APA Format For Style Guide, Tips, And Examples (2023)
APA (American Psychological Association) style is a style guide used widely for academic writing in the social sciences and psychology. The APA style guide addresses a wide variety of formatting issues in academic writing regarding citations within the text of the work and the references along with the abstract and title page. This article shall discuss the APA format for a style guide, tips, and examples.
APA format is the official style used by the American Psychological Association and is commonly used in the fields of psychology, education, and other social sciences. APA style refers to the way that student and professional publications are formatted for submission and publication. Knowing how to write in APA format is an important skill for both students and professionals.
The seventh edition of the “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association” is the official guidebook for formatting your APA papers.
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Seventh Edition (2020).
It’s the latest edition published in 2019. Of course, if you have further questions about how to format your paper, check with your professor or instructor on what they prefer.
If you’re a beginner and need to write a paper in APA format, the following step-by-step guide can help you format your paper correctly and create the different sections that you will need.
General APA Format Guidelines
There are some basic rules of APA format that apply to any type of APA paper. These include:
- Type on standard-size (8.5-inch by 11-inch) paper
- Have a 1-inch margin on all sides
- Have a title page, a reference list, and a byline
- Use an easy-to-read font such as Calibri or Times New Roman
- Double-space the whole paper
- Align text to the left-hand side
- Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches
According to APA guidelines, your paper should include four main sections: a title page, abstract, main body, and references.
APA format emphasizes accessibility for all readers. Be sure to review their official information on how to make your paper accessible.
APA Format Title Page
There are two different versions of an APA title page: the student and professional versions. A student title page should include:
- Title of paper
- Name of each author of the paper (the byline)
- Affiliation for each author (the university attended, including the name of the department)
- Course number and name
- Instructor name (check with the instructor for their preferred format)
- Assignment due date (i.e., November 4, 2020)
- Page number
For a professional APA paper, include:
- Title of paper
- Name of each author of the paper (byline)
- Affiliation for each author
- Author note
- Running head (an abbreviated version of the paper title)
- Page number
For both student and professional papers, the paper title is in title case, bold, and centered. It should be about three to four lines down from the top margin of the page.
Be concise. Your title should be a short statement of what the reader will find in the paper. Your title will often identify the major variables and their relationships. Examples of APA paper titles include:
- Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Math Performance
- Impact of Leadership Style on Employee Productivity
- How Music Tempo Affects Running Pace
- How Medication Improves Smoking Cessation Outcomes
A title page for a professional paper should also include an author note, which provides more information about the paper’s authors, study registration, data sharing, disclaimers on any conflicts of interest, a point of contact, and funding sources.
When writing your title, be concise and avoid any extraneous words that do not add meaning to your title. The APA style guide advises writers to avoid phrases such as “An Experimental Investigation of…” or “A Study of…”.
APA Format Abstract
Think of an abstract as a summary of your paper. If you are a student, your instructor may or may not require an abstract; be sure to check.
Follow these tips for writing your abstract in APA format:
- The abstract should have its own page right after the title page.
- Centered at the top of the page in bold, write “Abstract.”
- In the next line, briefly summarize the main points of the paper.
- While the content will vary, an abstract typically includes the research topic, research questions, information on participants and methods, the data analysis used, and main conclusions.
- An abstract should be a single paragraph, double-spaced, and usually no more than 250 words.
The “Publication Manual” states that a good abstract is accurate, coherent, and concise. Be sure not to include any information in the abstract that isn’t in the paper itself.
Tables in APA Format
Tables are an efficient way to display a great deal of information in a concise, clear, and easy-to-read format. In APA format papers, tables are generally used to describe the results of statistical analysis and other pertinent quantitative data.
However, it is important to note that not all data should be presented in a table. If you have little numeric information to present, it should be described in the text of your paper.
The APA’s publication manual recommends designing your table with the reader in mind. Strive to communicate data in a way that is clear and easy to understand.
