APA Paper Format for Academic Papers and Essays



Reading time

18 minutes

APA Paper Format for Academic Papers and Essays

In addition to recommendations for APA format citation, there are guidelines for the format of academic papers and essays. Professionals, researchers, and students widely use citation rules.

The format dictates several principles for formatting text citations and references in academic papers and essays. In almost all cases, citations of your work should be noted in the section with references.

APA writing requires fewer citation abbreviations than other styles, emphasizing the publication date in notation. You can specify the author and date at any time using information from an external source. You will place them in parentheses right after the cited material if you have not mentioned the author's name in the text. Suppose the author declares in the stream of the essay's writing. In that case, the brackets' date must be indicated immediately after the material is cited.

Categories of APA Papers

APA is a style standard developed by the American Psychological Association. It is commonly used in academic and scientific writing, as well as in business, psychology, economics, and other social sciences. Before getting into the nitty-gritty details of the research paper format, first, define the type of article you are going to create:

  1. Empirical studies;
  2. Literature reviews;
  3. Theoretical articles;
  4. Methodological articles;
  5. Case studies.

The types of tasks can be different, and each of them has their requirements for completion. We will tell you how to use APA style in every text and what important points you should pay attention to. Below we will take a closer look at all types of written work.

Empirical Studies

Empirical research is a set of various procedures within the framework of scientific activity aimed at obtaining reliable information about the subject of study: a process or phenomenon. Research technology answers the question "how to get the data," the data itself - to the question "what was obtained in the study."

Scientists note that there is no single research scheme that would be universal. When choosing the type of research, one should be guided by the chosen goal and the tasks that need to be performed to achieve this goal.

"Empirical" means obtained by experience. The main thing in empirical research is the researcher's ability to be near the object of study. At the same time, it is essential to exclude the influence of subjective factors. Moreover, empirical research is a complex, multidimensional cognitive process.

Literature Reviews

The literature review is part of the research work, and it that contains information that gives an idea of ​​the theoretical works that you take as the basis of your research. Many people mistakenly confuse this concept with the bibliography.

While working on the bibliography, we are dealing only with a specific list of authors and titles of books you used to research. In the case of a literary review, you do not just name this or that work. You draw parallels with other texts, look for differences, express your opinion on the point of view presented in the book.

Also, do not confuse a literary review with a review. As a rule, the review does not carry out a comparative analysis with other publications of a similar topic, genre. Still, it gives a specific description of this book, taking into account the reader's impressions from reading it.

Theoretical Articles

Theoretical article is an article in which new academic provisions are developed based on existing literature. The article can be devoted to:

  • analysis of the development of the theory and clarification of theoretical constructs;
  • presentation of new theory;
  • analysis of an already existing theory (for example, consideration of its shortcomings);
  • comparing several theories, demonstrating the advantages of one theory over another.

This article in the field of exact sciences is usually distinguished by the accuracy of proofs using modern mathematical methods, modeling. In such an article, the information sufficient substantiated to convince of this, and you can look at the chemistry paper topic or physics, mathematics. The results of calculations and experiments, their estimated data, methods, conditions for solving the problem, and other information are usually reliable.

Methodological Articles

Methodological articles are a scientific or journalistic presentation of the most significant scientific research results published in a scientific collection, journal, or newspaper. The author of a methodological article should show competence in the degree of development of the problem, be aware of its relevance at this stage, and demand the solution's results.

The scientific and methodological article can be submitted:

  • in a disputable manner, to propose a non-standard, controversial way of solving the problem;
  • may be predictive or based on diagnostic and analytical results.

Case Studies

One of the new forms of effective teaching technologies is problem-situational learning using case studies. This method's essence lies in the assimilation of knowledge and the formation of skills through the students' active independent activity to resolve contradictions. As a result, there is a creative mastery of professional experience, skills, abilities, and thinking skills.

Case studies were developed at Harvard University (USA) for the business education sector. The case-study method is a way to do dynamic problem-situational analysis based on learning by solving specific problems.

Students offer to comprehend a real-life situation, the description of which simultaneously reflects not only a practical problem, but also actualizes a particular set of knowledge. Most often, a case study template is used to present the information correctly.

How Do I Format APA Style Paper?

