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 are the 5 steps in citing sources using APA format? ›
- Step 1- Author (Names)
- Step 2- Date.
- Step 3- Titles.
- Step 4- Publication Info.
- Step 5- Retrieval Info.
All APA reference list entries contain four main components: author, date, title, and source.How do you structure a written answer? ›
Answer the question according to general rules of academic writing. Use indentations; begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; support the topic sentence(s) with reasons and/or examples; use transition words to show logical organization; write a conclusion. Use correct punctuation throughout.How do you answer an in text citation? ›
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.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.
APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences. MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities. Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts.
What are the basic APA rules? ›
- All text should be double-spaced.
- Use one-inch margins on all sides.
- All paragraphs in the body are indented.
- Make sure that the title is centered on the page with your name and school/institution underneath.
- Use 12-point font throughout.
- All pages should be numbered in the upper right hand corner.
- 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.
APA 7th is an 'author/date' system, so your in-text references for all formats (book, journal article, web document) consists of the author(s) surname and year of publication. The basics of an in-text reference in APA: Include author or authors and year of publication.
- 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.).
- 14 RULES FOR WRITING MULTIPLE-CHOICE QUESTIONS.
- Use Plausible Distractors (wrong-response options) ...
- Use a Question Format. ...
- Emphasize Higher-Level Thinking. ...
- Emphasize Higher-Level Thinking (continued) ...
- Keep Option Lengths Similar. ...
- Balance the Placement of the Correct Answer. ...
- Be Grammatically Correct.
Your response will need to have the following: A brief introduction – of one to two sentences – explaining your position on the question. One to two body paragraphs that present at least two examples from each text. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence that introduces it.Do you cite every sentence in APA? ›
Important to remember: You DO NOT need to add an in-text citation after EVERY sentence of your paragraph.What is a citation answer? ›
A citation identifies for the reader the original source for an idea, information, or image that is referred to in a work. In the body of a paper, the in-text citation acknowledges the source of information used. At the end of a paper, the citations are compiled on a References or Works Cited list.When should you use an in-text citation select the best answer? ›
- 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.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed is the best source of information for writing a paper in the APA style.
How do you start a good APA paper? ›
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 2 methods are there to cite sources in APA formatting? ›
In APA Style, there are two parts to every citation: an in-text citation and a reference list citation. In-text citations use only a few details of the source, enough to locate its matching reference citation in the reference list.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.What are the three tips in making citations? ›
Tips for Citing Sources
Write down the complete citation information for each book, article, etc. you use as you go along. Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words. Always credit original authors for their information and ideas.
- “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.
APA style helps you credit sources and distinguish your own ideas from others'. APA Style helps you avoid accidental plagiarism. APA Style communicates important information about your sources. APA Style looks professional and credible.What 3 things must you cite? ›
- When you quote two or more words verbatim, or even one word if it is used in a way that is unique to the source. ...
- When you introduce facts that you have found in a source. ...
- When you paraphrase or summarize ideas, interpretations, or conclusions that you find in a source.
- APA style is commonly used in Education, Business, and some Social Sciences and Humanities disciplines.
- MLA style is often used in English and Media Studies.
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 should you not do in an APA paper? ›
- 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.
How do you write a simple citation? ›
When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.How to cite articles in APA? ›
- 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.
Writers using APA Style must strive to use language that is free of bias and avoid perpetuating prejudicial beliefs or demeaning attitudes in their writing.What words Cannot be used in APA format? ›
APA writing style needs to be formal. Avoid using slang words and avoid contractions, such as 'don't', 'won't', couldn't. ' Whilst APA is trying to move towards a more personal style, that does not mean informality, as if you were writing a friendly e-mail.What should not be cited? ›
In general, if it's your words, your opinion, your photo, or your graph, of course, you don't need to cite it. HOWEVER, if you are using information from one of your own previously published works (journal article, book chapter, etc.), you MUST cite it just as you would cite another author's work.What are 3 essential information needed to make an in text citation? ›
An in-text citation is an acknowledgement you include in your text whenever you quote or paraphrase a source. It usually gives the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number of the relevant text.How do you write a question and answer an article? ›
- Make it short. Even shorter. ...
- Focus, focus, focus. The easiest way to keep things short is to concentrate on one particular aspect of the subject at hand. ...
- Ask unexpected questions. ...
- Vary the pace. ...
- Edit the heck out of it.
What citation format is required for your manuscript? Generally, you would include the author's name, the posting date, a link to the answer (which you can obtain by clicking the "share" link), and (optionally) the title of the question to which the answer was posted.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.How do you punctuate a question within a sentence APA? ›
Direct questions within a sentence
When a direct question occurs within a larger sentence, it takes a question mark. Note that in the examples below, the question mark supplants the comma that would syntactically belong in its place. Would they make it on time? she wondered.
What does a Q&A format look like? ›
It is essentially an edited transcript of an interview that includes both the interviewer's direct questions and the interviewee's response in written format. Unlike feature stories, Q&As have little room for “fluff.” They tell the message of your interviewee without a narrative story.How can I write better answers? ›
- Use of the Additional 15 Minutes Judiciously. ...
- Set the Priority. ...
- Write Brief, to the Point Answers. ...
- Choose Questions Wisely. ...
- Attempt all the Questions. ...
- Don't Decorate the Answer Sheet. ...
- Space out Each word Properly.
The structure of a response paper is standard for academic writing: there should be an introduction in which you present your source text and your response, body paragraphs in which you support and explain your response, and a conclusion that wraps up your paper and leaves your reader with something to think about.How do you cite interview answers? ›
Citing personal interviews
As these are not published anywhere, they should be cited as personal communications in the text and omitted from the reference list. Include the interviewee's initials and last name, the words “personal communication,” and the date on which the interview was conducted.
If you cite something, you quote it or mention it, especially as an example or proof of what you are saying.Do you put a comma after yes when answering a question? ›
Yes, you need a comma after Yes or No
Students are asked to answer questions with sentences starting with "Yes" or "No".
Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage, but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.How do you cite a question in a sentence? ›
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?”