In the middle of the page include the full title, your name, and your institution.

APA places an emphasis on the title, not the author of the paper. This depersonalizes it because APA is focused on information that others are likely to use and cite for research.

2. The Abstract

The abstract is the next part of your APA paper. While the Abstract may be the first thing your reader reads, it should be the last thing your write.

The abstract should be a brief summary of the entire paper---hitting the main points and explaining what the paper proves, argues, or discovers. The purpose of the abstract is to let a researcher know what is in the paper and whether they might find the information and research they need or if they should keep looking.

Continue your numbering just like page one. Center the word abstract and then place your abstract summary below.

APA style may seem confusing at first but the rules are pretty simple.

APA style may seem confusing at first but the rules are pretty simple.

3. The Body of Your Paper and In-Text Citations

The main part of your paper should have an introduction with some type of thesis statement that lets the reader know what you are reporting, showing, or arguing. Remember that an introduction can be multiple pages.

Then the body paragraphs and then your conclusion. Length and number of paragraphs depends on the information you are trying to convey and the requirements for the paper either from your teacher or from the institution assigning the report.

Within that paper, you will include summaries and quotes of research that either backs up your own conclusions or points that you arguing against.

In-text citations are relatively easy and have three main components:

  • Last name of the author(s)
  • The year it was published
  • Relevant page numbers

It is important that you use a citation every time you quote and every time you summarize information from another source. If you do not cite you may be in danger of plagiarizing.

These in-text citations will correspond with your reference page found at the end of your paper. If you do them correctly they should be easy for a reader to match up. The reasons you want to make sure your citations are correct are that they allow the reader to easily find the materials you use and they lend legitimacy to your paper.

Order of Information in an In-Text Citation

In APA Style, all the citation information does not have to be at the end of the quote or summary. As long as it is attached or included somewhere in the quote, then you are covered. There are basically three ways to create in-text citations.

  • Put everything at the end of the quote: If you want to find snails you should look in "moist places and under rocks" (Smith, 2013, pg. 15).
  • Put the author and year in the introduction to the quote: According to Smith (2013) to find snails you should look in "moist places and under rocks" (pg. 15).
  • Put two of the three pieces of information in a citation at the end: Research published in 2013 indicated that in order to find snails, you should look in "moist places and under rocks" (Smith, pg. 15).

The flexibility of APA style allows you to integrate the in-text citation in a way that makes sense for the flow of the writing.

4. The Reference Page

The Reference Page, also known as the Bibliography, is where you list the sources that you used to create your paper.

The information you put into the reference page changes based on what kind of source you are using. However, the basic entry includes:

Author's Name. (Year). Title of Book or Article. Journal If Applicable, Volume Number If Applicable, pages used.

So my made-up article about snails might look something like this:

Smith, John. (2013) How Snails Are Found in the Wild. Journal of Modern Science, 2, 15-23.

If you are using an article from the internet, replace the last part with the URL. But remember, unless you are given the go-ahead, most formal, academic papers require that you use published and possibly peer-reviewed work.

Be sure you place your references in alphabetical order by the author's last name and use a hanging indention.

Samples of a Basic APA Paper Format

Below is a sample of an APA-style paper, complete with all four of its necessary components.

Good Luck and Happy Writing!

This is the basics of an APA paper. For more complex and higher level research you may have more citations, end notes and author's notes.

Understanding the basic construction and the basic ways you include research will help you to create a better, more stream-lined paper.


Elizabeth from The US of A, but I'm Open to Suggestions on October 30, 2013:

great hub, and timely for me - I just went back to college again this week. My papers this term are all MLA, but I'm sure this will come in handy soon. Congrats on HOTD!

JR Krishna from India on October 30, 2013:

A complicated matter simplified. Our university used to follow APA. Lucky that they have changed to Vancouver now.

Koralee Phillips from Vancouver British Columbia Canada on October 30, 2013:

Your Hub is really easy to follow and understand. You did a really great job of turning something (APA style) complicated and tiresome, into something that makes sense.

I especially like how you demonstrated when to use the different styles.

L C David (author) from Florida on October 30, 2013:

Thanks for stopping by and the comments. I used to be very worried about using APA because MLA was second nature to me. But now I have little trouble switching back and forth between styles. I even prefer the flexibility of the in-text citations in APA.

Tom Mukasa from Lives in USA on October 30, 2013:

Thank you for this article. I have personally learnt a lot from it.

Steven P Kelly from Tampa, FL on October 30, 2013:

Thank you for this article. I have always been familiar with MLA but after looking APA over once I have avoided it ever since. Thanks to this article, I'm not scared of it anymore. Great job and congrats on Hub of the Day!!

Adebayo Adeolu Ibrahim on October 30, 2013:

I love the way you start your article (I.e listing the content of the article) keep it up. Thanks for the info

Monica Langley from USA on October 30, 2013:

Congratulation for hub of the day. Your hub is step by step and very user-friendly as everyone can understand now actually what is APA style and how to use. You are doing very well keep doing and best of luck :)