Using a computer and Word program, you can easily and quickly format APA style paper:

  1. The text should be divided into paragraphs. This means that every quote's first line must be left-aligned, but every subsequent line must start with an article.
  2. All quotes should start with a back paragraph if they are long enough. To make it, you need to select quotes and then use the ruler at the top of the page. Click on the down arrow and move your cursor to the 1.25 cm mark.
  3. The list of references must be drawn up using double line spacing. The page should have double line spacing. Select the text and press the right mouse button:
  • Find "Paragraph" in the drop-down list.
  • Under "Spacing" will be "Line Spacing."
  • Select "Dual.”

It is unnecessary to include the page number in quotes within the text unless you are directly quoting. But it will be easier for the reader to find the information if you do, so it is advisable to include the page number in the formatting. Of course, quotes differ depending on the type of resource, but knowing the basics makes the process more comfortable if you're trying to quote something more complex.

APA Format: Everything You Need to Know

Experts have established rules for citing word reference. The latest version represented by the APA standards, its seventh edition, says that the standards exist to meet these parameters. It is necessary to understand or keep in mind that the concepts we will call you must meet the following requirements:

  • The sheet should be 1 inch or 2.54 cm on each side.
  • Use Times New Roman font. The size should be number 12.
  • Use abbreviations sparingly, as some are unfamiliar to the reader, making the text difficult to read.
  • In the text, use Arabic numerals, the page is numbered according to this rule. When there are written dedications or a preface, they must also be numbered, but with one condition, they must have Roman numerals, that is, they must begin with I, II, III, IV, etc.
  • There is no doubt about when you can print or save documents in a computer file, and there is a specific size of paper. In inches, it is 8 1/2 "x 11".

Organizing Your Paper

Your essay's organization is just as important as the information you use to prove it in the text. This is a plan for how to present information. Check out the organization of the essay:

  1. The first part of the introduction. It describes the place, introduces the characters, and prepares the reader for what will happen next. This part intends to grab the reader's attention.
  2. The statement contains the main idea of ​​the essay and outlines its structure. Here it would help if you tried to hint at what will be discussed in the central part.
  3. The central part of the essay contains the main intrigue. Events can be told in different ways. The chronological order is most often used.
  4. When the essay is organized chronologically, each paragraph ends with a bridging sentence. Such sentences are writ to mark the end of an item and connect the information reported in one section with the next paragraph's idea.
  5. The essay needs a final idea. The last paragraph ends with a description of the event. The author can deduce morality from the story told or shared thoughts about what they learned from the described activity.

General Paper Length

One of the most persistent patterns of successful essays is the length, and the text in general, should be five paragraphs long. The assignment involves briefly expressing thoughts, limited to a small number of words. There is no point value in repeating the same idea to fill an article or using many words to describe simple things.

The most important thing is to be thorough. Essays with a high score describe the topic thoroughly, and this requires a certain length. Regardless of your ability and genius, you cannot write an essay without deep thoughts, say, at least two or three paragraphs.

So write short, but reasoned, without unnecessary phrases. Describe the topic as comprehensively as time will allow you because teachers limit the deadline for submitting the paper. The length of the essay, the number of pages, and the material's overall presentation are essential. Strictly follow the article's requirements not accidentally to worsen your work, but rather check the teacher's number of words.

Margin Sizes

Page margins determine the offsets from the edges of the sheet of paper when printing. All four sides of the essay should be the same, at least one inch, and each of them has its function:

  • The Top box allows you to set the distance between the top of the page and the top of the text's top line.
  • The Bottom box allows you to set the distance between the bottom of the page and the bottom line of text.
  • The Leftfield allows you to specify the distance between the left edge of the page and the left edge of text lines without left indents.
  • The Right field allows you to specify the distance between the right edge of the page and the right edge of text lines without indents on the right. This parameter is also used when printing on one side of a sheet.

With Word, you can set page margins using vertical and horizontal rulers. To do this, place the mouse pointer on the field dividing line on the measuring rulers and move it in the desired direction.

Running Head

Formatting an APA document is not difficult, but for many students, running head is a problem. Essentially, it is an element of the edition structure containing some reference data about the edition. For example, the author's last name, article title, section heading, initial letters, or article headings in dictionaries, placed above each page's text.

The running head is no more than 50 characters. This means that you need to write a few words but very precisely. Using the editor's Word and Google docs, you can create a running head; programs will automatically set it to the default. All you have to do is go to the Insert tab and select the data item from the menu that appears.

At the same time, working with a running head - design tab appears on the ribbon. It greatly facilitates the work, since it contains the main functions that you may need when working. This panel helps you do the following:

  • quickly change the design parameters of the running head;
  • promptly change parameters and page number;
  • insert the current date and time.


