APA Format – Basic Rules & Sample Paper

Looking for help to understand APA format properly? Here is a complete APA 7th edition guide that will help you understand the basics of an APA citation style.APA stands for American Psychological Associations and it is used to cite various sources in education, psychology, and social science. The APA format first originated in a 1929 article that was published in Psychological Bulletin and first laid out all the basic rules and guidelines.Eventually, these are the rules that got expanded and became the official publication manual for APA.This blog has explained each element in detail and it will help you get started with your APA style paper easily and without any other help.

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APA Format – Basic Rules & Sample Paper


Definition of APA Format

APA (American Psychological Association) format is a set of rules and guidelines for structuring, writing, and citing research papers and scholarly articles. Originally developed for the social sciences, APA format has become widely adopted across various academic disciplines. It provides a uniform framework for consistency and clarity, which is crucial for the credibility and readability of academic work.

Importance of APA Format

The importance of APA format lies in its ability to standardize the presentation of research, making it easier for readers to understand and follow the arguments and evidence presented. Proper use of APA format ensures that sources are cited correctly, thereby giving credit to original authors and avoiding plagiarism. Additionally, it enhances the overall professionalism and reliability of academic writing.

Overview of APA Manual Editions

Since its first publication in 1952, the APA Manual has undergone several revisions to address the evolving needs of academic writing. The latest edition, the 7th edition, incorporates modern elements such as digital references and guidelines for bias-free language, reflecting contemporary research practices and the increasing diversity in academic writing.

Basic Rules of APA Format

General Formatting Guidelines

Page Layout

APA format requires standard 8.5 x 11-inch paper with 1-inch margins on all sides. Text should be double-spaced, and paragraphs should be indented by 0.5 inches. Page numbers should be placed in the top right corner of every page.

Font and Spacing

The recommended fonts are 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Calibri, or 11-point Arial. Consistency in font choice is crucial throughout the document. Double spacing is required throughout the text, including the title page, abstract, and references.

Title Page

Elements of a Title Page

The title page in APA format includes the title of the paper, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. It may also include the course number and name, instructor’s name, and the due date.

Running Head

A running head is a shortened version of the paper’s title, not exceeding 50 characters, placed in the header of each page, aligned to the left. It is labeled “Running head:” only on the title page, followed by the shortened title in all uppercase letters.


Purpose and Structure

The abstract is a brief summary of the paper, typically ranging from 150 to 250 words. It provides an overview of the research topic, methods, results, and conclusions. The abstract helps readers quickly determine the paper’s relevance to their interests.

Writing the Abstract

The abstract should be a single paragraph, without indentation, placed on a new page after the title page. It should be concise and factual, avoiding subjective language and unnecessary details.

Main Body

Headings and Subheadings

The main body of the paper is structured using headings and subheadings to organize content clearly. APA format outlines five levels of headings, each with specific formatting rules.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations are used to give credit to sources within the text. They include the author’s last name and the year of publication, formatted as (Author, Year). For direct quotes, the page number is also included.


Formatting the References Page

The references page lists all sources cited in the paper, formatted with a hanging indent. Entries are organized alphabetically by the author’s last name.

Common Reference Types

Common reference types include books, journal articles, and online sources. Each type has specific formatting rules, which must be followed meticulously.


Purpose and Formatting

Appendices provide supplementary material that is relevant but not essential to the main text. Each appendix should be labeled with a letter (e.g., Appendix A) and have a title.

Example Appendices

Appendices can include raw data, detailed descriptions of research instruments, or extensive tables.

Detailed Elements of APA Formatting

Title Page Components


The title should be concise, clearly describing the paper’s topic and main focus. It should be centered, bold, and positioned in the upper half of the page.

Author’s Name

The author’s name should be centered below the title, followed by the institutional affiliation, course number and name, instructor’s name, and due date, each on a separate line.

Institutional Affiliation

The institutional affiliation indicates where the research was conducted.

Running Head and Page Numbers

Format and Positioning

The running head is positioned in the header, aligned to the left, and the page number is aligned to the right.

Consistency Across Pages

The running head and page numbers should appear consistently across all pages of the document.

Abstract Details

Length and Content

Abstracts should be between 150 and 250 words, summarizing the research purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.


Keywords are included below the abstract, introduced by the label “Keywords:” and separated by commas. They help index the paper in databases.

Main Body Structure


The introduction sets the stage for the research, presenting the background and significance of the study, and stating the research questions or hypotheses.


The method section describes the research design, participants, materials, and procedures in detail, allowing others to replicate the study.


