APA stands for the American Psychological Association, "the leading scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States" "whose mission is to promote the advancement, communication, and application of psychological science and knowledge to benefit society and improve lives."
APA Style is the Association's method of formatting a paper. The style is documented in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The current version of the manual is the seventh edition. The style covers many topics, including: how to cite references; how to format figures, headings, margins, tables, and the title page; and what types of language to use.
APA Style requires that the entire paper be double-spaced, including the title page and the References page. The paper must have one inch margins on all sides. APA Style recommends authors use one of six fonts: 10-point Computer Modern, 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode, 11-point Arial, 11-point Calibri, 11-point Georgia, and 12-point Times New Roman.
Use the page numbering function of Microsoft Word or Google Docs to insert page numbers, starting with number 1 on the title page. In Microsoft Word, page numbers are accessed under the Insert tab: they are under "Top of Page" and are called "Plain Number 3." Page numbers should be in the top, right corner of the page.
In Google Docs, from the Insert menu, hover over Page numbers, and choose the top left choice: where page numbers will be in the upper, right corner. It looks like this:
An APA Template for Alfred State College is available under the Handouts tab above.
A title page in APA style has seven parts: the title of the paper, the author's name, the department and college's names, the course number and name, the professor's title and name, the paper's due date, and the page number. All of these elements are centered except for the page number, and each element is on its own line. What professors require is up to them, and—since this can differ by professor—always check with them to make sure you are doing the title page to their requirements.
Place the title three or four lines down from the top of the page. Put the title in bold and put an extra, blank line underneath the title. (Only the title is in bold, and the only extra, blank line is underneath the title.) The title is written in title case: capitalize the first word of the title, the first word of any subtitle, the last word, and all major words. Capitalize the second part of hyphenated major words, for example, “Self-Report.” Capitalize “be,” “is,” and “with.” Do not capitalize minor short words (that is, conjunctions of three letters or fewer, prepositions of three letters or fewer, and the articles “a,” “an,” and “the,” unless they are the first word of the title or the first word of any subtitle).
The course number and name may follow this example: NURS 5003: Ethical Issues in Health Care. The course number and name follow the format shown in the course’s instructional materials, for example, the course syllabus.
The department and college’s names may take these forms:
Department of Nursing or Nursing Department
Alfred State College or The State University of New York College of Technology at Alfred
Separate the department and college names with a comma, like this:
Department of Nursing, Alfred State College
The instructor’s name should be in the form they prefer, including their title, for example, Dr. Henry Jekyll or Professor James Moriarty.
The assignment due date is written Month Date, Year, for example, October 28, 2021.
Use the page numbering function of Microsoft Word and Google Docs to insert page numbers, starting with number 1 on the title page. In Microsoft Word, page numbers are accessed under the Insert tab: they are under "Top of Page" and are called "Plain Number 3." Page numbers should be in the top, right corner of the page. In Google Docs, from the Insert menu, hover over Page numbers, and choose the top left choice: where page numbers will be in the upper, right corner.
APA has a concise, informative handout on how to format the title page. It is online at https://apastyle.apa.org/instructional-aids/student-title-page-guide.pdf. The APA Manual has sample student title pages on pages 32 and 61.
The body of the paper begins on page 2. This is the main part of your paper.
Put the title of the paper on the first line of page 2, bolded and centered. Put the title in the body of the paper with the regular text: do not put it in the header. Do not put an extra, blank line underneath the title. Put either your first Level 1 heading, as described below, or the text of your paper.
If the first section is an introduction skip the heading "Introduction" because it is assumed. Otherwise, begin the paper with the appropriate Level 1 heading or the text of your paper.
The different sections of the paper flow continuously. Do not add blank lines or page breaks between sections.
APA papers are usually organized into different sections. Each section covers one big piece of your paper. Together all these pieces--all these sections--make up your paper. For example, scholarly, scientific articles often have sections like Methodology, Results, and Discussion since they are usually reporting the results of research studies. One paper may have two, three, or even more different sections.
A section of a paper may itself be divided into one or more subsections. Subsections give a paper structure and help keep the paper organized. For example, a paper about Human Anatomy may have a section titled Circulatory System; that section may have a subsection titled The Heart, another titled The Lungs, and a third subsection titled Arteries and Veins. For another example, a paper about World History may have a section titled European History, and that section may have one subsection titled Events Before 1939, another titled World War II, and a third subsection titled Events After WWII.
Each section and subsection begins with its own title that describes that part of the paper. These titles are called headings in APA style, and the APA says headings should be descriptive and concise. The different levels of headings--sections and their subsections--have different styles. For example, major Level 1 headings for sections are bolded and centered, while Level 2 headings for subsections are bolded and flush left. The formatting of a heading immediately tells the reader the level of the heading and, therefore, the organization of the paper.
