When writing a paper, consistency is key. Consistency in order, structure, and format allow the reader to focus on the content of the paper rather than its presentation.
In general, guidelines for format apply to both student papers and professional journal publications. Other projects, such as a website, a conference poster, or a PowerPoint presentation, may require other formatting to optimize presentation.
Always follow the specific guidelines provided by your professor, and don't be afraid to ask for clarifications on format.
APA style papers are arranged as follows:
Not all sections will be required for all papers. See your professor or syllabus for requirements for your specific assignment.
A student paper should have the following on the Title Page:
An example is shown below:
Student papers do not require a running head, unless requested by the professor. This is an update from APA 6th edition.
Align the text of the paper to the left margin. Leave the right margin uneven. Do not use full justification.
Do not insert hyphens in words at the end of a line. It is acceptable if your word processing software automatically inserts breaks in long hyperlinks.
Indent the first line of each paragraph of text 0.5 inch from the left margin. Use the tab key to create the indentation; do not use the space bar to indent. Exceptions are as follows:
The following fonts are acceptable for APA 7th edition. Always check if your professor has specified a particular font and size.
In general, double space the entire paper, including the abstract, text, block citations, table and figure numbers, notes, and reference list. Do not add an additional line after or before paragraphs. Exceptions are as follows:
Use one inch margins on every side of the paper.
Each work cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and each work in the reference list must be cited in the text. Works excluded from a reference list include:
A reference list entry generally has four elements: author, date, title, and source.
The following are some formatting guidelines for your reference list.
The page number appears on the top margin of every page of the paper
For student papers, the page header consists of the page number only. The title page of every paper will be numbered page 1. APA 7th edition no longer requires student papers to use a running head.
Professional papers require the use of a page number and a running head. The running head is an abbreviated version of the title of your paper, or the full title if it is short.
If your professor wants you to use the professional format, the following is a guide to using the running head.
Headings identify the content within sections of a paper. Make your headings descriptive and concise.
Levels of Headings
There are five levels of headings. Level 1 is the highest or main level. Level 2 is a subheading of Level 1, Level 3 is a subheading of Level 2, and so on through Levels 4 and 5. The number of headings depends on the length and complexity of the work.
Use only the number of headings that are necessary; short student papers may not require headings.
Mistakes to Avoid
Because the first paragraphs of a paper are understood to be introductory, the heading "Introduction" is not needed. For subsections within the introduction, use Level 2 for the first level of subsection, Level 3 for the next subsection, and so on.
The APA guide provides guidance on a few different aspects of grammar. If you need additional assistance with writing or grammar, visit the Write Solution for help.
Anthropomorphism is when writers attribute human actions to inanimate sources or nonhuman animals. For example, the incorrect phrase would be "The theory concludes" as it seems as though the theory is the one actually making the conclusion, not the writer. Therefore, the proper phrase would be "The theory addresses," as a theory can address, indicate, or present, while researchers and writers conclude.
Acceptable phrases are:
Make clear and logical comparisons in your writing. Illogical comparisons often result from unparallel sentence structure or the omission of key words. For example:
You have higher odds of being injured by a vending machine than a cat.
The above sentence has two possible conclusions:
Therefore, the conclusion is not clear. If you rewrite the sentence either as "You have higher odds of being injured by a vending machine than by a cat" or "You have higher odds than a cat does of being injured by a vending machine," then either conclusion becomes clear. Avoid ambiguity.
Use the chosen verb tense consistently throughout the same and adjacent paragraphs to ensure smooth expression.
Use the following tenses to report information in APA papers.
|Paper Section||Recommended Tense||Example|
|Literature Review or discussing another's work||
Researchers have studied
Description of procedure
Participants took a survey
Others have used similar approaches
|Reporting of your own or other researchers' work||Past||Results showed|
I felt surprised
I have experienced
|Discussion of implications of results or of previous statements||Present||The results indicate|
|Presentation of conclusions, limitations, future directions, and so on||Present||
Limitations of the study are
Active and Passive Voice
Voice describes the relationship between a verb and the subject and object associated with it. In active voice, the subject of the sentence is followed by the verb and then the object of the verb (ex. "The children ate the cookies"). In passive voice, the object of the verb is followed by the verb and then the subject (ex. "the cookies were eaten by the children").
Both voices are permitted in an APA style paper, but active voice should be used as much as possible to create direct, clear and concise sentences. Passive voice should be used when it is more important to focus on the recipient of the action rather tan who performed the action.
First Person Pronouns
Use first person pronouns to describe your work as well as your personal reactions. Use "I" if you wrote the peaper alone; use "we" if you have coauthors.
Do not refer to yourself in the third person. This can create ambiguity for readers about whether you or someone else performed an action.
Avoid the editorial "we" to refer to people in general. Instead, specify who "we" defines. Ex. "As young adults, we often worry about what other people think of us."
APA 7th Edition recommends different title pages for student and professional papers. Student papers no longer require a running head. Professional papers include a running head on every page, including the title page.
Level three, four, and five headings have changed. All headings are now written in title case (important words are capitalized) and boldface. Headings are distinguished by use of italics, indentation, and periods.
7th edition now endorses the use of "they" as a singular pronoun.
Use "person-first" language when possible.
Avoid the use of adjectives as nouns to describe groups of people.
Use one space after a period at the end of a sentence, unless instructed otherwise.
Use quotation marks around linguistic examples rather than using italics.