What is APA (American Psychological Association) Style?

What is APA Format Paper

In this article, we’ll look at how to format a paper in the APA style. We’ll look at citing books and papers properly.

The American Psychological Association uses the APA style of source documentation. This method of writing research papers is primarily employed in the social sciences, such as psychology, anthropology, and sociology, as well as in the humanities. There are two things to remember while working with APA: in-text citations and the reference page. Within your research paper, in-text citations would use the author’s name and the date. These citations will link to the reference page at the end of your research paper, which will identify all of the sources you used.

Segments of an APA Format Paper

Based on the type of paper you are writing; the structure of your paper will differ slightly. However, regardless of the type of APA paper you’re writing, there must be some major sections: a title page, an abstract, the main body of the paper, method, results, discussion, and a reference section of an APA style paper. Each part addresses different forms of information concerning your study, as outlined below.

The following are some general formatting guidelines:

Between the introduction, method, results, and discussion parts, there should be no page breaks. 

The title page, abstract, references, table(s), and figure(s) all need to be on separate pages. 

The paper must be written entirely in the past tense, in a 12-point font, apply double line spacing, and with one-inch margins on all sides, Insert a running head on every page

Running Head

Include the paper title and page number in the header of each page. If the title of your paper is longer than 50 characters, use a detailed summary as the running head. The page number should be at the top right corner of the page. The words “Running head:” occur before the APA running head on the title page. 


You use several heading levels throughout your work. The document’s organization is helped by the levels, which range from one to five. The titles of chapters are given a major heading, or heading 1, such as “Methods” or “Results.” Subheadings are divided into heading levels 2 to 5. Each level of the heading is formatted separately. The APA heading guidelines are as follows:

Heading level: APA Format, 

Heading 1: Centered, Bold, Title Case Capitalization. 

Heading 2: Left Aligned, Bold, Title Case Capitalization, 

Heading 3: Indented, Bold, Sentence Case Capitalization, a final period. The body text begins immediately after the period.

It’s not necessary to provide a table of contents in APA style; but, if you do, all headings should be presented as clear text with additional space for each level.

Title Page

The first page of your paper is the APA title page, often known as the cover page. Font and margins should be formatted according to standard conventions. In addition, an APA title page includes the following elements:

  • Running head with page number
  • The full title of the paper (in title case)
  • The name(s) of the author(s), without titles or degrees
  • Affiliation with an institution


A one-paragraph (250-word) APA abstract summarizes your paper. It includes information on the method, research findings, and research conclusions, as well as the paper’s purpose or problem statement.

Keywords related to the research are given at the end of the abstract. These keywords will help your work be found in databases. Start the column with keywords with an opening and the italicized word “Keyword:” then the keywords. 

Abstracts are normally necessary for professional papers that are submitted for publication, although they are not usually required for student papers. 


Based on the type of paper you’re writing; the format of this section may differ. An introduction, a method section, a results section, and a discussion part, for example, will be included in the main body of a lab report.

For further guidance on what to include in the main body of your APA paper, contact your supervisor or the publication rules. Throughout an empirical research article, you should use past tense (e.g., “was,” “said”), and also the past perfects or present perfect tense (e.g., “had been,” “had shown”). Also, avoid contractions (e.g., “it does not follow” instead of “it doesn’t follow”). 

1. Introduction

You should not use the word “introduction” in your title. The title of the document should be at the top of the page—it should not be bold.) The most tough part of writing an APA-style paper is the introduction. In a way that sets the stage for your study and why you did it, a good introduction will describe, synthesize, and critically analyses empirical knowledge in the relevant area(s). 

The introduction begins wide (but not too broad!) and narrows as it progresses. Here are some pointers on how to write an effective introduction:

