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APA Style

Citation guide for the Publication Manual for the American Psychological Association (7th ed).

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Introduction

These guidelines are adapted from the student paper specifications from Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). 

  • In the 7th edition, APA created a simplified version of their paper format for student papers, which omits previously required elements (sect. 2.2, p. 30). Items that APA states are not typically included in a student paper and are not, therefore, covered in this guide include: Running head, author note, and abstract.
  • This guide is not exhaustive; refer to the Publication Manual for additional details and for specific details for professional papers.

Always defer to your professor or instructor’s guidelines for an assignment – it's essential that you understand their expectations and ask questions about any guidelines that are unclear or confusing. This includes whether they would like you to use the student or professional paper format.

Overall Guidelines

  • Margins: 1 inch on all sides
  • Font: APA states that "papers should be written in a font that is accessible to all users" (p. 44). Use the same font throughout the entire paper. APA's preferred options are:
    • Sans serif fonts: 11-point Calibri, 11-point Arial, or 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode
    • Serif font: 12-point Times New Roman or 11-point Georgia
  • Line Spacing: Double-spaced, including title page, abstract, text, headings, block quotations, reference list, table and figure notes, and appendices. See p. 45 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association for exceptions.
  • Indentation: First line of each paragraph should be indented 0.5 in. Exceptions: Abstract and block quotes
  • AlignmentLeft align all text.  Exceptions: headings (see section about headings.)
  • Page numbersBegin page numbers on the title page.
    • Page numbers should appear in the upper right-hand corner of the header. 
    • Use "View" → "Header" in Microsoft Word to set page numbering

Title Page

  • Title of Paper: Centered on the page, bold.
  • Author(s): Centered on the page, underneath the title
  • Author(s) Affiliation: Typically department and institution (e.g., Department of Psychology, Towson University), centered underneath author(s) name(s)
  • Course Number and Name: E.g., PSYC314: Research Methods, centered underneath author affiliation
  • Instructor Name: Confirm preferred name and honorific with your professor, centered underneath course number and name
  • Due date: APA recommends spelling out the month, e.g., December 4, 2019, centered underneath instructor name

Note: Refer to the APA Publication Manual (7th ed) if your professor requires you to use the professional title page format. APA no longer requires elements such as the running head and author note for student papers.

Body

The body of the paper "contains the authors' main contributions to the literature" (APA Publication Manual [7th ed], p. 39).

Components and structure of the paper vary depending on your assignment. For example, original research reports include the following sections: "Introduction," "Methods," "Results," and "Discussion."

Refer to the APA Publication Manual or your assignment instructions for the details about the type of information that is included in each section.

Most papers will use the following general guidelines:

  • Introduction
    • Starts on a new page after the title page or abstract
    • Include the title of the paper as a Level 1 heading
  • Headings: APA style uses five "levels" or types of headings, though in your paper your may only use two or three. The headings are an organizational hierarchy - sections of equal importance use the same heading.
    • For instance, the "Methods" and "Results" section are equal, and they are both formatted as Level 1 headings. 
    • If you discuss "Participants" and "Measures" in your "Methods" section, then you format each of those as Level 2 headings, and so on.
    • Begin your text in a paragraph below the heading for Levels 1, 2, & 3. Begin the text of your paragraph in the same line with the headings for Levels 4 & 5.

APA 7th edition heading levels

References

  • Starts on a new page
  • The word "References" should appear centered on the page, capitalized, and in bold
  • Use a hanging indent - the first line of each reference entry should be flush to the left side, all lines after the first line of each entry should be indented 0.5 inches from the left margin
  • Double space all reference entries
  • Alphabetize entries by the first authors' last names
  • Two or more works by the same author should be ordered by publication date, with the oldest entry listed first. For additional order rules, see sections 9.44-9-49 in the APA Manual (7th ed.).
  • Format reference entires according to type – refer to the citation examples on other pages within the APA Style Guide

Table(s), Figure(s), Appendix

Refer to the APA Publication Manual for guidelines related to formatting tables, figures, and appendices.