APA format for academic documents

In addition to apa citation guidelines, the APA publication manual provides formatting guidelines for academic documents. The most important APA guidelines are:

  • 12 pt Times New Roman (body text and headings)
  • One inch (2.54 cm) page margins
  • Double line spacing
  • Running head (paper title and page number)
  • ½ inch indentation for every new paragraph

APA format guidelines

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 Word Template

Running head

In the header of each page your 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 running head is preceded by the words “Running head:”.

Running head: title page
Running head example first page

Running head: subsequent pages
Running head example second page

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Headings

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.

Read more about APA headings

Title page

The 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 formatting guidelines for including more than one author or institutional affiliation on the title page.

Read more about APA title page

APA Title page

Abstract

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.

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.

How to write an abstract APA abstract formatting

APA Abstract

Reference page

The 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. The references can be generated using the free Scribbr APA Citation Generator.

APA Citation Generator APA reference page formatting

APA reference page example

APA Reference Page formatting

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.

APA Citation Generator APA citation examples

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Raimo Streefkerk

Raimo has a bachelor's and master's degree and has written several papers and theses. He likes to share his knowledge by writing helpful articles.

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