APA format for academic papers and essays

In addition to guidelines for APA citations, there are format guidelines for academic papers and essays. They’re widely used by professionals, researchers and students.

Scribbr APA Citation Generator

The most important APA format guidelines in the 6th edition are:

  • Use 12 pt Times New Roman
  • Set 1 inch page margins
  • Apply double line spacing
  • Insert a running head on every page
  • Indent every new paragraph ½ inch

Tip: also read our article on the most notable changes in the APA Manual 7th edition.

APA format

APA format template

Instead of applying the APA guidelines to your document you can simply download the APA format template for Word.

APA Format Template

Download APA Format Template (.docx)

Running head

In the header of each page you include the paper title and page number. If your paper title is longer than 50 characters you should use a shortened version as running head. The page number should be positioned in the top right-hand corner. On the title page the APA running head is preceded by the words “Running head:”.

APA running head: title page
APA running head example title page

APA running head: subsequent pages
APA Running head example subsequent pages

Here's why students love Scribbr's proofreading services

Discover proofreading & editing


Throughout your paper you use different heading levels. The levels ranging from one to five help structure the document. Major headings, or heading 1, are used for the titles of chapters such as “Methods” or “Results”. Heading levels two to five are used for subheadings. Each heading level is formatted differently. These are the APA heading guidelines:

Heading levelAPA format
Heading 1Centered, Bold, Title Case Capitalization
Heading 2Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case Capitalization
Heading 3     Indented, bold, Sentence case capitalization, a final period. The body text begins immediately after the period.
Heading 4     Indented, bold, italics, sentence case capitalization, a final period. The body text begins immediately after the period.
Heading 5     Indented, italics, sentence case capitalization, a final period. The body text begins immediately after the point.

Title case capitalization: Capitalize the first, last, and principal words.
Sentence case capitalization: Capitalize only the first word and any proper nouns.

Note that you are not required to include a table of contents in APA style, but if you do choose to include one, all headings should be formatted as plain text, with an additional indent for each level.

Title page

The APA title page, also called cover page, is the first page of your paper. The regular formatting guidelines regarding font and margins apply. In addition, an APA formatted title page contains:

  • Running head including page number
  • Full paper title (in title case)
  • Author name(s), without titles and degrees
  • Institutional affiliation

Note: APA style has specific guidelines for including more than one author or institutional affiliation on the title page.

APA Title page


An APA abstract is a one paragraph (± 250 words) summary of your paper. It introduces the objective or problem statement of the paper and includes information on the method, research results, and conclusions of your research. In a separate article we explain in-depth how to write an abstract.

Although most regular APA formatting guidelines apply, the abstract page also has specific requirements. The abstract starts with a centered heading “Abstract”. In contrast to regular APA headings, no styling is applied. The first line of the paragraph is, unlike regular paragraphs, not indented.

At the end of the abstract, keywords relevant to the research are included. These keywords improve the findability of your paper in databases. Indent the line with keywords and start with the italicized word “Keyword:”, followed by the keywords.

APA format abstract

Reference page

The APA reference page, also called reference list, is where all sources that are cited in the text are listed. The citations differs for each source type. Aside from the references itself the reference page as a whole also has specific APA formatting guidelines.

The APA reference page example below highlights those guidelines regarding page margins, hanging indent and the reference page title “References”. Furthermore, the reference list is sorted alphabetically. You can easily create APA references with Scribbr’s free APA Citation Generator.

Scribbr APA Citation Generator

APA reference page example

APA reference page format

In-text citations and references

APA format citations consist of parenthetical citation in the text (in-text citations) and the full reference in the reference list. For each webpage, journal article, book or any other source specific citation guidelines apply.

To make things easier Scribbr created the free APA Citation Generator that cites every source perfectly. Just enter the URL, journal DOI or book ISBN and both the in-text citation and full reference are generated.

In addition, Scribbr has in-depth APA citation examples for every source type ranging from journal articles and books to YouTube videos and tweets.

Setting up the APA format

This video will demonstrate how to set up the APA format in Google Docs.

Frequently asked questions about APA format

How do I set up APA format in Word?

The easiest way to set up APA format in Word is to download Scribbr’s APA format Word template. This will make sure that:

  • One-inch page margins are set.
  • APA heading styles are imported.
  • A running head and page numbers are included in the header.
  • The font size and line spacing is correct.

In addition, you’ll have an easy-to-follow structure with examples and useful links to more information.

Download the APA format Word Template

How do I cite in APA format?

