This guide is a starting point. For full details on correctly citing resources and creating references, please consult
the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th Ed. (2020), or Cites & Sources, 6th Ed. (2021).
Please Note! Library staff do not teach APA, and cannot evaluate or correct work. If you need help with APA Style, please contact your instructor.
Students should follow the guidelines provided by their instructor regarding the format of their paper or other assignments. These directions follow the guidelines laid out in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. (2020).
Why is formatting important? (2.16)
A poorly prepared paper can lead instructors to misunderstand or misinterpret the content, or to question a student's knowledge or attention to detail. Students may receive lower grades because of poor organization or formatting errors. A well-prepared paper is easier to understand and mark. More information on the principles of organization can be found in section 2.26 of the Publication Manual.
APA Style recommends that the pages of a student paper should be organized in the following order (2.17):
There are additional sections that might be requested by the instructor:
Footnotes can appear either in the footer of the page where they are first mentioned (2.13), or starting on a new page after the references.
Tables and Figures (2.17)
Tables and figures can either be within the text after they have been mentioned, or each table and figure can be displayed on a separate page starting on a new page after the footnotes.
Appendices begin on a new page after any tables and figures.
Students should follow the guidelines provided by their instructor for creating their title page. This example follows the guidelines laid out in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. (2020).
Each piece of information on the title page appears on its own line, and the lines are double-spaced (2.21). No additional information appears on the title page, unless specified by the instructor. One inch (2.54 cm) margins are used on all sides (2.22); this is the default for most word-processing programs.
The following elements are included on all student title pages, unless specified by the instructor (2.3):
New in the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020), student papers do not have a running head, unless specifically required by the instructor or institution (2.2). Students should check with their instructor and review their assignment rubrics to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of all assignments. If an instructor requires a running head, students should follow the instructions below.
What is a running head? (2.8)
A running head is a shortened version of the title of the paper, and it appears at the top of every page of the paper.
How is a running head formatted? (2.8)
A running contains no more than 50 characters, including letters, punctuation, and the spaces between letters. Abbreviations should not be used in a running head. However, APA Style does allow for the use of the ampersand symbol (&) in place of the word "and" if desired. The running head appears in the page header, aligned left, in all-capital letters. Previous versions of APA Style required that the label "Running Head" appear on all pages to identify the running head. However, the 7th edition of the Publication Manual states that this label should not be included (2.8).
How do I create a running head in my assignment?
The process for creating a running head will depend on the kind of word processing software the writer is using.
In APA Style, there are five possible levels for headings (2.27)
APA Style makes the following recommendations for headings:
This table, from section 2.27 of the Publication Manual, shows how to correctly format each level of heading:
Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading
Text begins as a new paragraph.
Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading
Text begins as a new paragraph.
Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading
Text begins as a new paragraph.
|4||Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.|
|5||Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. Text begins on the same line and continues as a regular paragraph.|
Students should follow the guidelines provided by their instructor for formatting their text. This example follows the guidelines laid out in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. (2020).
What is the text or body of a paper? (2.11)
The text, or the body, is the largest part of a paper, and it contains the main ideas, information, and research.
How is the text formatted? (2.11)
The body starts on a new page after the title page. In addition to appearing ion the title page, the title of the paper is included at the top of the page, in title case, centered and in bold font (2.4, 2.11).
How should the text be organized? (2.11)
According to APA Style, the body of a paper can be organized in different ways, depending on the type of paper and the requirements of the assignment. Students should check with their instructor and review their assignment and marking rubric to ensure that they are meeting all of the criteria of the assignment.
A reference list appears at the end of a paper or other assignment, and it provides the information necessary to identify and retrieve each work cited in the text (9.0). More information on citing specific kinds of resources in the text and on the reference list can be found under the How Do I Cite . . .? tab, or in chapters eight, nine, and ten of the Publication Manual.
New in the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020), "APA Style papers should be written in a font that is accessible to all users" (p. 44). This may mean using a font other than Times New Roman, which has, historically, been the standard. APA Style now permits a variety of fonts that are more effective with screen reader software, or for authors or readers with print disabilities. The Publication Manual makes the following recommendations for fonts:
All papers are double-spaced, including the title page, the body or text, headings, block quotations, reference lists, tables and figure notes, and appendices (2.21). According to APA Style, there are exceptions to this:
Spacing After Punctuation (6.1)
New in the 7th edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020), only one space is used following a period or other punctuation at the end of sentence. A single space is also used following commas, colons, semicolons, and periods following initials in names (J. Doe). Spaces are not used after periods in abbreviations (e.g.: i.e., U.S.), after periods in labels for study participants (J.D.), or between colons used in ratios (1:5). Additional information on punctuation marks and their correct uses can be found starting in section 6.2 of the Publication Manual.
