How to Format An APA Paper

If you have completed your research, investigation, and collated your results, you're ready to cross the next major hurdle in your research journey; writing your If you have completed your research, investigation, and collated your results, you're ready to cross the next major hurdle in your research journey; writing your research paper. The process of publishing a research paper and officially publishing your research for people to read is arduous, but rewarding. In this nuanced process, it is key to be weary of your formatting and presentation to avoid having to go through tiresome revisions or risking your paper getting rejected.

This makes it even more pertinent to be well-versed with the style of formatting one should be writing in; be it the The Chicago Manual of Style, Modern Language Association, or American Psychology Association guidelines for formatting. If you're writing in APA formatting, this article takes you through what an APA style paper is and it's necessary basic elements.

What is APA format?

APA, or American Psychology Association, is a set of guidelines for both writing and formatting research papers. This style of formatting is typically used in the behavioral and social sciences areas such as psychology, sociology, and history.

APA is also frequently used in the academic fields of economics, criminology, political science, and business. This set of formatting rules refers to what a research paper must formally contain and the manner in which it should be written and presented. This set of guidelines encompasses specific guidelines for multiple aspects of paper formatting, from font choice to margins, punctuation, and referencing.

How is APA format used?

The major focus for APA style formatting, or any style of formatting for that matter, is to make sure that the sources you use, whether they are books that you quote from directly, or scholarly or journal articles from which you take statistics from, are clearly credited.

This style of formatting is prevalent and has been subscribed to for multiple reasons. It is referred to as a formal citation style because it includes specific rules on how to list the references you cite, and how it should formatted and indicated in your research papers. Proper citation makes sure that you do not get accused of plagiarism, and allows your readers to understand where you got your information.

It also ensures that your research paper is easy to read and has all of the necessary academic elements. This promotes scientific communication by providing clarity of expression and standardizing the organization and content of manuscript formatting.

Generally, APA citation involves 3 parts; the organization of your content, the writing style and language used, and the small-scale technicalities of your formatting such as the citations that you add in parentheses where you use the quote or idea in the main body of your text and the list of references that you compile at the end of your document.

Rules and Guidelines of APA Format


The following states that general flow of an APA formatted research paper:

Title page

For your title page, limit the world in your title to about 12 words, and avoid using abbreviations and unnecessary words.


The abstract should cover and discuss the topic of your paper or that is under study, the research questions that you will be addressing, other related research subjects, your research methods, your findings and results, the analysis of the data, and your conclusion.


In the introductory paragraph, sufficiently address the problem and premise upon which the research was focused on.


Explain in detail how you did your research, and the mechanics that you applied to conduct your investigation

Findings and Results

Explain your findings and the results that it has surfaced. This can be followed by a discussion as well.


State the list of the sources your referenced to build your paper in an orderly fashion. References should start on a new page, with the page titled (References), and the sources listed in alphabetical order.


An appendix should start on a fresh, individual page labelled “Appendix”, followed by a title on the next line that refelcts the subject of the appendix. The heading should be center-aligned, capitalized and bolded at the top of the page. If there are multiple appendices, each should be labelled with a capital letter and referenced in-text by its specific title (Example : “see Appendix B”).

Writing and Language

APA styled research papers, and papers written in other formatting styles should be written formally. For research papers, intended audience is other academics, students, and colleagues. Thus, you need to communicate with clearly and professionally.

Avoid using slangs, referencing pop culture, and including humor in your paper. Be direct and straightforward instead of using complex phrasing, use technical terms where appropriate, and avoid biased language and use gender-inclusive language, and avoid euphemisms

Formatting Elements

The following table summarizes the basics of creating a properly formatted research paper according to APA guidelines:

Font12 pt font
Margins1-inch margins on all sides
SpacingDouble-spacing on title page and in the main body of your text
ParagraphingAll paragraphs in the body are indented by 0.5 inches
Title pageKeep your title between 10 to 12 words, and centered. The arrangement of information is as follows: Page number in the top right corner, followed by the title of your paper below in bold, followed by the author's name, affiliation, course name, mentor's or teacher's name, and lastly the paper's due or submission date.
Page numberingPages should be numbered in the upper right-hand corner and begins on the first page
PunctuationInclude one space after most punctuation marks
Running headA shortened version of the title (“running head”) should be placed in the upper left-hand corner
AbbreviationsUse the full term the first time you use it, followed immediately by the abbreviation in parentheses. Make sure they allow for clear communication with readers.
Table and figuresLeft align all tables and figures, and numbered sequentially
Paper size8.5 inch x 11 inch paper
ReferencesReferences should start on a new page, with the page titled (References) in bold font at the top. - Double spacing is to used throughout this page. - Key in entries in alphabetical order, by authors’ last names.
Create a hanging indent for each individual source you add to the list. A hanging indent is where the second and all the following lines of a paragraph are indented more than the first.

Title Page Elements

Page number

  • Use the page number 1 on the title page.
  • Insert page numbers in the top right corner of the page header.

Paper title

  • Place the title about 3 or 4 lines below from the top of the page.
  • Center it and bold it.
  • Capitalize major words of the title.
  • Place the main title and any subtitle on separate double-spaced lines.
  • Keep the title focused and include only key terms.

Author's name

  • Place one double-spaced blank line between the paper title and the author name or names.
  • Center the names on their own line.
  • If there are 2 authors, use the word “and” between authors.
  • If there are 3 or more authors, place a comma between author names and use the word “and” before the final author's name.


For student paper's, the affiliation is the institution where the student attends school.

  • Include the names of any department and the name of the university or other institution, separated by a comma.
  • Center the affiliations on the next double-spaced line after the author or authors' names.

