APA format is a set of formatting and citation guidelines for how an academic paper should look, similar to other styles like Chicago or MLA. APA format is usually preferred for subjects in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, criminology, education, and occasionally business.
Because each style is different, you may need to learn new formatting or citation rules depending on what subject you’re writing about. Below, we explain everything you need to know about how to write a paper in APA, including formatting guidelines, style choices like whether to use the Oxford comma, and how to cite sources. We also give plenty of APA citation examples.
What is APA format?
APA format, also known as APA style, is one of the styles used in academic writing. Specifically, it’s used in psychology, sociology, anthropology, and the other social sciences.
APA style was developed by the American Psychological Association in 1929. The team of academics from the psychology, anthropology, and business fields who developed APA style sought to create standardized style guidelines for scientific writing that would make academic papers in their fields easier for people to read and comprehend. Today, The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is in its seventh edition.
When to use APA format
Use APA format for every piece of academic writing you do for your social sciences, engineering, and education courses. This includes research papers, essays, lab reports, and other kinds of reports. If you’re ever unsure if an assignment needs to be in APA format, just ask your instructor.
There’s no need to use APA format in your outline or first draft unless you’re required to hand it in for your instructor’s feedback or approval. Basically, any part of your assignment that you hand in needs to be in APA format. This includes the final draft of your paper as well as your literature review and, if applicable, research proposal.
APA vs. MLA and Chicago
APA format is one of the most common styles for writing school papers, along with MLA and Chicago. Each style has its own rules for how to format text and pages, how to write citations, and what vocabulary you can and cannot use.
Which format you use depends on the subject. As mentioned, APA is preferred for the social sciences, while MLA is used for the humanities like philosophy or literature, and Chicago is used for history.
In terms of style, APA places a heavy emphasis on dates, specifically the year a work was published. By contrast, MLA focuses more on authorship, while Chicago specializes in footnotes and endnotes.
How to set up your paper in APA format
APA formatting rules
1 Print your assignment on eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch paper.
2 Leave a one-inch margin along all sides of the paper.
3 Include a header on each page of your paper. This is also known as the running head. For student papers, the running head contains simply the page number, flush right. For a professional paper, it includes the paper’s title (shortened to fifty characters or fewer), flush left, then the page number, flush right.
4 Include page numbers for every page in an APA work. This number is flush right in the page’s header. The title page is considered page 1.
5 Although APA format does not require that writers use specific fonts, it’s best to use one of its recommended fonts. These include 12-point Times New Roman, 10-point Lucida, 11-point Calibri, and 11-point Arial.
6 Your paper must have a title page. Include the paper’s title and names of each author, as well as the running head on professional papers, but not student papers. Student papers should include your affiliation (the school you attend), the course number, instructor name, and assignment due date, while professional papers should include the affiliations of each author (such as their university) and an author note.
7 Write the list of citations on a separate page titled “References,” bolded and centered. This page comes after the body text but before any final tables or appendices.
8 Double-space your paper, including the title, abstract, and reference list pages.
9 Some APA papers have an abstract page, immediately following the title page. This is a quick summary of the paper—no more than 250 words—written either in a paragraph style or using a structured Objective / Method / Results / Conclusion format. The title “Abstract” appears in bold, centered at the top of the page, and no indentation is used for the text.
10 On the first page of text (after the title and abstract pages), write the paper’s title in title case, bold and centered.
11 Paragraph indentations are half an inch. Also indent the first line of each new footnote. Entries on the reference list page use a hanging indent, which means you indent every line except the first.
APA styling rules
1 APA prioritizes continuity, flow, conciseness, and clarity for the sake of easy-to-understand writing. A formal and direct tone is preferred.
2 Do not use contractions or colloquialisms.
3 Feel free to refer to yourself in the first person if you’re the one who did the research.
4 Avoid the editorial we, which functions as everyone, as in, “We don’t fully understand how self-aware infants are.”
5 Use the Oxford comma, aka the serial comma, when you’re using APA format.
6 Use title case for headings, as well as table and figure titles. However, use sentence case for the titles of works in the reference list.
