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APA Style Guide

What is APA format?

APA is one of the most common citation styles used by students and researchers. APA is an acronym for the American Psychological Association, which is the organization that creates and publishes the APA style guide. This is not the be confused with the American Psychiatric Association. That organization publishes other things and is not responsible for APA style.

APA is the most common citation style across a range of disciplines. Those disciplines include business, nursing, and all the sciences.

APA is favored in these disciplines because the year of a source's publication is prominently noted in APA style. This is very important in disciplines where new research is always producing new knowledge.

APA style was first developed back in the year 1923. That was when the American Psychological Association began publishing journals. Somewhat informal were used until the year 1952. In that year, a thorough style manual was published. This was the beginning of the formalized APA style that we know today.

From its beginnings in psychological journals, APA expanded to become the dominant style across all the sciences. Over the years, multiple new editions were published. The most recent one was in the year 2009. This was the 6th edition of the APA style manual, which is still current as of early 2019.

The present style guide will be based on the 6th edition of the APA manual. When you buy essay samples from Ultius, APA is just one of the styles you can choose.

Table of contents

This guide will go through the various aspects of APA style. Accurate descriptions and examples of all the features will be provided to you. The guide will go through each of these features of APA style

After reading this guide, you should feel much more confident in your ability to effectively follow and utilize APA style.

Basic APA format requirements

Some of the elements of APA style are a basic part of most essays in most disciplines. These things may seem like common sense, but it is still worth discussing them. Some small things may be different from how your word processor automatically formats a new document.

Page formatting

APA college essays should be written/printed on standard letter-size paper (8.5 inches in width, 11 inches in length). This could perhaps vary depending on your country, but this is the norm for all American students. Also, margins must be set to 1 inch on all four sides of the document. This is the standard setting for new documents on Google Docs, but not on Microsoft Word.


APA style requires that font be as readable as possible. The manual recommends 12-point Times New Roman font. You could potentially use a couple other fonts, but why rock the boat? Unless you have specific instructions to the contrary, you should go with the manual's recommended font.

Line spacing in APA

APA style calls for double spacing in all parts of your document. That includes the title page, body, and references page. Some courses or some professors, though, may require single spacing instead. If this is the case, then you should do what your specific instructions say. If there are no specific instructions, then use double spacing.


The body of your APA essay should be aligned flush-left. The title page should be aligned centered. The references page should be aligned flush-left, except for the top line which is centered. This will be explained further below.

Now it is time to discuss the specific features of APA style that set it apart from other styles.

Do you need to use a different style? Check out our MLA style guide.

The APA title page

The title page in APA style is mostly straightforward. It consists of three centered and double-spaced lines. The first line is the title of your essay, the second line is your full name, and the third line is the name of your college.

It would look like this:

Sample APA title page
Your title may take up two lines if it is long. Also, your title is not allowed to be longer than 12 words.

The title page also has a header. For more information on this, see the next paragraph.


The header in APA style has two elements. The first element is the page number. The title page of your essay should be counted as the first page, and the page number should go in the upper-right corner of the page.

The second element is the title of the essay. On the title page, this should read: "Running head: TITLE OF THE ESSAY". The title should be all capitalized. Then, on all the body pages, the title should read "TITLE OF THE ESSAY". It is the same as the title page except without the part that says, "Running head:". The title should be aligned left in the header.

So, if you've done this correctly, the title will be on the left of the header and the page number will be on the right. If you are confused, please consider downloading the APA template that can be found at the end of the present guide.

Headings in APA

Headings are what you use to divide your APA essay into sections and subsections. APA style has a very specific format that is to be used in order to do this.

1Bold, headline style, centered
2Bold, headline style, flush-left
3Bold, sentence style, indented on same line as the text
4Same as level 3, except italicized as well

In the following example, you can see the correct format for APA style headings.

Level 1: centered, boldface, upper and lowercase headings

Level 2: Left-aligned, boldface, uppercase, and lowercase heading

Level 3: Indented, boldface, lowercase heading with a period. Begin body text after the period

Level 4: Indented, boldface, italicized, lowercase heading with a period. Begin body text after the period

You will generally use level 1 and level 2 headings. Level 3 headings are less common, and level 4 headings are rather rare.

In-text citations

In-text citations are of the utmost important for an APA essay. You use in-text citations in order to refer to the sources that are supporting your argument. APA style is used across the scientific disciplines. So, referring to previous research on your subject is often a crucial part of writing a successful APA essay.

Two ways of citing the author

The basic way to cite a source in your essay looks like this: (Lastname, Year, p. #). Here is an example:

He stated that "it is important to note that the Court did not decide against the University because of its adherence to affirmative action (Powell, 2004, p. 65).

This means that the author's last name is Powell, the source was published in 2004, and the quote can be found on p. 65 of the source. There are commas separating these three units of information in the citation. Also, if the quote is from more than one page, then the "p." changes to "pp.": (Powell, 2004, pp. 65-66).

The second way to cite the author is to include his name in the text of your essay itself. Then it looks like this:

According to Powell (2004), "it is important to note that the Court did not decide against the University because of its adherence to affirmative action (p. 65).

