Overview of APA Format

Updated on February 23, 2017

What is APA Formatting?

A uniformed writing style, created by the American Psychological Association (APA) that provides a consistent formatting for scholarly articles.

Why Use APA Formatting?

  • APA style provides a consistent format
  • Helps to avoid plagiarizing and plagiarism
  • Adds a professional look and feel
  • Ability to cross reference

The ability to cross reference in scholarly articles is very important.

APA Recommended Paper Sections

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Main Body
  • References

APA Title Page Example

APA Title Page
APA Title Page | Source

APA Title Page Check List

  • Centered in the upper half of the page
  • Title in upper and lowercase letters*
  • Author's Name (first, middle initial, and last names)
  • Course title or institution affiliation (check with instructor for specific requirements)
  • Double spaced

*The APA recommends that your title should be brief and precise. A good rule of thumb is no more than 12 words in length.

APA Running Head/Page Header Required?

The running head (if required) is a shortened version of your paper's title and should not exceed 50 characters.

If a running head or page header is required see below for proper APA formatting.

Take note that the title page running head is different then subsequent pages running headers.

APA Title Page Running Head Example

Click thumbnail to view full-size

APA: Running Head Required After Title Page

All subsequent pages after title page should have a running head/page header like this:

APA Abstract Example

APA Abstract Explained

Think of your abstract as a complete and comprehensive summary that informs your reader of what topics and points of interest you plan to cover. This allows your reader a familiarity of terminology, topics, and theories that will be addressed throughout the paper.

Abstract Placement

Your abstract (if required) should be page 2 of your paper. It should immediately follow your title page.

APA Abstract Checklist

If an abstract for your assignment is required it should include the following:

  • "Abstract" should be centered and at the top of the page
  • Begin with the most important information (4 or 5 strong points, ideas, and/or theories)
  • DO NOT repeat the title
  • Include ONLY information that appears in the paper
  • Cite any previous research if applicable
  • DO NOT exceed 120 words
  • One Paragraph
  • Be sure your clear and concise
  • *Define ALL abbreviations and special terminology (excluding units of measurement)

APA Main Body

The main body is considered the "meat" of your paper. This section of your paper should ask and answer whatever topic you are focused on.

The main body of your paper should include any points you highlighted in your abstract as well as supporting information, sources, or any other pertinent information to address your topic.

Word Count Requirement?

Is there a specific word count required? If so be sure you meet the minimum word count within the main body of the paper. The title page, abstract (if required), and reference page should not factor into your paper's word count.

APA Main Body Checklist

  • Topics mentioned in abstract covered
  • No abstract? Main topics covered?
  • 1' margin on all sides
  • Font style and size correct
  • Double spaced
  • Spell checked
  • Sources referenced in-text

APA In Text Citations

It is important to not only cite your references on your reference page (see below) but also inside you paper.

In text citations allow the reader a quick cross referencing guide to where your information is coming from.

APA In Text Citation Example

Reliable Source

Keep in mind it is MANDATORY to use what is known as a reliable source.

APA Reference Page Example

Examples of Different Types of Referencing

APA Citation Generators

Citation generators are a handy tool to help you learn how to cite your sources properly. However be forewarned that citation generators are capable of mistakes. Check your citations accordingly.

APA Reference Page And Citation Formatting

  • The reference page the last page or pages of your paper.
  • "References" should be centered at the top of the page
  • The reference page should be double spaced
  • Have the same header as the rest of your paper
  • Follow the same margin guidelines of 1'
  • Sources are listed alphabetically by the author of the source‚Äôs last name
  • If source is longer than one line of text use a hanging indent (CTL+T)
  • Longer works such as books and journals should appear in italics.

APA Reference Page Checklist

  • Header
  • Page Number
  • "References" top of page
  • "References" centered
  • Double spaced
  • Authors names (Last, First)
  • Page numbers of quote(s)
  • Hanging indent(s)
  • Italicized

APA Formatting Final Checklist

  • Standared size paper (8.5" x 11")
  • Margins of 1" on all sides
  • Typed (if required)
  • Correct font style and size
  • Double spaced
  • Running heads (if required)
  • Page numbers on all pages
  • Title page
  • Abstract (if required)
  • Reference page
  • Proper citations
  • Spell checked


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    Post Comment
    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      A+ on this article! I needed the refresher on the style. Thanks! Have a wonderful 2013.

    • Rfordin profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Florida

      Hey billybuc,

      This one took me forever to write with all the holiday stuff between. A little brush up is never a bad thing :). A very Happy New Year to you and yours.

      Much love,


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      It's been awhile since I reviewed that format. Thanks for the education. Wishing you a very Happy New Year! Thank you for a year of friendship.


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