7 Spell out numbers zero through nine and use numerals for 10 and above. However, always use numerals for numbers that come before a unit of measurement (e.g., 4 cm); that show a position in a series after a noun (year 1, grade 3, chapter 2); or that represent time, dates, ages, scores, points, money, or numbers themselves (e.g., 6 days, 9-year-old, $1, the number 5).
8 Use numerals for all numbers that represent statistical or mathematical functions, such as ratios, decimals, and percentages (e.g., 20:1, 8.33, 7%, 3 times as many). However, spell out numbers in common fractions (one-fifth, two-thirds).
9 Spell out numbers if they begin a sentence, title, or heading.
How to cite sources in APA: citation examples
Citation formatting is an important component of any academic style. In APA format, references need to be acknowledged where they appear in the text (known as in-text citations) and listed on a distinct page known as the reference list page. Because it was developed primarily for the social sciences, APA format has straightforward, logical citation guidelines for referencing sources.
According to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, you must cite the people “whose ideas, theories, or research have directly influenced your work.” Most papers will have a lot of citations, sometimes even two in the same sentence.
How to present evidence and quotes in APA
When presenting ideas that are not your own, you can either paraphrase or use direct quotes.
Paraphrasing means writing another author’s text in your own words. Typically it involves more than just using synonyms; it’s best to change the sentence structure as well. However, you must make sure the changes from the original text are significant, otherwise your paper won’t pass a plagiarism checker.
If the words from the original source are perfect as they are, you can also directly quote a passage in your paper. However, excessive quotes can make a paper hard to read or appear unoriginal, so only use them when necessary. When you do use direct quotes, try to keep them as short as possible by cutting out needless words at the beginning and end.
Whether you use paraphrasing or direct quotes, you still need to cite the source and include it in the reference list.
In-text citations in APA
APA format uses in-text citations to credit others’ works, as opposed to footnotes or other methods. Specifically, it uses an author-date citation system, which includes the main author’s surname and the year of publication.
There are two types of in-text citations: parenthetical and narrative. Parenthetical citations in APA use the author’s surname and the year of publication, separated by a comma and set apart in a pair of parentheses. They appear after the cited idea, ideally at the end of the sentence.
In situations where the future was outside of human control, introverts actually saw improved self-esteem, whereas extroverts showed no difference (Sobol et al., 2021).
Narrative citations are when either the author’s name or year of publication is used in the actual text. Repeating it in the citation would be redundant, so only the missing information is placed in parentheses. However, unlike other citations, this one comes directly after the author’s name.
Sobol and her team (2021) found that introverts saw an improvement in self-esteem during situations they couldn’t control, whereas extroverts showed no difference.
If both the author’s name and the year are given in the text, no citation is needed.
In a 2021 study, Sobol and her team found that introverts saw an improvement in self-esteem in situations they couldn’t control, whereas extroverts showed no difference.
To assist the reader, you can also include the location of the passage cited, such as a page number, chapter, table, figure, or time stamp. These come after the publication year, again separated with a comma. This is necessary when using direct quotes.
The researchers suggested that extroverts were less affected because they “have a strong sense of control over time,” so temporarily losing control didn’t matter much (Sobol, 2021, p. 455).
If a quotation is more than forty words, format it as a block quotation by setting it on a new line and indenting each line half an inch. With block quotes, the in-text citation appears at the end of the quote but after the final period (unlike other citations, which come before the final punctuation).
Footnotes and endnotes in APA
Because of its dedication to in-text citations, APA format uses footnotes much less often than the other styles do. There are only two situations where footnotes are appropriate in APA:
1 Content notes: Content footnotes provide supplemental information that enhances the text but may be too distracting or tangential to include in the body. Even so, content footnotes should be as succinct as possible and contain only one idea each.
2 Copyright attribution: If you’re reproducing another person’s work, such as an image, table, or figure, you’ll need to mention the copyright attribution in a footnote.