The results section reports the findings of the study, using text, tables, and figures to present data clearly and concisely.


The discussion interprets the results, explaining their implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research.

Headings and Subheadings

Levels of Headings

APA format specifies five levels of headings, each with distinct formatting:

  1. Centered, Bold, Title Case
  2. Left-Aligned, Bold, Title Case
  3. Indented, Bold, Sentence case, ending with a period.
  4. Indented, Bold, Italic, Sentence case, ending with a period.
  5. Indented, Italic, Sentence case, ending with a period.

Formatting Rules

Each level has specific formatting rules that must be followed to maintain a clear structure.

In-Text Citations

Direct Quotes

Direct quotes should include the author’s name, year, and page number (e.g., “quote” (Author, Year, p. X)).


Paraphrased information should include the author’s name and year (e.g., Author (Year)).

References Page

Book References

Book references should include the author’s name, publication year, title (italicized), and publisher.

Journal Articles

Journal article references should include the author’s name, publication year, article title, journal name (italicized), volume number (italicized), and page numbers.


Website references should include the author’s name, publication year, title, website name, and URL.

Tables and Figures

Formatting Tables

Tables should be labeled and numbered, with a title above the table and any notes below.

Formatting Figures

Figures should be labeled and numbered, with a title and legend (if applicable).


When to Use Appendices

Appendices should be used for material that is relevant but not essential to the main text.

Examples of Appendix Items

Examples include survey instruments, detailed descriptions of procedures, or additional data.

Writing and Citing in APA Format

Writing Style and Voice

Academic Tone

APA style requires an academic tone, avoiding colloquialisms and ensuring clarity and precision.

Clarity and Precision

Writing should be clear and concise, with a focus on avoiding ambiguity.

Reducing Bias in Language

Guidelines for Bias-Free Language

APA guidelines emphasize the use of inclusive and bias-free language, avoiding terms that may perpetuate stereotypes or discrimination.


Examples include using “they” as a singular pronoun, specifying age ranges, and avoiding outdated terms for groups of people.

Paraphrasing and Quoting

Techniques for Paraphrasing

Effective paraphrasing involves rewriting information in your own words while retaining the original meaning.

How to Integrate Quotes

Quotes should be integrated smoothly into the text, with proper citation.

Citing Sources

In-Text Citation Basics

In-text citations include the author’s last name and year of publication. For direct quotes, the page number is also required.

Citing Multiple Authors

For works with multiple authors, use “et al.” after the first author’s name for works with three or more authors.

Creating a Reference List

Order of Entries

Entries are listed alphabetically by the author’s last name.

Hanging Indent

Each reference entry should have a hanging indent, where the first line is flush left, and subsequent lines are indented.

Sample Paper

Sample Title Page

A sample title page includes the title, author’s name, institutional affiliation, course number and name, instructor’s name, and due date.

Sample Abstract

A sample abstract provides a concise summary of the paper’s main points.

Sample Main Body

Example Sections

Example sections include introduction, method, results, and discussion, formatted according to APA guidelines.

Sample References Page

A sample references page lists various sources cited in the paper, formatted correctly.

Sample Tables and Figures

Sample tables and figures demonstrate the proper format for presenting data.

Sample Appendices

Sample appendices provide additional material relevant to the paper.

FAQs on APA Format

What is APA Format?

APA format is a set of guidelines for structuring, writing, and citing academic papers, developed by the American Psychological Association.

Why is APA Format Important?

APA format ensures consistency, clarity, and credibility in academic writing, helping to properly credit sources and avoid plagiarism.

How Do You Cite a Source with Multiple Authors?

For sources with three or more authors, use “et al.” after the first author’s name in in-text citations.

How Do You Format a Block Quote?

Block quotes are used for quotes longer than 40 words. They should be indented 0.5 inches from the left margin and double-spaced, without quotation marks.

How Do You Cite an Online Source?

Cite online sources by including the author’s name, publication year, title, website name, and URL.

What are Common Mistakes to Avoid in APA Formatting?

Common mistakes include incorrect citation formats, inconsistent headings, and improper use of punctuation and capitalization.


Summary of Key Points

Adhering to APA format involves following specific guidelines for formatting, writing, and citing sources. Key elements include the title page, abstract, main body, references, and appendices.

Importance of Adhering to APA Guidelines

Following APA guidelines ensures that academic work is presented clearly, professionally, and ethically, enhancing the credibility of the research.

Encouragement for Further Learning

Understanding and mastering APA format requires practice and attention to detail. Further learning can be achieved through the APA Manual, online resources, and practice.

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