How do I format my essay using APA style?


The first thing to know is that styles change over time. APA style is on its seventh edition. Thus, it is imperative to double check all guideline information with up to date style guides. Here is a website that contains all the information you need to format your paper correctly and ensure you're up to date:

Use the links on the left side of the page to learn more specific details about the formatting style. 

Another helpful link is this sample paper that shows how an APA essay should appear with text boxes explaining all the features:

APA Sample Paper:

Notice that there are guidelines for a student paper and a professional paper. If you are writing the essay for class, use the student paper option. 

Here are some general current guidelines for APA formatting:


Writing should be in a readable font, double spaced, size 10-12. The margins should be one inch on all sides of the paper. There should be a running head with the page numbers in the upper right hand corner. That's all that's necessary if it's a student paper, but if it's a professional paper, there should be a fully capitalized title on the left hand corner of every page--not the full title, but a partial title with under fifty characters. The student paper will have four sections: the title page, the abstract, main body, and the references page. For the title page, bold the title on the upper half of the page with upper case and lower case letters. Below the title in the center of the page, include your name followed by your school's name and department, the course name, the professor's name, and the date. The abstract page should have the bolded term: "Abstract" at the top of the page followed by the abstract's text. Below the abstract, include "keywords" followed by a colon and the key words of your essay. The main body should have the title bolded on the first line and then continue into the main text. The main body may have section headings to make the essay easier to read. Follow your professor's instructions and your best judgement. The references page will be discussed more below. 

In-Text Citations: 

After every quote or paraphrase, an in-text citation should follow in parentheses. Inside the parentheses should be the author's last name, the year of publication, and page number(s) (if applicable). The only exception is if the source comes from a website without page numbers. Then, only the author's last name and year of publication will be included. Also, if the author's last name and year of publication has already been mentioned in the text, then the publication year and the author's name does not need to be provided in the citation. If for whatever reason there is no author or page number, then the first item (usually the title) in the works cited entry should be put in the parentheses. See the example below and links on this page for more information. 

Examples: "..." (Jones, 1998, p. 24). 

Jones (1998) states, "..." (p. 24).

"...." (Jones, 1998).    ---for a quote from a website without a page number

"...." ("The Outlier Effect," 1998)     ---for a quote without an author or page number

References Page:

The References page should be double spaced with the words "Works Cited" set at the top as a centered title. Again, everything is in the same font as the rest of the paper. For each Works Cited entry, there should be a hanging indent when the entry is more than one line. That means that every line except for the first line should be indented one half inch. All references should be in alphabetical order as well.  

Here is some of the information that could be included in each entry: the author, title of the work, container of the work (journal, book, etc.), publisher, year of publication, volume number (if a journal), database found, website, page numbers, source type, and date of access. Shorter pieces should have only the first letter of the first word in the title and subtitle capitalized, and larger works should be italicized. Also, author's name should be last name first, followed by initials. Include up to twenty authors. After that, use an ellipsis. An ampersand (&) should go before the last author's name.    

Book: Hawking, S. W. (2006). The theory of everything: The origin and fate of the universe. Jaico Publishing House. 

Journal Article: Brügmann, B., Ghez, A. M., & Greiner, J. (2001). Black holes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 98 (19), 10525–10526.

Website: Black holes. (n.d.). HubbleSite.

There are several more particular rules for APA references depending on the sources you use, so be thorough in checking over your paper for formatting issues. 

For more information on how to cite specific kinds of sources see In an essay using APA format, how do I list sources on my References page? or visit this Purdue OWL page:

See the links on the left hand side for information on citing specific sources. 

IF you use a citation engine that automatically cites a source, make sure to double check that the citation is correct. Often times these engines are not entirely accurate and this could lose points on your paper. Always check your work before submitting. 

  • Last Updated May 24, 2024
  • Views 3
  • Answered By Timothy Connors

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