Footnotes are marked in the text by a superscript number (1) that is placed at the end of a passage, after any punctuation mark except the dash.
Despite criticism,1 the study furthers psychologists’ understanding of fatalistic time perspective.
The number corresponds to a footnote at the bottom of the page. Each footnote is indented and introduced with the same number used in the text, also superscript.
1 The study used a small sample size of only 104 participants, considered substandard, and all from the same culture (Polish).
Alternatively, you can place the notes on a separate page titled “Footnotes” at the end of the work, after the references page (although technically these would be endnotes because they come at the end of your paper, APA uses “Footnotes” as the title for this section).
APA reference list page
Any source you consult while writing your paper must be mentioned on the reference list. This page serves more or less the same purpose as the works cited page in MLA format, although some particulars about formatting are different.
The reference list appears on a separate page at the end of the work, with the title “References” bold and centered at the top. Each entry should contain, if applicable, the author, year of publication, title of the work, and the location of the source (for example, the website URL or name of the journal).
Names in the reference list are inverted, meaning the surname is written first. The given first name is written next as initials with periods. For multiple authors, list each author in the order they’re listed in the source, not necessarily alphabetical. Place commas in between each name and an ampersand (&) before the last author.
Entries use a hanging indent, which means the first line is not indented, but all subsequent lines are. List the entries in alphabetical order by whatever comes first, usually the author’s surname but sometimes the title if no author is given.
Each type of source has its own particular requirements for what information to include. Below are links to guides on how to format each type of source in APA. However, to give you a general example, your reference list entries should look something like this:
Sobol, M., Przepiórka, A., Meisner, M., & Kuppens, P. (2021). Destiny or control of one’s future? Fatalistic time perspective and self-esteem in extroverts and introverts. The Journal of General Psychology, 149(4), 443–455. https://doi.org/10.1080/00221309.2021.1878486
How to cite different types of sources in APA format
Learning the correct way to write citations for each type of source can get confusing, even if you’ve used APA format before. Below you’ll find links to our individual guides on how to cite each type of source, all for APA format.
- How to Cite a Book in APA Format
- How to Cite a Website in APA Format
- How to Cite Newspapers and Other Articles in APA Format
- How to Cite an Image or Photo in APA Format
- How to Cite a Movie in APA Format
- How to Cite a TV Show in APA Format
- How to Cite Wikipedia in APA Format
- How to Cite a YouTube Video in APA Format
- How to Cite a PDF in APA Format
- How to Cite a Lecture or Speech in APA Format
How do you write questions and answers in APA format? ›
To format questions and answers in APA format:
Use double spacing and one inch margins. Separate the answer from the question by beginning the answer on a new line. Always answer in complete sentences. If your answer is lengthy, it is okay to start a new paragraph.
APA in-text citation style uses the author's last name and the year of publication, for example: (Field, 2005). For direct quotations, include the page number as well, for example: (Field, 2005, p. 14). For sources such as websites and e-books that have no page numbers, use a paragraph number.What is APA format step by step? ›
- Paper title.
- Name of each author (also known as the byline).
- Affiliation for each author.
- Course number and name.
- Instructor name.
- Assignment due date.
- Step 1- Author (Names)
- Step 2- Date.
- Step 3- Titles.
- Step 4- Publication Info.
- Step 5- Retrieval Info.
When referring to information from a source in your own text, per APA guidelines, you will include the author, the year of publication, and sometimes the page number of the source. (The page number is required only with direct quotations.) This list of information is called an in-text citation.Do you include question marks in APA citations? ›
Authors and readers often ask how to deal with references that already contain punctuation—for example, a title that ends in a question mark or exclamation point. The short answer is, keep the original punctuation and do not add any extra.What is the easiest way to cite APA? ›
This citation typically consists of the author's name, year of publication, and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence. Another option is to use the author's name in the sentence, followed directly by the year in parentheses, with the page numbers in parentheses at the end of the sentence.What are the 3 types of citations in APA style? ›
There are many different citation styles, but they typically use one of three basic approaches: parenthetical citations, numerical citations, or note citations.How do you cite APA 7th edition example? ›
- Author(s). ...