In the American-style psychological association, APA headings and subheadings are used to give the reader a general idea of ​​the content and what to expect from the paper. This leads to a stream of the discussion by separating the document and defining each section of the material.

The APA style differs from the Association's Art Nouveau style, which is used in most liberal arts courses. The Chicago style used in most history courses, which is also different from this format. There are some differences between MLA style headings, ASA style titles in works, the page's title, and subsequent pages. Students compare MLA, ASA format sample paper for college with APA, so as not to be mistaken in their statements.

Levels of Heading

The style provides five levels of headings:

  • If only one line is needed, level 1 use, centering the heading in upper and lower case letters. Use bold type.
  • Suppose two headings are needed, levels 1 and 3 use. In this case, use bold, left-aligned for the second heading. And for the third, choose bold italic, left-justified.
  • If three levels are needed, a paragraph heading is added, indented.
  • Four or five headings are rarely used, mainly in large-scale research reports, extended reviews, and theoretical articles. For the fourth level heading, set it to bold, indented, end with a period. At the fifth level, there is a structure - bold italic, indentation, endpoint.

So from the above, as you can see, you don't need to use some complex numbering system (like 3.2.1b) to organize your ideas. There is also no need to add a subheading between the essay title and the first paragraph.

Headings in the Introduction

When you write an essay, the first paragraphs indicate that they are prominent, which means that a heading called "Introduction" is not needed. It is also not recommended to use the title of the article with the line "Introduction." You already have a title in your text, which means that such a title already carries meaning for the reader, which means there is no point in writing this word.

Instead of this, you can use subheadings — these are the titles of sections within an article. They help the reader find the information they want on the page, create a sense of order, and make it easier to read. More often than not, subheadings name the topic of a section.

The subheading should stand out. It is not enough to write it on a new line, use the capabilities of Word. It is subheadings that will help you create quality content. Write them down sequentially - you will have an outline of the article. Rate it to understand where the logic of the story is broken or essential information is missing. Remember, there shouldn't be too many subheadings. In everything, you need to observe the measure.

Creating Accessible Headings

To simplify the task of creating headers, you can use various programs. This will facilitate the task of generating headings and ensure that the lines correctly encode in any electronic version of the document. Readers can use a programmatic screen reader.

A list of the best text editors:

  1. An Academic Writer is a useful tool for writing files, and it helps you format your APA 7th edition text.
  2. Microsoft Word is a program for typing, as well as composing various heading styles. To select the desired format, go to the "Styles." Follow these instructions for headers from Microsoft to customize header formats for future use.
  3. Google Docs is an online tool for working with word documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. There are also tools for creating simple diagrams and drawings. However, Google offers handy phone apps. By downloading the device, you can work with documents anywhere, having one smartphone at hand.

To apply headings for levels 4 and 5, first, enter a title and a few words of the following text. Then select the text you want to make the heading and choose the appropriate heading level from the Styles menu. Only the selected text will format as a level 4 or 5 lines.

Title Page

The title page represents the face of your work. To make a good impression on the teacher, it must be properly formatted according to the one style and give a clear picture of your work. Of course, the final design also depends on your supervisor; however, there are general requirements for all written work, be it a laboratory report or an article:

  • It contains the document's title, the author's name, affiliation with the institution, and a footer.
  • The title printed with a capital letter should center in the upper half of the page; it can take up only one or two lines.
  • Experts recommend that the name should not exceed 12 words. The author's name is indicated under it: first name, middle initials, surname. There is no need to mention titles or degrees.
  • The name of the organization/institution is printed under the author's name. You can check the APA reaction paper example and make sure you wrote the text correctly.


Writing an essay is painstaking, dangerous work. All the more important is a summary of its content in the annotation. When compiling such a text, the author should pay attention to the following details:

  • The annotation should be written from a new sheet, including headers and footers. Without using quotes, top center, bold, italic, underline, write the word "Abstract."
  • Then, with a new paragraph, provide a summary of the study. The abstract consists of topics, questions discussed, a problem, a list of participants (if you worked more than one), research methods, and conclusions. Use double spacing; write no more than 150-200 words per paragraph. The annotation can also include the title of future work related to the results of the current one.
  • You can add keywords or phrases to the annotation sheet. To do this, you need to select a separate paragraph with the title "Keywords," it can be highlighted in italics or another color. It is unnecessary to use quotation marks, after the header, list words, phrases that will help other researchers find this work in databases.

