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APA Formatting Style Guide | Examples

Published by at December 31st, 2021 , Revised On February 5, 2024

The APA Publication Manual, 7th edition, sets out basic rules to help you to communicate effectively, cite your sources and format your documents. This article is about formatting an academic paper.

The following APA format must be followed throughout your paper:

  • Set the page margins on all sides to 1 inch.
  • All content, including headers, should be double-spaced.
  • Every paragraph should have a 0.5-inch indent on the first line.
  • Use a typeface that is easy to read (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).
  • Every page should have a page number.

Alphabetization Guides in APA

The last name of the first author is used to sort the references alphabetically. If the author is not known, the references are sorted by the first significant word in the title.

All pages in the APA style document are headed by a page header. In student papers, the page header generally comprises a page number only in the upper right-hand corner of the page. For professional articles that are meant for publication, it also contains a running header. The document title in capital letters is called the running head. It is left-aligned and has a maximum length of 50 characters. Any longer titles shall be abbreviated.



Headings and Sub-headings

There are five levels of APA headings. Main sections such as “Methods” or “Results” are headed at level 1. Subheadings are divided into levels 2 through 5. Each level of the header is structured differently.


apa heading levels 7th


Title Page

The title page of an APA-style paper is the opening page. The guidelines are different for both student and professional papers. The title of the paper along with the author’s name and affiliation, should be included in both versions. In the student version, it includes a course number and name, as well as the name of the instructor and the paper’s due date. The professional version includes an author’s note and a table of contents.


apa style student


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The abstract is a short version of your paper, about 150-250 words long. A abstract is often required for professional papers, while it is uncommon for student papers. After the title page, the abstract is presented on a separate page. Include a section at the top of the page labelled ” Abstract”.

The content of the abstract is displayed directly below the label. The first line of a normal paragraph is not indented. Most summaries are written as a single paragraph without headings or blank lines. You can include three to five relevant keywords directly below the abstract. Put the heading “Keywords:” (italicized and indented) on a new line, then the keywords in lower case, separated by commas.




The Table of the Content

An APA style hasn’t provided any guidelines regarding the format of the table of contents. It is also not a compulsory part of subject or study papers. It is advisable to follow the basic rules if your teacher requires a table of contents. Place the table of contents between the abstract and the introduction on a separate page. At the top of the page, write “Table of Contents” (bold and centered) and then list the main headings with the corresponding page numbers by pressing “Enter” once.


Reference Page

After the body of your paper, but before any appendices, you should include an APA reference page. Here you list all the sources you have used in your work (through in-text citations). The American Psychological Association (APA) provides formatting rules for both the references and the page itself. Create a new page with the References section at the top (bold and centered). Place the references in alphabetical order directly below the title. Use a hanging indent, i.e. the first line of each reference should be aligned to the left and all following lines should be indented by 0.5 inch.





Tables and Figures

Tables and figures must follow the same format. A number and a title shall be given to them, and are followed by explanatory notes. A bold style should be used for the name “table” or “figure” and for the number, and the title should be placed on a separate line directly below it. Tables should be kept as clear as possible, with no vertical lines, as few horizontal lines as possible and short row and column labels. Keep your illustrations as minimalist as possible. If necessary, add captions and a legend, and use color only when absolutely necessary.




Frequently Asked Questions

APA (American Psychological Association) formatting style is a set of rules for writing academic papers in the social sciences. It includes guidelines for citations, references, headings, font size, margins, and more. APA style promotes clarity, consistency, and proper attribution of sources in scholarly writing.

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