- Title of the article. ...
- Title of the Journal, Note: Italicize and capitalize each word in the journal.
- Volume Note: Italicize the journal volume. ...
- (Issue), Note: If there is a issue number in addition to a volume number, include it in parentheses.
- Page range.
In general, all papers should begin with an introduction that includes a thesis statement (see handout on a good/bad thesis). The purpose of the introduction is the same as any research paper: in one to two paragraphs, briefly introduce and state the issue to be examined.
What is APA explain with examples? ›
APA is the style of documentation of sources used by the American Psychological Association. This form of writing research papers is used mainly in the social sciences, like psychology, anthropology, sociology, as well as education and other fields.What are the 4 common citation styles? ›
Citation Styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, IEEE.What are examples of citations? ›
- Reference list: Ashbourn, J. ...
- In-text citation: (Ashbourn, 2014)
- Reference list: Nasta, S. ...
- In-text citation: (Nasta and Stein, 2020)
- Reference list: Prior, H. ...
- In-text citation: (Prior, 2020, 74%)
- Reference list: Faulkner, W. ...
- In-text citation: (Faulkner, 2000, ch.
- Include In-text or Parenthetical Citations When Paraphrasing. ...
- Periods (Almost) Always Go After the Parenthesis. ...
- Be Consistent with Your Citation Style. ...
- All In-text and Parenthetical Citations Should Correspond with a Reference List Entry. ...
- Cite Properly, Not in Excess.
Answer. Generally, a citation will include: the name of the book, article, or other resource; the name of its author; information (if applicable) about the journal it came from; the date it was published; and when it was accessed if it was read online.What are the 4 things needed in an in-text citation? ›
- Title of Source.
- Title of Container.
- Other Contributors.
- Publication Date.
- If you had to go to a source to find the information, cite it.
- If all the information in a paragraph comes from the same source, you may cite at the end of the paragraph. If, however, you have used more than one source in the paragraph, provide the citation after the material borrowed.
- Incorrect Header. The first words in a paper with a title page is the running header. ...
- Errors in In-Text Citations. ...
- In-Text Citations Don't Match the Reference List. ...
- Incorrect Quotations. ...
- Citing with Multiple Sources.
The main elements included in all book citations across APA, MLA, and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher.How do you list questions in a sentence APA? ›
A: Yes, a series of questions in the middle of a sentence, surrounded by dashes or parentheses, is punctuated in just that way. Each question begins with a lowercase letter and ends with a question mark, according to language guides.
How do you write a good APA? ›
- Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides.
- Double-space all text, including headings.
- Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches.
- Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed is the best source of information for writing a paper in the APA style.Why is APA citation difficult? ›
The reference page is composed of numerous separate citations, and each type of citation, such as book, website or journal article, has a specific set of directions. For example, a book title is italicized and set in sentence case, but the name of a journal is in title case.
For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. In APA style, two citations are used to cite a source: A short citation used in the text (called the in-text citation). A full citation (called the reference) in the reference list at the end of a paper.What is the difference between APA format and APA citation? ›
The main differences between MLA, APA, and Chicago format are the way the title page, in-text citations, and reference lists are created. MLA uses the author-page number style for in-text citations, while APA uses the author-date citation style.How many APA formats are there? ›
There are two common types of papers written in fields using APA Style: the literature review and the experimental report (also known as a "research report"). Each has unique requirements concerning the sections that must be included in the paper.What should an APA 7th reference list look like? ›
For APA the reference list is arranged in alphabetical order of authors' surnames. Arrange by first author's name, then by second author if you have the same first author, etc. (check the page on Authors for how to lay out the reference if you have more than one author).What does an APA 7th edition in text citation look like? ›
In-text citations include the last name of the author followed by a comma and the publication year enclosed in parentheses: (Smith, 2007).How should APA reference page look? ›
- “References” is centered 1-inch down. It's not capitalized, bold, or italicized.