There are 1-inch (2.54 cm) margins on all sides of the title page and the body of the paper. This is the default in most word processing programs.
Paragraph Alignment (2.23)
Text is aligned to the left, and the right margin is left uneven, or "ragged". Full justification should not be used. Words should not be manually divided at the end of a line, and words should not be hyphenated at the end of line; if the word is too long to appear on that line, simply let it carry over to the next line. Do not manually add line breaks in DOIs or in URLs. Line breaks created automatically by the word processing program are permitted.
Paragraph Indentation (2.24)
The first line of every paragraph is indented 0.5 inches. The remaining lines in the paragraph are left-aligned. According to APA Style, there are exceptions to this:
These are the most common exceptions that students can expect to see when writing papers or other assignments. For additional exceptions, see section 2.24 in the Publication Manual.
The required length of a paper is determined by the instructor. Students should check assignment instructions and marking rubrics, or check with instructors to ensure that they are meeting the assignment criteria. Instructors may specify either a word count or a page count. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020) recommends using word count, because different fonts may result in papers of different lengths (2.25).
The type of paper or essay that a student writes is based on the requirements of the assignment. Students should always follow the instructions and the marking rubric provided by their instructor.
Annotated Bibliographies (1.10)
An annotated bibliography is made up of reference list entries which include a short summary of each work. These short descriptions are called annotations. In the case of student work, the instructor may have additional requirements. Writers often confuse a literature review and an annotated bibliography, but they are different types of papers. Deborah Knott, from the New College Writing Centre at the University of Toronto, has created a useful guide on writing an annotated bibliography.
Cause and Effect Essay (1.10)
A cause and effect essay reports on how specific events lead to specific results. This type of essay requires a strong thesis. Paragraphs in cause and effect essays are usually structured by describing each cause and its corresponding effect, with logical transitions between the paragraphs and their ideas.
Comparative Essay (1.10)
Comparative essays compare and contrast two or more ideas or items, with the goal of linking different or dissimilar items under a central thesis. A comparative essay can focus on Topic One and then on Topic Two, or the two topics can be interwoven throughout the essay.
Expository Essay (1.10)
Expository essays explain or provide information on a specific topic using a multi-paragraph structure with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Evidence is provided to support the written claims in the paper.
Literature Review (1.6)
A literature review is a critical summary of what the existing published literature says about a specific topic or question. Dena Taylor, from the Health Sciences Writing Centre at the University of Toronto, writes that a literature review should tell the reader what knowledge and ideas have been established on a topic, and that it should also tell the reader what the strengths and weaknesses of those ideas are. A literature review is based on a specific topic or thesis, or on a specific problem or issue. It is not just a description of the material available, or a summary. Writers often confuse a literature review and an annotated bibliography, but they are different types of papers. A literature review helps the writer to do several things:
Taylor has also developed a useful list of tips for conducting a good literature review.
Narrative Essay (1.10)
A narrative essay tells a story from a clear point of view, and it includes a clear beginning, middle, and end. Narrative essays have a clearly defined purpose and focus, and the language use is concise.
Persuasive Essay (1.10)
Persuasive essays are meant to convince, or persuade readers to adopt a particular viewpoint. This type of essay presents a clear argument with logical transitions, and is similar to an expository essay.
Response or Reaction Essay (1.10)
A response or reaction essay summarizes one or more works, and they describe the writer's reaction or response to those works. This includes how the work impacted the writer and how it is relevant to their life. This kind of essay is usually written in the first person.
There are other types of articles and papers which are not usually expected from students. These include quantitative articles, qualitative articles, mixed methods articles, replication articles, quantitative and qualitative meta-analyses, theoretical articles, methodological articles, and more. More information about these kinds of articles can be found starting in section 1.1 of the Publication Manual.
This guide is based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th ed. (2020). Library staff have reviewed the information in this guide, and to the best of our knowledge, it is accurate. However, mistakes do occur. Students bear sole responsibility for ensuring that their citations are correct, and that their assignments meet the criteria laid out by their instructor. Students are encouraged to contact Peer Tutoring or the Writing Clinic for assistance.