Figures and Tables

When incorporating a figure or table from another source into your work, it is important to include appropriate references. Any image used in the assignment requires a signature. If the drawing is not your work, you must provide a link in the text to the source.

Any APA illustration or image is considered a Table or Drawing. The purpose of providing tables and figures in documents is to improve readers' understanding of the information in the paper. Tables are numeric values ​​or text displayed in rows and columns. Data can also present in graphs, pie charts, maps, drawings, and photographs.

All tables and figures in your document must use the same format, and the results must be comparable. Use the same title and scale in all tables, figures, and text using the same variable. Each table and figure should be discussed in the text. Only the most essential parts of the table are discussed in the text. Ensure that the table is self-explanatory without the accompanying text. However, it is never text-independent.

Brief Overviews

A literature review in an essay is a small but significant work section that will clearly show the teacher how well you have studied the material and become familiar with the topic. Helpful hints:

  • This list is a hint to the reader, and it provides information through which any source quoted in the text can be found;
  • Apart from work itself, on a new sheet is a section called "Sources Used." This handout is you write at the top center;
  • Each record's lines, except for the first, begin after an indentation of 1.27 cm from the left margin.
  • The author's surname indicated first, then his initials. All authors are listed if there are less than seven people. If there are more than seven of them, then the first six surnames are listed, then an ellipsis follows after the ellipsis indicates the last name of the previous author of the work.
  • The list is built-in alphabetical order based on the first letters of the authors' surnames.
  • Suppose several articles by the same author or authors mentioned. In that case, they must be cited chronologically from earliest to latest date.
  • When referring to books, chapters, articles, web pages, only the title, subtitle, the first word after the colon, and proper names are written with a capital letter.

Line Spacing

Using the Word program, the line spacing is set:

  • Click the Home tab at the top left of the page.
  • Go to the paragraph group.
  • To set double spacing, click the Line spacing and paragraph spacing button and select 2.0.
  • Click the Line and Paragraph Spacing button again — Click Remove Space After Paragraph. (By default, Microsoft Word has small spacing between paragraphs. This is NOT used in this style).

Reference Page

A complete list of sources used should be included at the end of each publication. With their help, users of the material can see which sources you have used, evaluate and, if necessary, find them.

The list of references is given in a completely separate block. Each source record must include the following data by the APA standard:

  • The surname of the author of the material (surnames);
  • year of publication (number);
  • name of the paper;
  • data on the place of publication of the paper.

In-text Citations and References

Quotations adorn the text and create an impression of solidity: you reinforce and illustrate your thoughts with authoritative scientists statements and extracts from documents. However, citing also requires specific skills, since the cited source must be correctly referenced. General rules:

Citations are formatted using inline links.

  1. Mandatory citation:
    • if in your publication you often recall someone's work;
    • if you directly quote someone else's work;
    • if you paraphrase someone.
  2. The text link contains:
    • the surname of the author or authors (in the order of their list in the actual publication), then, separated by commas, the year of publication of the source;
    • page or paragraph numbers for direct quotation and for paraphrasing where appropriate.
  3. The link is given in the text in parentheses immediately after the quoted fragment.
    • The surname of the author of the source must be mentioned either in the text or in brackets. When indicated in the text, the year of the date is written in brackets, if necessary, the page interval.
    • Block quotations have more than 40 words, are not accepted in quotation marks, and are submitted with double line spacing and paragraph speech for the entire quotation. The link is given in brackets after the endpoint.

APA Paper Format Template

The title of the essay is in bold, in the center, with headwords:

  • Name
  • Department and School
  • Course
  • Instructor name
  • Date
  • Abstract

The abstract starts here. This is a summary of up to 250 of what your article is about. A resume is optional, so check with your instructor if it's worth including. If not, then delete this page. The annotation consists of one complete paragraph, and the first line is not indented for tabs. Replace this text with your abstract text.

The title of the essay is in bold, in the center, with headwords:

  • First-level heading (bold, centered)
  • Second-level heading (bold, left-aligned)
  • Third level heading (bold italic, left-justified)
  • Level 4 heading (bold, indented, ending with a period).
  • 5th level heading (bold italic, indent, end with a period).
  • Conclusion.
Originally published Jul 05, 2017, updated Jan 18, 2021

Confusing homework?

Get expert help in any course or subject

Get Help