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General Format

Summary:

APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).

Contributors: Joshua M. Paiz, Elizabeth Angeli, Jodi Wagner, Elena Lawrick, Kristen Moore, Michael Anderson, Lars Soderlund, Allen Brizee, Russell Keck
Last Edited: 2018-02-21 02:26:13

Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in APA.

To see a side-by-side comparison of the three most widely used citation styles, including a chart of all APA citation guidelines, see the Citation Style Chart.

You can also watch our APA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.

General APA Guidelines

Your essay should be typed and double-spaced on standard-sized paper (8.5" x 11"), with 1" margins on all sides. You should use a clear font that is highly readable. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font.

Include a page header  (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page. To create a page header/running head, insert page numbers flush right. Then type "TITLE OF YOUR PAPER" in the header flush left using all capital letters. The running head is a shortened version of your paper's title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.

Major Paper Sections

Your essay should include four major sections: the Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

Title Page

The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author's name, and the institutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page. Please note that on the title page, your page header/running head should look like this:

Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER

Pages after the title page should have a running head that looks like this:

TITLE OF YOUR PAPER

After consulting with publication specialists at the APA, OWL staff learned that the APA 6th edition, first printing sample papers have incorrect examples of running heads on pages after the title page. This link will take you to the APA site where you can find a complete list of all the errors in the APA's 6th edition style guide.

Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.

Beneath the title, type the author's name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (PhD).

Beneath the author's name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.

Image Caption: APA Title Page

Abstract

Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header (described above). On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).

Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.

You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, indent as you would if you were starting a new paragraph, type Keywords: (italicized), and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.

Image Caption: APA Abstract Page

Please see our Sample APA Paper resource to see an example of an APA paper. You may also visit our Additional Resources page for more examples of APA papers.

How to Cite the Purdue OWL in APA

Individual Resources

Contributors' names and the last edited date can be found in the orange boxes at the top of every page on the OWL.

Contributors' names (Last edited date). Title of resource. Retrieved from http://Web address for OWL resource

 

Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/

Regardless of the type of paper you are writing under the APA paper format, it must follow certain guidelines. From margins and fonts to specific sections and a Reference List, these format guidelines dictate how your paper looks.

Use standard-size computer paper measuring 8.5” x 11”. Avoid using thicker stock-style paper.

Margins and spacing both play important roles in the APA paper format. They present your information in a clear format that aids readers in reviewing your content. Use the following guidelines for margins and spacing.

Both the type and size of the font you use in the APA paper format matter. Use the following guidelines:

All research papers written in the APA paper format have four main sections: title page, abstract, main body and reference section. Depending on the type of research paper you are writing, there may be additional sections.

  • Title page
  • The title page of an APA paper consists of a running head (also known as a header), your paper title, your byline as the author, the institutional affiliation and an author’s note (if required).

    Running head—This consists of a shortened version of your paper title and a page number. Your running head can be a maximum of 50 characters according the APA paper format. Spaces and punctuation are included in the 50-character limit. The page number is placed flush with the right margin, and the rest of the running head is placed flush left. Put the shortened version of your title in all capital letters.

    Example:

    Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER

    1

    The running head continues on every page of your APA format paper. On every page after the title page, the running head looks like the below example:

    TITLE OF YOUR PAPER

    Page#

    Remember that only the page number is used; the word “page” is not used.

    Paper title—The full title is centered across the page and centered on the upper half of the page. Do not use abbreviations in paper titles. The APA paper format also suggests keeping your title to 12 words maximum while using one or two lines. Use normal title case. Double space after the title.

    Example:

    Your Paper Title:
    Using Two Lines

    Author byline—Below the title is your name or the your name along with other authors of the paper if it is a group paper. Use your first name, middle initial and last name. The APA paper format requires the omission of any titles, such as Dr. or Ph.D. Double space after the author byline.

    Example:

    Your Name

    Institutional affiliation—This is the location where you conducted research. If you are writing an APA format paper for a class in high school or college, use the name of your school.

    Example:

    Writing University

    Some instructors may request that you include their name, the date or the class name. For each of these requirements that are not included in the APA format paper guidelines, double space after the institutional affiliation. Place each piece of information that is required on a separate line, and double space between each line.

    Author’s note—The author’s note is generally only required if the paper is meant for publication. If you are unsure whether this is a requirement for a school assignment, consult your instructor, and follow the APA format paper guidelines for the author’s note.

    Abstract

    An abstract is essentially a summary of your paper. The abstract is placed on the next page after your title page. APA paper format dictates than an abstract stay between 150-200 words in length. In some cases, your instructor may set different requirements for the abstract with respect to length and/or content. Therefore, make sure you understand the assignment before writing your abstract. Otherwise, follow the rules and guidelines for creating an abstract in APA paper format.

    Main Body

    The main body of an APA format paper consists of an introduction and body paragraphs and some type of conclusion. The main body of your paper typically starts on the third page of your paper. In addition, other sections may be required for certain paper types. In a lab report or experimental report for example, you would include a methods section, a results section and a discussion section after your introduction. With these additional sections, the discussion section takes the place of a conclusion. Other constructions and sections may also be required. Always refer to paper guidelines and instructions to determine which sections to include in the main body of your APA format paper.

    Reference Section

    The reference section or list for an APA format paper lists all the resources you consulted in the course of writing your paper. It does not only include the sources you cited in your paper, but the sources you do cite must be listed in this section. The reference list is set up on its own page with the word “References” centered at the top. It also follows guidelines and rules for listing your sources.

    While this is the basic format for the APA paper format, other guidelines and rules apply depending on the type of information you provide and the type of paper you are required to write. There are special instructions for using headings, avoiding bias and incorporating charts, graphs, appendices and more—to name a few examples, so make sure you follow the basic formatting, any specialized formatting and the instructions given to you with an assignment that requests the APA paper format.