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How to write in an APA format

What is APA format?

APA stands for the “American Psychological Association.” The APA had devised an APA format or a style-guide that helps to compose formal documents, essays, research papers, and official journals. By using this format, the author can organize his ideas and information systematically, using different quotations from related books or magazines and also encouraging the reader to track the sources of information provided.

Origin of APA format:

In the modern world, there are broadly two types of writing styles. First is the creative writing and the other one is technical writing. In creative writing, the writer is the sole owner of the content and style of writing. He writes in his way, and he cannot be proven wrong when he opts for a different format. The purpose of this writing is to show the point of view of the writer. Therefore, the responsibility to understand the writing lies in the reader. On the other hand, technical writing represents the complete opposite of the creative one. It has certain rules and regulations to communicate anything. It presents an idea logically and contains no unnecessary details. APA represents a type of technical writing.

APA devised the ‘APA style’ in 1952 by mutual consent to different. The APA Publication Manual published this APA Format in its first edition. It made it easy for the reader to skim read or understand any document in a limited time. Before this standard format, people used to follow their style to produce any type of application, essay, and research paper. Therefore, when various professionals around the globe working in a similar field of study read these published papers, they have to follow the complete paper to comprehend it completely. To rectify this situation, a consistent system came into being, known as APA format. Today, we use this consistent format, and it is easier for the reader today as compared to the past.

APA Format:

The most recent version of APA format is issued by APA Publication Manual, 7th edition, published in 2020. There are some absolute rules enlisted in this APA manual, including the structuring, content, margins, spacing, in-text citation, and reference list. These rules are provided in detail below:

  • Use the standard size of the paper, which is (8.5” x 11").
  • Insert double-spaced text.
  • The paper should have a “1” margin on all four sides.
  • Make the font used consistently throughout. For font type selection, APA recommends using either a Sans Serif font (11-sized Calibri, 11-point Arial, or 10-sized Lucida Sans Unicode) or a Serif font (12-sized Times New Roman, 11-sized Georgia, or 10-sized Computer Modern).
  • Insert a Running head on top of the paper. This header includes the title of the paper on the left side and page number on the right side. Type the title flushed left with all capital letters while page numbers flushed right.
  • Page Title should not exceed 50 characters, including spaces and punctuation marks.
  • Include the footnotes in font size 10.
  • To write the captions for figures and tables, use font sizes between 8 and 14. But select a font and keep it consistent throughout the paper.
  • Make your writing style as clear as possible. Avoid unnecessary details.
  • Like all the formal writings, use active voice, and while discussing your research, use the first person.

Like technical writing, use plain language and avoid figurative speech such as metaphors, similes, etc.

APA Essay:

After enlisting the general rules of APA format, lets now discuss the format for writing essays in the APA format. As we all know, the main parts of an essay include the title of an essay, its main-body, and a proper conclusion. In the same way, APA Essay includes the following four sections enlisted below:

  1. Title Page
  2. Abstract
  3. Main Body
  4. References

Every section in the APA essay has a unique style and some specific rules. Here are them separately.

1) Title Page:

The title page gives basic information about the paper and its author. It helps the reader to decide what to look for in the upcoming pages. APA format is not only used by professionals, but also by university students. Therefore, APA has suggested different rules for students and professionals according to their scope of writings.

Title page for professionals includes:

  • Title of paper
  • Author’s name
  • Author’s institutional affliction
  • Author’s note

Title page for student paper includes:

  • Title of paper
  • Student’s name
  • Student’s Institute
  • Course Number
  • Course name
  •  Instructor name
  • Assignment due date

Add the running header as described above in APA format. All the information on the title page is centered but not bold except the title name. The place and style of each part should also be kept in consideration.

Type the Title Name in the upper half of the paper, which is 3-4 double-spaced lines below the top of the page. Keep the title name less than 12 words. Make your title bold-face and center it. Write the title in both upper and lowercase letters, such that the first letter of each word is capitalized, and others are lowercase. Do not use unnecessary abbreviations and sum up your title in one or two lines. The smaller the title of the paper is, the better it will look.

Type the Author’s Name just below the title. It includes the first name, middle, and last name of the writer. Do not add the titles or degree descriptions along with the name, such as Dr., Professor, Ph.D., etc. Omit these details because there is a separate section to write about the acknowledgments of the author (Author’s Note).

Type the Institutional Affliction beneath the writer’s name. It is the name of that Institute where the author has carried out his research. While in the case of students, it is the name of the Institute where the student is studying. Students can also mention the name of the department, being more specific.

