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.

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 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 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

Receive feedback on language, structure and layout

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
  • Vague sentences
  • Grammar
  • Style consistency

See an example

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.

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

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. 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.

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.

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?

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 fields of education, psychology, business and behavioral and social sciences.

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.

1 comment

Katherine
September 29, 2019 at 11:00 PM

This article was SO helpful, thank you so much!

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