There are five levels of headings in APA style: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The levels nest and fit inside each other. For example, a Level 1 section has inside it Level 2 subsections. Level 2 subsections have inside them Level 3 subsections. Another way to say this is Level 2 subsections go only in Level 1 sections, and Level 3 subsections go only in Level 2 subsections. Levels are never skipped. For example, a Level 1 section never continues into a Level 3 subsection.
The PDF of the following article uses Level 1 and Level 2 headings: Portwood, S. G., Lawler, M. J., & Roberts, M. C. (2021). Science, practice, and policy related to adverse childhood experiences: Framing the conversation. American Psychologist, 76(2), 181–187. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000809
|Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading.
|Text begins as a new paragraph.
|Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading.
|Text begins as a new paragraph.
|Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading.
|Text begins as a new paragraph.
|Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period.
|Text begins on the same line as the heading and continues as a regular paragraph.
|Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period.
|Text begins on the same line as the heading and continues as a regular paragraph.
The APA has more information about headings online at: https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines/paper-format/headings.
APA Heading Styles in Microsoft Word
You can define APA heading styles in Microsoft Word. Using Microsoft Word to make headings is easy and helps produce consistent results. It takes a minute to set up and it takes very little time to use. If you're going to be writing a lot of papers in APA style then it is a smart thing to set this up, save it, and use it whenever you write a paper in APA style.
How to Set Up APA Heading Styles in Microsoft Word:
1. Type the text for a heading. For example, type Methodology.
2. Format the heading how you want it. For example, for a Level 1 heading, make the text centered, bold, and in title case. (For title case, capitalize the first word of the title, the first word of any subtitle, the last word, and all major words.)
3. Right-click in that text. (You don't have to select the whole heading but you can.)
4. In the mini toolbar that appears, click Styles, and then click Create a Style.
5. In the Create New Style from Formatting box, give your style a name and click OK. A good name for this example is APA Heading 1.
Your new style will now appear in the Styles gallery for that paper. Any time you want to use it while writing that paper just type the text for the heading, select that text, and select the style from the Styles gallery. (You still have to accurately type headings in title case because Styles will not convert or correct lowercase text to title case.)
To use these styles in other Microsoft Word documents, follow these instructions:
1. Right-click the heading style in the Styles gallery.
2. Select Modify.
3. Select New documents based on this template.
4. Click OK and save the document.
You have to do this for each heading. My advice is to create styles for the first three APA headings (Level 1 through Level 3) and save them. Three levels of headings is usually enough for normal course work, and these are the three headings you will use the most. Now you can format them with one click.
A figure is an image. Figures can include graphs, charts, drawings, maps, plots, and photos.
Number all figures using Arabic numerals in numeric order. For example, Figure 1, Figure 2, etc. Numbers are assigned based on the order in which figures appear in the text and are bolded and left aligned.
Under the number, write the title of the figure in italicized title case, which means all the important words are capitalized. The title should be brief, clear, and explanatory, and both the title and number should be double spaced.
The Online Writing Lab says, “Tables are any graphic that uses a row and column structure to organize information.”
Tables work just like figures. Number all tables using Arabic numerals in numeric order. For example, Table 1, Table 2, etc. The table number should be bolded and left-aligned.
Each table must have a clear and concise title. Titles should be written in italicized title case below the table number, with a blank line between the table number and the title.
All columns must have headings, written in sentence case, just like a sentence. Column headings should be clear and brief. Tables should only include borders and lines that are needed for clarity. Do not use vertical borders, and do not use borders around each cell.
If you are using a table from an external source, copy the structure of the original table exactly, and cite the source in accordance with APA style.
There are many rules and details regarding figures and tables. For complete information, consult the APA Manual, chapter 7. The Online Writing Lab also has information on figures and tables.
You must cite any ideas that are not yours. Using someone else's ideas in your paper without citing them is plagiarism; whereas, using someone else's ideas and citing them is often a requirement of your paper, and if you do it correctly you get credit for doing it. The punishment at Alfred State for plagiarism can include: an academic integrity warning, a grade reduction in the course, an academic integrity probation, a special failing grade, suspension, or expulsion.
You cite sources inside your paper briefly, and you cite sources at the end of your paper completely: the brief citation inside your paper leads the reader to the full citation in your References at the end of your paper.
There are two ways to cite sources inside your paper. You can use whichever way you want, and you can vary the way throughout your paper: it is entirely a matter of your personal writing style. The first way is to use the author's last name in a sentence with the date of publication in parentheses. For example, Watson says caring is essential to nursing (1979). The other way is simply to assert or state your author's idea and to finish that sentence with both the author's last name and the publication date in parentheses. For example, Caring is essential to nursing (Watson, 1979). More information about citing sources--including how to quote directly from a source--is available in the handouts under the Handouts tab above.