- The reference citations are double spaced with no additional lines between them.
- References that go past the first line have a hanging indent.
- All references are in alphabetical order.
Writing APA style papers is not so hard, once you are clear on the guidelines. This writing guide is meant to fill you in on exactly what you need to know in order to write an APA style paper. Some of these keys are not always covered in school, but you will still need to know them.
What does an APA introduction look like? ›
Introduction. The Introduction of an APA paper should begin on a new page, following the Abstract. Because its position in the paper makes it easily identifiable, the Introduction does not require a heading. Instead, include the title of the paper at the top of the page, in upper and lower case, followed by the text.How many sentences should be in a paragraph APA? ›
Aim for three to five or more sentences per paragraph. Include on each page about two handwritten or three typed paragraphs. Make your paragraphs proportional to your paper. Since paragraphs do less work in short papers, have short paragraphs for short papers and longer paragraphs for longer papers.How many paragraphs is an essay? ›
Arguably the most common essay format is the standard five-paragraph essay. This essay devotes a paragraph each to the introduction, conclusion, and three different supporting details.What are the two main purposes of using APA-style? ›
- provide readers with cues they can use to follow your ideas more efficiently and to locate information of interest to them.
- allow readers to focus more on your ideas by not distracting them with unfamiliar formatting.
- Quotations, opinions, and predictions, whether directly quoted or paraphrased.
- Statistics derived by the original author.
- Visuals in the original.
- Another author's theories.
- Case studies.
- The AUTHOR (or creator) of the work. This may be one person, many people, a group or an organization.
- The TITLE OF THE WORK itself. The article title, the book title, the video title, etc.
- The PUBLICATION DATE.
- Author or authors. ...
- Year of publication of the article (in round brackets).
- Article title.
- Journal title (in italics).
- Volume of journal (in italics).
- Issue number of journal in round brackets (no italics).
- Page range of article.
- DOI or URL.
- List your references as you go.
- Write your references manually.
- Be consistent with your format.
- Learn how to referencing less conventional sources.
- Proofread your reference list.
- Watch your title length and punctuation. ...
- Take advantage of preprint servers and release your results early. ...
- Avoid mentioning a country in your title, abstract or keywords. ...
- Link your paper to the supporting data in a freely accessible repository. ...
- Cut the hyphens.
1) His citation says he showed outstanding and exemplary courage. 2) Turner was issued a traffic citation for reckless driving. 3) The essay begins with a citation from 'Hamlet'. 4) Space does not permit the citation of the examples.
How do you put a question within a sentence APA? ›
1) When you have a direct question that is part of a sentence (as in my example), introduce it with a comma and end it with a question mark. Don't use italics. The question is, how do you punctuate this sentence?How do you punctuate a question within a sentence APA? ›
- When the quotation itself is a question, put the question mark inside the quotation marks. ...
- When the sentence as a whole is a question, but the quoted material is not, put the question mark outside the quotation marks.
"Since a survey you conducted yourself is not published elsewhere by someone else, you do not cite it in the same way you cite other materials. Instead, in your paper you describe your survey and make it clear that the data you're referring to is from the survey, usually by saying so in introductory sentences.How do you structure interview questions in an APA paper? ›
- Set up your document. ...
- Create the title page. ...
- Begin the main body. ...
- Explain the purpose of the interview. ...
- Introduce your sources and the topic of your questioning. ...
- Present the question and the quotation. ...
- Cite each quotation. ...
- Write your conclusion.
Use only the question mark contained in the quotation: Which Shakespeare character asked, “Is this a dagger which I see before me, / The handle toward my hand?”How do you reference a question in a sentence? ›
- If a direct question contained in a sentence is long or has internal punctuation, set the question off with a comma and begin it with a capital letter:
- A single question contained in a sentence can also be preceded by a colon as long as the word before the question is not a verb.
Question marks should go inside of the quotation marks if the quote is a question. If the quote is not a question, but the sentence is, the question mark should be outside the quotation marks. Examples: The caterpillar answered, “Who are you?”