There are many guidelines and exceptions when citing sources in APA format. The easiest and most effective way of citing in APA format is by using Scribbr’s free APA Citation Generator. This is how it works:

  1. Automatically retrieve all required information by entering a page URL, journal article DOI or book ISBN.
  2. Check the retrieved information and make changes if necessary.
  3. Click on ‘Generate citation’.
  4. Copy the APA reference entry and in-text citation.

Generate APA citations

What font and font size is used in APA format?

The American Psychological Association (APA) recommends the use of Times New Roman, size 12.

The same font and font size is used for the throughout the whole document, including the running head, page numbers, headings and the reference page.

Should I include page numbers on the title and reference page in an APA format paper?

Yes, page numbers are included on all pages, including the title page, table of contents and reference page. To insert page numbers in Microsoft Word, click ‘Insert’ and then ‘Page number’.

Page numbers should be right aligned in the header (top of the page). Don’t forget to set the font to Times New Roman, size 12.

See an example of an APA header

Who uses APA format?

APA is a publication manual widely used by professionals, researchers and students in the social and behavioural sciences, including fields like education, psychology, and business.

Be sure to check the guidelines of your university or the journal you want to be published in before applying APA format.

Is this article helpful?
Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo is an expert in explaining plagiarism and citing sources. He has been writing helpful articles since 2017 and is continuously improving Scribbr's Citation Generators.


September 14, 2020 at 10:41 PM

Hi, is this for APA 7 Formatting?


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
September 16, 2020 at 3:13 PM

Hi Melanie,

This article reflects the 6th edition guidelines. We're currently working on updating our articles to reflect APA 7, but in the meantime, you can check our article on the most important differences between the two editions.


Mary Nakiganda
September 13, 2020 at 5:23 PM

Thank you so much, i have been greatly helped. I had been told to use APA writing style for my course work, but i did not an idea.


Collins Sasu
September 2, 2020 at 4:31 PM

Please how do we do APA table?


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
September 3, 2020 at 1:10 PM


You can see examples of how to format tables in our article about APA tables and figures. Hope that helps!


August 29, 2020 at 11:10 PM

Fine and okay piece. Keep it up.


Brian Ochieng
August 22, 2020 at 12:57 PM

Thanks for this. Helpful


August 17, 2020 at 9:53 PM

It's really helpful, I am so much helped by this APA format. Thank you so much.


August 15, 2020 at 12:40 AM

Hi just want to ask if it is still necessary to include references in APA format since I already have Related Literature in my research?


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
September 16, 2020 at 3:30 PM

Hi Deryk,

I'm not sure if I understand your question, but it's always necessary to cite all of your sources in the text and include full references at the end.


July 28, 2020 at 6:12 AM

Hi, Thank you very much for this webpage. It is amazing and very helpful. I was wondering if you are allowed to use the words "I" and "we" in an APA style paper?
Thank you!


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
July 29, 2020 at 7:23 PM

Hi Rachel,

Yes, APA style recommends using first person pronouns ("I" and "we") when relevant, because it is the clearest and most concise way to refer to your own actions in the research.


March 28, 2020 at 5:51 PM

This is very nice thank you


February 26, 2020 at 8:17 PM


"In the header of each page your include the paper"

This typo is on your APA format page.
Just thought I'd let you know. You offer proofreading help so it was kinda funny!


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
February 28, 2020 at 6:02 PM

Thanks for pointing this out – we've updated it now!


Mohammed Sohaib
February 24, 2020 at 6:32 AM

Hi scribbrs, I found your site really helpful. Great!


December 9, 2019 at 4:28 PM

yea it works kinda


Elizabeth Marmolejos
December 1, 2019 at 6:28 AM

I want to cite an educational video from You-tube in my abstract.. How do I give credit to the video. How do I cite the author of the video?


Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
December 23, 2019 at 1:15 PM

Hi Elizabeth,

Cite the main creator of the video as the author. This might be a person or an organization (it's sometimes the same as the channel name, but not always). See our guide to citing a YouTube video in APA for further explanation and examples.

However, note that you should usually avoid including citations in an abstract unless it's really essential. An abstract should focus on summarizing your own research, not referencing the work of others.

Hope that helps!


October 26, 2019 at 8:51 AM

I has really helped me in my PG work. I am really grateful.


September 29, 2019 at 11:00 PM

This article was SO helpful, thank you so much!


Comment or ask a question.

Please click the checkbox on the left to verify that you are a not a bot.