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How to properly use an APA format

When completing an essay or any other written assignment, you may find it very difficult to use a proper formatting style, as they usually have lots of requirements and not every student is able to follow them. APA is considered one of the most official publication styles, so once in a while you will definitely have to face it.

You may find APA formatting quite challenging, especially if you are only familiar with such styles, as Chicago or MLA. That is why it is important to master the theory first to know what rules are used at MLA formatting.

In addition, you can download APA formatting manual online, comparing the rules with other formats and marking the differences. Don’t forget that APA is a popular formatting style for social sciences subjects, including psychology, sociology and education.

APA has guidelines considering every aspect of your work, including margins, spacing and the structure of the whole work. For your simplicity, there are online generators but we strongly encourage you to complete APA citing on your own.

Peculiarities of the APA formatting style

Before going through all the guidelines and terms, it is necessary to give a look at the term ‘APA’ itself. It stands for the American Psychological Association and the main aspect of the style is the name of the author and the date. This means that the name should be included to every citation.

In addition, you need to use in text citations, as well as duplicating them at the end of the paper, in a special section. This can be called the main difference of an APA style from others. There are special generators, which help to create lists of citations and names but you can also use publications and various samples to see how the APA citing is used. For example:

How to complete an APA paper

Any APA-formatted paper consists of five key sections:
  1. Title Page;
  2. Abstract;
  3. Body paragraphs;
  4. References;
  5. Title Page.

The Title Page consists of the Title itself, the header, author’s name and additional notes if necessary. Here are a few things you need to remember, when completing a title page:

  1. Simply give the main idea of your essay without using any abbreviations or complicated words;
  2. The font should be a 12-size Times New Roman, centering the title. Never use underlining, italicizing or bolds, when writing the header;
  3. The title shouldn’t be more than 12 words long;
  4. Use double-spaces. This concerns not only the main page but also the rest of the assignment;
  5. Author’s name should not follow Ms. Or Dr.;
  6. A Running Head should also be completed in capital letters.

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The first page of your paper should always start with an abstract. You need to write the word ‘Abstract’ at the top of the page without any additional signs, like full stops or commas.

The abstract itself should contain general information on your paper, whether it is a research or a term work, and tell about your achievements throughout the work. The maximum length of this section is 250 words and the page should be double-spaced.

Body paragraphs

This section is the main one and you need to be very accurate and thoughtful, when working on your body paragraphs. Try to give yourself enough time and start the paper well in advance. Here are the tips, which may help:

  1. Start this section with a title. It shouldn’t use italics, bolds or any other highlights;
  2. A short introduction is necessary, as it will tell the reader about your work and will become a sort of a presentation. However, you need to be brief and up-to-the-point;
  3. Next stage is completing the Methodology section, which requires a separate centered bold heading. It is used to explain how your research was completed and what tools were used;
  4. The Results section should contain information on the obtained achievements and a summary of the whole work;
  5. The main part of your paper is the Discussion section, where you should provide general information on the research, analysis of the subject and review of the sources. The title should also be bold and centered;
  6. The Summary closes this section and gives the reader a chance to see your conclusions and ideas, based on the obtained results. Always stay honest and don’t try to embellish the results;
  7. Provide information on whether there are any restrictions on your study and what predictions you can make for the future.


This section is the closing part of the whole work and you need to follow strict rules and requirements to make sure you complete a proper formatting:

  1. Every section should start with a brief variant of your title;
  2. Every reference should be centered and used in a bold style;
  3. List every source in an alphabetic order;
  4. Every citation should be followed by a source, from where it was taken.

Key features of an APA formatting style

  1. Every side of your paper, not depending whether it is an essay or a research, should have borders. Ask your professor what their length should be;
  2. The whole paper should be double-spaced;
  3. Don’t forget to include a running head to every page of your paper. It should be placed on the upper left and contain a short version of the title. For example, first two-three words;
  4. Every page should also include its number on the upper corner;
  5. Providing a reference list is a must and your paper will surely fail if you don’t provide a proper literature list. Just follow the guidelines and make a list of all the sources that were used along the way;
  6. Your title page should also be APA-formatted. If the institution requires it, you need to add data, title of the course and the name of your tutor.

Useful tips

Before starting your work, you need to be sure that you have a winning topic to write about. It should engage the reader and grab his interest, as well as be easy to find information on. Make sure you like the topic, as it will keep you motivated throughout the way.

Try to choose a topic, which is not too specific, as it will be difficult to gather necessary information. In addition, you need to start your research well in advance, as APA format requires proper citing and you need to use only credible and reliable sources.

After completing a draft, take some time to do the editing and proofreading to eliminate all the possible mistakes. Ask someone to read your paper if necessary.

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