Basic Rules for Tables
Keep these tips in mind when using a table in your APA format publication:
- Add an individual title to each table. It should be italicized and capitalized in APA style.
- Begin each table after the reference list on a page of its own.
- Number all tables (i.e., Table 1, Table 2, Table 3).
- Reference all tables in the text of the paper.
Remember that your table is there to supplement rather than replicate the text of your paper. Do not feel the need to discuss every element of your table in your text. Extraneous information can overwhelm and confuse the reader. Stick to reporting the most important data.
Instead, focus on keeping your table concise. Mention key highlights and tell the reader what to look for in your table.
Keep these tips in mind when writing table headings:
- Capitalize the first letter of each heading.
- Identify each column using a descriptive heading.
- Use abbreviations for standard terms in the table itself. Uncommon definitions should be explained in a note below the table.
If an additional explanation is needed, a note can be added below the table. There are three kinds of notes: general notes, specific notes, and probability notes.
General notes refer to some aspect of the entire table; specific notes refer to a particular column, row, or cell; probability notes specify the values of symbols in your table.
Reference Pages in APA Format
All sources cited in your paper should be included on the reference page. The reference page should appear at the end of your APA paper. This page makes it easy for the reader to easily look up all of the materials you cited.
Anything cited in the text must appear in the reference section and anything included in the reference section must be cited somewhere in the text.
Your references should begin on a new page with the title “References” in bold and centered at the very top. Do not underline, italicize, or place quotation marks around the title.
Basic Reference Page Rules
Be sure not to forget these rules when putting together your APA format reference page:
- Alphabetize references by the last names of the first author of each source.
- Capitalize all major words in the title of a journal (i.e., The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology).
- Capitalize only the first letter in article titles. If a colon appears in the title, the first letter after the colon should also be capitalized. The title should not be placed in quotations, underlined, or italicized.
- Double-space all references.
- Italicize the titles of books and journals.
- When the same author is cited multiple times, list references in chronological order with the oldest first, working your way up to the most recent one.
- Use a hanging indentation for each reference; the first line of the reference should be aligned to the left, but each additional line needs to be indented.
Journals and Periodicals
Journal articles should appear in alphabetical order in your reference list. More APA format tips include:
- Capitalize the first letter of the first word in the title, subtitle, and proper nouns.
- Italicize the name of the publication and the volume number.
The basic format of a journal article reference is to first list authors by their last names followed by the initials of their first names. Next, the publication year is enclosed in parentheses and followed by a period.
The title of the article should then follow, with only the first letter of the first word capitalized as well as the first letter of any proper nouns.
The italicized title of the journal comes after, followed by a comma. Place the volume number next, also italicized. Follow this with the issue number in parentheses, followed by a comma.
Then, place page numbers, using a hyphen in between if it’s a range of pages. Place a period after this. Finally, a hyperlink including the DOI number should be included if there is one available.
This style is applicable to printed texts. The format for citing books in APA format is as follows:
- Name of author (last name, first initial)
- The date of the publication is in parentheses
- The italicized title of the book
- If applicable, put the edition of the book in parentheses
- Publisher Name
- Hyperlink with DOI number
Note: Place a period after each of these elements.
The basic format of an electronic reference is very similar to that of any other reference. However, you typically need to include the online location of the document.
Since online URLs can change, the APA recommends utilizing a digital object identifier (DOI) in your references whenever possible.
A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string that begins with a 10 as well as a prefix (usually a four-digit number assigned to organizations) and a suffix (a number assigned by the publisher).
Many publishers will include the DOI on the first page of an electronic document. If a DOI is available, simply include it as a hyperlink at the end of the reference as follows: https://doi.org/10.0000/00000000000.
Be sure to consult the latest information from The American Psychological Association for more information on citing electronic sources.
In summary, it’s helpful to consult the latest edition of the APA “Publication Manual” when you have questions about proper formatting for your APA paper. If you’re a student, it’s a great idea to consult with your instructor as well. They can help establish clear guidelines and expectations for your papers before you submit them.
I hope you find this article helpful.