The brief citation inside the paper leads the reader to a full, complete citation at the end of the paper. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association lays out all the information needed to completely cite works at the end of your paper. Briefly, when you cite journal articles you list the author, year of publication, article title, journal title, volume number, issue number, page numbers, and DOI. When you cite books, you list the author, year of publication, book title, and publisher. (Journal titles, volume numbers, and book titles are italicized.) Library databases often suggest citations for journal articles.
Your References page begins on its own page. The heading "References" is bolded and centered. Like the rest of the paper, it is double-spaced. References use a hanging indent, which is created using the hanging indent feature of your word processing program, namely, Microsoft Word. There are many rules and variations on citing references. More information and sources are listed under the Handouts and Additional Resources tabs above. For complete information on citing references, consult the APA Manual, chapters 8-10.
To cite a journal article as a complete reference, list its author, year of publication, article title, journal title, volume number, issue number, page numbers, and DOI. For the article title, capitalize only the first word, the first word of the subtitle, and any proper nouns. For the journal title, capitalize the first word, the last word, and all other major words; put the journal title and volume number in italics. The DOI is a number that helps identify and retrieve the article online; not all articles have DOIs, but newer articles usually do. If the citation ends with a DOI or a website address do not put a period at the end.
To cite a book as a complete reference, list its author, year of publication, title, and publisher. The title is italicized; capitalize only the first word, the first word of the subtitle, and any proper nouns in the title. Electronic books can be cited just like print books.
To cite a website as a complete reference, list its author, date of publication, publication title, website name, and web address. For the publication title, capitalize only the first word, the first word of any subtitle, and any proper nouns. For website names, capitalize all major words. Put either the publication title or website name in italics. If the citation ends with a website address do not put a period at the end.
APA citations use a hanging indent, that is, the first line is never indented, and all the other lines are always indented half an inch. A hanging indent looks like this:
"Use a hanging indent for all references, meaning that the first line of each reference is flush left and subsequent lines are indented by 0.5 in. Use the paragraph-formatting function of your word-processing program to automatically apply the hanging indent” (p. 40). In other words, the first line is never indented, and all the other lines are always indented half an inch.
To make a hanging indent, select the citation and click the little arrow in the bottom right of the Paragraph group on the Home bar. The arrow is the image in the red box:
Under Indentation, Special, choose Hanging. Click on the OK button. The Indentation section looks like this:
I recommend this procedure when making your list of References:
1. Create a Word document and save it. This document will be your paper.
2. On the second or third page, type References at the top of the page.
3. As you research your topic in the library databases or Google Scholar, copy their suggested citations for the articles you are going to use, that is, the articles you download, print, or otherwise save.
4. Paste the citations into your draft paper starting immediately under the word References. Paste the citations in in alphabetic order by the authors' last names as you research. Paste the citations in as text-only so no formatting is copied over. (Keep Text Only is an option under Paste.) (Google Docs also allows you to "Paste without formatting as a choice in the Edit menu.)
5. Once you have finished researching or writing the paper, delete any citations you aren't using.
6. Italicize anything that needs to be italicized: for example, book titles, journal titles, and the titles of Web sites.
7. Select the word References, center it, and bold it.
8. Select your text from the beginning of the word References to the end of the last citation.
9. Click the arrow in the Paragraph group of the Home bar. Under Indentation, Special, choose Hanging. Under Spacing, Line spacing, choose Double. Click on the OK button. (For Google Docs, in the Format menu, under Align & indent, choose Indentation options; Under Special indent, choose Hanging and click the Apply button.)
10. You're done.
This procedure may seem complicated or laborious: it isn't. It's very straight-forward, efficient, and involves a lot less hassle than other methods. This method produces consistent, correct results.
Supplemental material goes in an appendix. Supplemental material usually includes: video and audio clips, computer code, oversized tables, and worksheets. You may have more than one appendix in a paper: the plural of appendix is appendices.
The APA manual says, “Student papers do not typically include supplemental materials” (p. 42), but this information is presented here in the interest of fullness.
Each appendix covers its own topic. For example, one appendix may be the questionnaire used in the paper’s study, and another appendix may be a protocol sheet used in the study. Each appendix starts on its own page.
If a paper has one appendix, it is titled “Appendix” and referred to in the body of the paper as “Appendix.” If a paper has two or more appendices, each one is titled differently with a capital letter, for example, Appendix A, Appendix B, etc.
Each appendix has its own subtitle, which is on the line underneath the word “Appendix.” The word “Appendix” and the appendix subtitle are centered, bolded, and written in title case.
All appendices come after the paper’s References.
American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).