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Guidelines for Writing APA Style Papers

Guidelines for Writing APA Style Papers


TITLE Header to appear in top header on all pages (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 231) However for Student Papers this is not necessary unless the school requires it (APA, p. 36) . TYPICAL MISTAKES IN APA STYLE PAPERS HEADERS (No more than 12 words in the title, and 50 characters all in caps ) (Do not bold) (in Top Header flush against the 1 inch left margin) 

Page Number in Header: Must always be in the header of each page of the paper and must be in the same font and font size of the paper which is only to be TIMES ROMAN 12 point font. To insert a header in Microsoft word, select View from the main tool bar and then Header and Footer.  Then right justify the line and type in 2-3 words shortened version of the paper Title. Add five spaces after the title, and then to insert an automatic page number, choose the Insert Page Number on the Header and Footer toolbar


PAGE 1: Title Page: Title of Paper must be centered in top half close to the center of the cover page


Title of the Paper

Level 1 Heading (p. 31)


 PAGE 2: ABSTRACT (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 38):of paper with title Abstract (not in Bold)centered on page:


(However for Student Papers this is not necessary unless the school or faculty requires it)

An Abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of the article you are writing. It allows the reader to survey the contents of the article quickly. A well written abstract can be the most important paragraph of the article.

A good Abstract is:

  • Accurate
  • Self-contained
  • Concise and specific-should be between 150-250 words
  • Non-evaluative
  • Coherent and readable

Page 26 of the Publication manual of the APA provides the outline for the types of articles which are written:

  • Empirical Study
  • Literature Review
  • Theory Oriented paper
  • Methodological Paper
  • Case Study

 First page of the text of the paper:


Title of the Paper (Not in Bold)  

Level 1 Heading (p. 48) 


The Title of the Paper appears centered on page, one inch from top, in upper and lower case, double spaced. You never use INTRODUCTION on Page 3 to start your paper. The word “Introduction” is never used but rather the title of the paper is used. You always start the paper however with an Introduction (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 39):

FROM PAGE 3 on: 
The entire paper must be double-spaced. Use the automatic double-spacing command (accessible through Format | Paragraph from the main toolbar in Microsoft Word). At all costs, avoid making hard returns at the end of each line. Never skip lines between sections or headers everything in the paper is double spaced only!


APA margins should be one inch on the top, bottom and right side. The left margin should be set to 1 inch. To change the margins, select File | Page Setup from the main toolbar in Microsoft Word. (Header and Footer margins should always remain at .5 inches.) Tabs should be set at .25 inches. Format | Paragraph, click on tabs and set at .25 before beginning to type the paper.

Use only 12 point font, Times Roman in all of the APA style papers including page header
Never use BOLD except for Level 1-4 Headings (p. 48) in an APA style paper

Use economy of expression
 (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 113)
Do not use jargon, avoid wordiness and redundancy (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 116)

Avoid the editorial “we” (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 120)Try never to use first person in APA style paper and stick with the third person

Singular "They": Always use the singular "they" to refer to a person who uses "they" as their pronoun. Also use "They" as a generic third-person singular pronoun to refer to a person whose gender is unknown or irrelevant tot he context of the usage. The use of singular "they" is inclusive of all people, helps writers avoid making assumptions about gender. Do not use "s(he)" or "s/he" or alternate "he" and "she" 

HEADINGS: (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 48)

Use only Level 1 headers for most of 5-15 page papers. Except for the title of the paper and references all Level 1 headers in these short papers need to be BOLD. 


CITATIONS: (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 253-268)

P. 254 demonstrates basic citation styles. Typical you have the name of the author in the text with year of publication in parenthsis after the name or names. Example: Smith (2009) concluded that mistakes in APA style article are easy to make. 

In the 2020 manual for citations of article with 3 or more authors alway use the first author's name plus et al. For example (Smith, et al., 2019). Then in the reference put in all of the names of the authors. 

Direct Quotation from source (APA 2020, p 170) Citations for direct quotation from authors go this way: You put the year after the authors name in the text and then page number directly after the quote. Example: Smith (2009) said that "students make frequent errors in APA style because they have failed to read the APA style manual (p. 251)."

NEVER reorganize the names of the authors of the article. The lead author is the first name and the order remains just as given in the journal article

Number of Sections in a College paper. The rule of thumb is that for every 3 pages of text there should be designate section with Level 1 header. So for a 10 page paper there should be no more than 3 sections and for a 15 page paper no more than 5 sections unless the paper's direction specifically designate the number of topics to be covered in the paper.

Papers now need to be concluded with a Discussion section (APA, 2020, p. 39) which functions as a Conclusion section. Always start the Discussion section with the header entitled Discussion



Level 1 Heading (p. 48)


The Discussion reminds the reader what major points the paper discussed and what issues were addressed. In this section you summarize what you covered and the findings of paper and then proceed in giving your own impressions as to what this study of tells us about how to help people or improve services etc. The APA manual gives excellent ideas about what your discussion should include such as:

  • Clear statement of what you presented
  • Your interpretation of your findings
  • Your acknowledgement of what are some limitations of the results of your report
  • Your estimation of the importance of your findings
  • What further research do you believe needs to be done on the topic you covered 


REFERENCES PAGE(S) (APA Publication Manual, 2020, p. 281-307)

References (NOT in BOLD)

Level 1 Heading (p. 48)
References must always be on a separate page from the paper and always must be double-spacedIndent all lines after the first line. You must have cited the reference in your paper to justify placement in the reference here. If you did not cite the article in the paper it cannot appear in References. If you list a reference it must be cited in the body of the paper.

The APA Style Manual (2020) has a very long list of examples for References starting on page 314-350.

APA Style Online Resources

Resources on APA Style From APA:


Additional APA Style Guides on Internet