Write the Date at the end. To write the date, employ the following style: Day-Month-Year. Only spell the month in full.

Write the Author’s Note in the bottom half part of the title page. This section is purely for professional authors. It includes different paragraphs, omitting the one which is not relevant.

  • The first paragraph includes the author’s name, the symbol for the ORCID ID, and the URL for the ORCID ID.
  • The second paragraph indicates the current situation or affiliation of the author. It typically includes the author’s current workplace or may also the death of the author.
  • The third one shows the disclosures or acknowledgments. It generally includes the conflict of interests, financial help, disclosure of reports, etc.
  • The fourth and last one provides the contact information of the author.

Sometimes it happens, that the essay is not written by only one author, and you need to enlist all the names according to the APA format. In that case, follow the instructions provided below:

  • If two authors write an essay, record the names of both of them on the same line, separating the names by using ‘and’.
  • If more than two authors write an essay, separate the names with a comma and add ‘and’ before the last name.

2) Abstract:

After completing the title page, start your abstract from the following page. On the top of the page, write the word ‘Abstract’ in bold and centered. Do not implement any other style in APA formats such as underlining, italics, or any other punctuation marks.

Your abstract should consist of a concise detail and introduction to your research. It usually includes research topics, questions, methods, results, and conclusions. Make your abstract in one paragraph with no indentation and double spaced. Try to keep your abstract less than 150-250 words.

There is another choice allowed in APA essay format. You can add your keywords after the paragraph of the abstract. The APA format to write is to type the word ‘Keywords:’ (italicized) and then enlist your keywords in the line. This list will help researchers find your work in databases. It will increase the value of your essay and will make it more professional.

In the latest edition of the APA Publication Manual, it is not compulsory for the students to add the Abstract section in their essay unless it is specified by the instructor.

3) Main Body:

The main body of your APA essay will present your ideas and research work. This is completely on the author to write it in his unique way. There are no specific line-to-line rules for this section. Start your main body from the third page and type the full name of your essay at the top of the page in bold style, with keywords capitalized and centered. You must follow the APA format as described above, specifying the paragraph rules. Unlike the Abstract section, indent your main body paragraphs by one Tab space. You can also divide your main body into different parts for the ease of the reader. Regarding the outline of APA essay, there are no specific rules, and the writer can decide the outline himself.

Apart from the primary rules, generally used APA format for the main body is enlisted below:

  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion

4) References:

After completing your main body, to start citing your references move to the next page. At the top of the page, type ‘References’ in a bold format and centered. The reference section enlists all the sources of content that you have used in your main body. You should properly add the reference for any information cited in your writing. Therefore, avoid a reference without any citation or any cited information without any reference.

There is another type of citation which needs to be properly addressed. It is termed as In-Text Citation. Sometimes while writing, you want to quote some lines from a book or other research papers. Include these lines to the text. To write this type of citation, APA format dictates to mention the name of that book’s author and the date of its publication.

Important format rules for writing references are:

  • Enter all the references in alphabetical order.
  • Flush the first line of reference with the left margin and indent the lines (usually done with TAB key)
  • After each sentence, insert two spaces.
  • Use double space in this section.
  • All sources that were cited should be both in-text and on the reference page. 
  • Type the titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers in italics.

APA has specific formats for different types of reference sources, such as books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

Section Headings Format:

APA sections look more organized and are easily digestible when they are further classified into different sub-headings. APA format rules for these sub-headings are the following:

  • First Level Heading (Bold, Centered)
  • Second Level Heading (Bold, Left Aligned)
  • Third Level Heading (Bold Italic, Left Aligned)
  • Fourth Level Heading (Bold, Indented, Ending with a Period).
  • Fifth Level Heading (Bold Italic, Indented, Ending with a Period).

Why is the APA format used?

APA format helps the researchers and the students to communicate and publish their ideas and knowledge in a consistent format. This consistent format helps the reader to read and extract information from the paper easily. In this way, they know what to look for while reading the article. Its style of format results in more powerful, concise, and elegant scholarly communication. It guides users through the scholarly writing process—from the ethics of authorship to reporting research through publication.

Where is the APA format used?

APA format is globally accepted and used format. Millions of copies of the APA manual have been sold in multiple languages. Because of this much acceptability, it is used in a lot of fields for professional writings.

It is used mainly in the following fields of study:

  • Engineering
  • Business
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology
  • Education
  • Neuroscience
  • Cognitive science
  • Linguistics
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Political science
  • Economics

The types of academic writings in which APA format is used, are enlisted below:

  • Cases studies
  • Literature reviews
  • Essays
  • Research reports
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