Course name

  • Provide the course name as reflected on instructional materials, followed by a colon and the course name.
  • Center the course number and name on the next double-spaced line after the affiliation.

Mentor or teacher's name

  • State the name of the mentor or lecturer for the course.
  • Center the name on the next double-spaced line after the course number and name.

Due or submission date

  • Center the due date on the next double-spaced line after the mentor's name.


There are 5 levels of headings in APA Style. Level 1 is the highest or main level of heading, Level 2 is a subheading of Level 1, Level 3 is a subheading of Level 2, Level 4 is a subheading of Level3, and Level 5 is a subheading of Level 4. The number of headings that you use in a paper is dependent on the length and complexity of the work. If only one level of heading is needed, use Level 1. If two levels of heading are needed, use Levels 1 and 2. If three levels of heading are needed, use Levels 1, 2, and 3 (and so on).

The following table reflects how these above-mentioned headings should be formatted in APA Style:

1Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading. Text begins as a new paragraph.
2Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading. Text begins as a new paragraph.
3Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading. Text begins as a new paragraph.
4Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.
5Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph

APA Citation

In APA-styled papers, in-text citation can be stated in 2 ways; as a parenthetical citation or narrative citation. In a parenthetical citation, you state all the information in parentheses after the information. In a narrative citation, you name the author in your sentence, followed by the year, and then the page number after information if applicable.

AuthorNarrative citationParenthetical citation
1 authorDouglas (2022) *If there are page numbers, include the page number you paraphrased/quoted from in parentheses at the end of your sentence (for multiple authors/references as well).(Douglas, 2022) *If there are page numbers, include the page number you paraphrased/quoted from in your parentheses (for multiple authors/references as well).
E.g. Douglas (2022) found that the heavy consumption of social media can be positively linked to social isolation and feelings of detachment in adolescents (p. 43) .E.g. Heavy social media use can be positively linked to isolation and feelings of detachment in adolescents (Douglas, 2022, p. 43).
2 authorsMortey and Schwimmer (2022)(Mortey and Schwimmer, 2022)
3 or more authorsGarner et al. (2022)(Garner et al., 2022)
Group authorFirst citation: Ministry of Manpower (MOM, 2022)First citation: (Ministry of Manpower [MOM], 2022)
Subsequent citations: MOM (2022)Subsequent citations: (MOM, 2022)
Group author with no abbreviationSports Hub (2022)(Sports Hub, 2022)
Two or more separate worksPlace a semicolon between the references.Place a semicolon between the references.
E.g. Oliver et al. (2001); Garner and Gideon (2004); Raz (2008); and Philip (1996)E.g. (Oliver et al., 2001; Garner & Gideon, 2004; Raz, 2000; Philip, 1996)

How To Add Citations

Add APA citations in Microsoft Word

APA citations can be added manually into your Microsoft Word documents.

Upon typing in information that you have procured from a source, click at the end of the sentence or phrase that you want to cite. Then, click on the "References" tab, followed by the "Citations & Bibliography" group. Afterwhich, click "Insert Citations". From the list of citations under "Insert Citation", you can choose the citation that you want to use.

To edit your citations, open the "References" tab, select the "Citations & Bibliography" group, and click "Manage Sources". In the "Source Manager" dialog box, under "Master List or Current List", select the source you want to edit, and then click "Edit". After making changes in the Edit Source dialog box, click "OK".

Add APA citations in JotterPad

On JotterPad, adding APA citations into your Markdown documents can be done through bibtex. Upon downloading the bibtex file, import the file into Jotterpad with the Bibliography manager. Thereafter, you can include the data required and include citations in your Markdown document seamlessly.

To include in-text citations, click add in your Markdown documents, and the suggested citations will appear for you to choose from.

If you would like to suppress the citation in order to prevent a repeated citation from appearing, add a minus sign to the citation.

Upon deciding to print, your citations and references will be automatically printed, with orderly formatting.

APA Templates

If you're in the midst of writing a research paper or an assignment that needs to be in APA format, making use of a template that can act as a bedrock for you to get started would be og help. These templates and the various essay elements that come with it are formatted to match standard APA guidelines. Styled according to the APA Publication Manual's 7th Edition, you can direct more attention to compiling your research in concise and sound manner, and making sure your content is coherent.

1. APA Template in Markdown

This APA Markdown template can effectively keep your formatting in check for you while you write. While it converts Markdown into APA formatting seamlessly, key APA identifiers such as the title page organization, headings, abstract, keywords, citations styles, and so on will also be managed while you work on your content.

This template is also equipped with the BibTeX citation management tool. The BibTex Citation Management tool in this template allows you to add, manage, edit and print your citations and bibliography. It helps to effectively organize your references and citations in your work, without the hassle of needed to manually input and alter your references.

2. APA Template in Word

Microsoft Word's APA template is equipped with the latest APA formatting margins. With the interface being relatively simple to understand and easy to maneuver, this template can act as the starting skeleton for you to work your content into.

However, users need to manually input their bibliography and citations into their documents, and this can prove to be a hassle considering the detailed formatting guidelines for APA bibliography and citations. Having to toggle between your keyboard and mouse throughout a long list of references can take time.

You can download the pre-built APA template document with Microsoft 365.

With a better understanding of the margins to be worked within and the guidelines that need to be abided by, putting together a well-organized research paper would be a little less distressing.

With this article, there are numerous other online sources that can help with formatting and citation needs format your citations. Referencing the official APA Manuals and approaching professors and advisors for help is recommended. With experience and conscientious referencing, writing in APA style will be a breeze.