Please note that the year now immediately follows the name of the author. But the page number is still left at the end of the sentence. The same three units of information are present in the same order, but they are formatted in a different way.

Citing without page numbers

APA style does not require you to cite a page number unless you are using a direct quote. If you are referring to the general findings or conclusions of a source in your own words, then you can drop the page number: (Powell, 2004).

Unknown date

If no date is given, then use the "abbreviation "n.d." in place of the year: (Powell, n.d., p. 65).

Internet or alternative sources

If the source you are citing does not have clear page numbers, then you can cite a paragraph number. In APA style, "paragraph" is abbreviated to "para.": (Powell, 2004, para. 12). Also, you can use section numbers, depending on the source.

Variations on authors

There are some possible variations with APA in-text citations. These variations depend on how many authors there are and/or whether an author is listed.

one author(Lastname p.#)(Powell, 2004, p. 65)
two to five authors(Lastname, Lastname, & Lastname, year, p. #)(Powell, Smith, & Wesley, 2004, p. 101)
more than five authors(Lastname et al., year, p.#)(Powell et al., 2004, p. 32)
unknown author("Abbreviated Title," p. #)("Chicanos," 2004, p. 71)

These are all examples based on the first way of citing the author. It is different if you use the name of the author in the text of your essay. For more information on this, please see above.


The reference page in APA style is fairly straightforward. However, you will have to know two things. The first is how the page is set up, and the second is how to list various kinds of sources.

Literature reviews are famous for using APA-style references. When you buy dissertation literature reviews, the references will be cited using APA.

Using APA references
References are a key section of a literature review. APA papers include a title page, introduction, main body, conclusion, and references.

Format of the page

The reference page in APA style should be a new page at the end of your essay. This page should begin with the word "References" (not in quotes) centered on the first line of the page.

Then, on the next line, list your first source. This should be aligned flush-left. The first line is not indented, but all further lines of the same entry should be indented. Then start your second entry on the very next line, with no indent. Repeat for as many sources as you have.

Again, there should be no additional spaces between the different entries. You tell sources apart by not indenting the first line of a new entry.


Here is the standard format for listing a book on your APA reference list:

Lastname, F. (Year). Title of book. Publishing City, ST: Publisher.

And here is an example:

Frizzoli, D. (2004). Virgil and the founding of Rome. New York, NY: Dixon Publishing Corp.

For the title of the book, all words except the first word and proper nouns should be in lowercase. The publisher's state should be listed by its abbreviated code.

Journal articles

Journals will be perhaps the single most important type of source you will cite for APA essays. This is because APA essays often require citing recent research, and that research is published in academic journals.

Here is the standard format and an example for referencing a journal article.

Lastname, F. (Year). Title of article. Name of Journal, vol.#(iss.#), #-#.

Smith, J. (2004). On gender inequality. Journal of Justice, 16(4), 60-79.

Please note that the volume number is italicized, but the issue number is not.

Variations on authors

There are variations on the reference list as well depending on the number of authors. This is especially important in APA style since most journal articles in the sciences have more than one author.

One authorLastname, F. (Year). Title of article. Name of Journal, vol.#(iss.#), #-#.Smith, J. (2004). On gender inequality. Journal of Justice, 16(4), 60-79.
two to seven authorsLastname, F., & Lastname, F., & Lastname, F. (Year). Title of article. Name of Journal, vol.#(iss.#), #-#.Smith, J., Powell, S., & Wesley, J. (2004). On gender inequality. Journal of Justice, 16(4), 60-79.
more than seven authorsList the first six authors, then use ". . . ", then list the final author.Smith, J., Powell, S., & Wesley, Garcia, R., Johnson, L, Steele, S., . . . Nixon, A. (2004). On gender inequality. Journal of Justice, 16(4), 60-79.

Internet sources

Here are the standard format and an example for an Internet source:

Lastname, F. (Year). Title of article. Name of host. Retrieved from URL

O'Connor, T., & Franklin, C. (2018). Free will. Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/

If the host is an organization rather than a publication, then remove the italics and capitalize the first letters of the name. If the host is the author, then just write "Author":

Mayo Clinic. (2019). Diabetes. Author. Retrieved from URL

If you need more examples, you can buy APA paper samples from Ultius.

APA Samples, templates, and downloads for you to use

APA (6th ed.)American Psychological Association
Type, name, and descriptionModified
Manuals and guides
Publication Manual of the APAPDF · 6th edition · 291 pages · © APA
Jan. 11, 2019
APA Mini GuideMicrosoft PowerPoint · © Ultius, Inc.
Mar. 25, 2019
APA template (blank)Microsoft Word · © Ultius, Inc.
Jan. 11, 2019
APA template (blank)Google Docs · © Ultius, Inc.
Jan. 11, 2019
APA Sample Paper (#1)PDF · © Ultius, Inc.
Jan. 11, 2019
APA Guided SamplePDF · © Ultius, Inc.
Jan. 11, 2019

* External works are subject to copyright by the respective owners. Please use these resources at your own risk.

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