APA Style

You will often use sources for academic writing, and it’s important to know how to responsibly cite and integrate those sources into your own writing. APA format provides guidelines and structures for citing those sources in a way that helps you avoid plagiarism and give proper credit to your sources.

APA stands for the American Psychological Association and is the format designed for use within the field of psychology. However, other disciplines use APA as well, so always use the format your professor chooses.

In addition to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th edition, the APA maintains its own website with multiple examples of how to format your paper and cite your sources. If you’re unable to find the answer to your question here, check the APA Manual 7th edition or the APA website.

Cover of the APA Manual

Papers constructed according to APA guidelines generally include the following elements:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Body
  • Subsections within the body, with headings
  • Tables and Figures
  • References

In most cases, each of these elements will begin on a separate page, and it is important to note that not all academic papers will include all of these elements.

For specific types of reports, your subsections may need to be named with headings that reflect the type of report you are writing. For example, in reports on experiments or studies you’ll usually need to follow the IMRAD structure with Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections. Be sure to check with your instructor to determine what the expectations are for your paper.

The APA style demos in this section will provide you with more information regarding APA basic formatting, in-text citations, and the references list.

Video Transcript

This short video is meant to give students who are brand new to APA format some context and basic overview information about using APA format for college papers.

APA stands for the American Psychological Association, and APA format is the formatting style that many academic majors use to format their papers and cite sources within their papers.

There are three basic “parts” of APA that you should understand: There is the basic format of how you set up your paper for things like your cover page, margins, line spacing, etc. There is in-text citing, where you use citations within your paper to let your readers know where your source material comes from. Finally, there is the References list, where you list all of the publication information for any sources used within your paper.

We’ll start with the overall formatting.

In the 7th edition of APA format, you should have a cover page that includes your title, your name, the name of your program and school, the name of your class, the name of your professor, and the date. You should also have the page number at the top right corner. Your page numbers should appear on every page.

You should begin your essay on the next page. Your margins should be 1 inch all the way around. You should use a clean, standard font, and you should double space your lines and single space after all punctuation. Be sure to indent by hitting tab for all new paragraphs.

Next, we will explore in-text citing.

It is important to remember that you must cite your sources within your text when you quote, summarize, and paraphrase information from your sources. This means, you must cite even information you put into your own words.

In APA, there are two basic structures for in-text citations—the narrative citation and the parenthetical citation.

The narrative citation is used when you mention the author or authors’ last names within the sentence. In this kind of citation, the year citation is placed after the author or authors’ last names, and any page or paragraph citations come at the end.

The parenthetical citation is used when you haven’t mentioned the author or authors’ names within the sentence. This citation includes the author or authors’ last names, year, and page number if necessary for a direct quote.

Finally, we will take a look at a References page.

The References page is where you will provide full publication and retrieval information for your sources. The References page is presented in alphabetical order, and it is important to remember that your in-text citations must match up with your References.

APA provides guidelines for formatting each reference based on source type. Be sure to refer to the References section in the Excelsior OWL for more information about how to format your References.

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). https://doi.org/10.1037/0000165-000

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