  • Avoid exhausting your readers by starting your report with the tired phrase, “Previous studies has demonstrated this and that” Within a paragraph.  Try to catch your reader’s interest right away by stating something fascinating or thought-provoking. Analyze the articles you’ve already read. Which ones first caught your attention? What methods did the writers use to complete this task? Which ones didn’t qualify? What’s to stop you? Examine whether you can use articles that you enjoyed as a template. You can start with an example or relevant story about your topic. 
  • Even though you won’t go into detail about your study and assumptions until the end of the intro, you must provide your reader a framework for all the material you’ll deliver next by stating your purpose simply at the end of the first paragraph.
  • Your introduction ought to be a gradual evolution of thoughts leading to your hypothesis. Instead of focusing on who did what when, try to organize it around the ideas. First, make a list of all the concepts you believe should be included in your article. Next, consider which ideas should be provided first, second, third, and so on, as well as how you wish to flow between them.
  • If you have a complicated theory, don’t be afraid to provide a real-life example to help your reader understand it. After that, you’ll give a quick review of your research and, lastly, your specific hypotheses. The hypotheses should make logical sense from everything that has been stated, giving the audience a feeling of what is going on.
  • When including references in your introduction, you don’t have to go into detail about each study, especially if they all use similar approaches. However, you should summarize key articles clearly and, if required, point out differences in techniques or findings from relevant studies. Rather than copying from the articles, paraphrase them.
  • Be vigilant while citing your sources (see APA manual). Make sure the articles you quoted in your intro and the articles listed in your reference list include one correspondence.
  • You must include all of the information essential for your audience to understand the research you are delivering.

2. Methodology (labeled, centered, bold)

The Method part of an APA-style paper is the simplest to write, but it needs attention to the details. Your aim is to identify your research in such a way that another researcher might replicate your methods exactly. Participants, Materials and/or Apparatus, and Procedure sections are usually included in the Method section. If the design is complicated, a separate Design subsection or a “Design and Procedure” section may be included.

It’s important to note that in some studies, it’s better to put the Procedure part before the Materials section rather than after it.

3. Results (labeled, centered, bold)

Explain how you analyzed the data and what you observed in this part. If your analysis of data was lengthy, you may also want to split this part into labeled subcategories, possibly one for each hypothesis.

  • Include a descriptive analysis section.
  • Describe the type of analysis or test you used to verify each hypothesis.

4. Discussion (labeled, centered, bold)

The discussion section’s purpose is to analyze your results and put them in the context of the field’s literature. A discussion part is similar to an introduction in that it starts with the specifics and proceeds to the more general.  Last but not least, Make a final closing statement at the end of your paper. Conclude on an optimistic way by reminding your reader why your research was significant and how it related to the literature.

Reference Page

All sources cited in the text are given on the APA reference page, also known as the reference list. Each source type has its own set of citations. In addition to the references themselves, the reference page as a whole follows APA formatting rules.

Any APA reference page sample illustrates the standards for page margins, hanging space, and the reference page title “Reference.” The reference list is also arranged alphabetically. 

The following is the standard reference format for journal articles:

A. Author, B. B. Author, and C. C. Author (year). The article’s title. doi:xx.xxxx

In-Text Citations and References

The brief citation in the texts and the complete reference in the reference list are the two types of APA citations. Specific citation requirements apply to each webpage, journal article, book, or other source.

The following formats should be used:

  • When citing a source within a sentence, use AND: “According to Karl and Smith (2002) …”
  • Use “&” when the citation is in parentheses.  The studies in parentheses should be arranged alphabetically by the last name of the first author and separated by semicolons.
  • You must mention the page number if you are directly quoting (although you should avoid).
  • After you’ve mentioned all of the authors’ names for sources with three or more authors, you can write “et al.” on following mentions. For instance, “Klein et al. (1999) observed that…” Every time a source with two authors is cited, both authors must be mentioned. Every time a source with six or more authors is referenced, the first author’s last name and “et al.” are used every time the source is cited.

All of the sources you cited in your paper are included on the References page. The following is an example of a journal article entry:

  • E. Berscheid, K. K. Dion, E. Walster, and G. W. Walster (1971). A test of the matching hypothesis on physical appearance and dating choices. 173-189 in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The writers’ names appear first, as you can see in the example above (last name, first name). The year of publication is then stated in brackets, the title is then listed.  Following that, the journal’s name (in italics), the volume number, and ultimately the article’s pages are listed. 

The entry for a book is as follows:

  • G. B. Schaller (1993). The Last Panda is a film about a panda who has University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

The author’s name (last name, first name) is stated first, followed by the date, the title (with only the first word capitalized), the city of publishing, and finally the publisher’s name.

Key Takeaways

  • The American Psychological Association (APA) style is a set of norms for writing in the field of psychology. It is a type of writing that psychologists use to communicate with other researchers and practitioners about their work.
  • There are three levels to the APA style. The structuring of a research article, the high-level style, which comprises writing in a formal and simple way, and the low-level style, which includes many specific grammar, spelling, and reference formatting guidelines, among other things.
  • The APA style depends heavily on references and reference citations. There are certain formatting and citation guidelines for references in the text of an article.