Citation Guide: American Psychological Association (APA)

Document Format

Page Format

APA format requires 1-inch margins at the top, bottom, left and right of an 8 1/2 by 11-inch page, with 12 point Times New Roman font.

Double-space the entire paper: between the title and the body of the paper, within the title, any footnotes, in the References, and in figure captions.  Never use single spacing or one-and-a-half spacing, except within tables or figures.

Do not justify lines. Lines should be flush on the left and ragged on the right. In addition, do not break words at the end of a line with a hyphen.  Instead, let the line run short and put the entire word on the following line.  

Indent every paragraph five spaces, using the tab key.  You do not need to indent the abstract, block quotations, titles, headings (unless the heading level calls for it), table titles or table notes, or figure captions.  Titles should always be centered.

Title Page

Titles are an important part of a paper and need to convey the key ideas of a paper in a concise and clear way.  Creating strong titles takes practice and is not always easy.  Be willing to play around with different titles and try out different wordings before settling on the best one.  In general, do not use abbreviations or redundant or explanatory words (i.e. "Study", Research", Investigation").  Also, a good general guideline is to keep titles to 12 words or less. 

Poor Title:


Research on How Higher Grades May Appear to Affect the Mood

of Freshman Students

Better Title:


The Perceived Effect of Higher Grades on Mood Freshman Year


Type the title in both uppercase and lowercase letters (meaning the entire title should not be uppercase, nor should only the first letter of the first word of the title be in uppercase).  Center the title and position it in the upper half of the page.

In addition to the title, the title page should include the author's name and the institutional affiliation where the research was carried out or the paper was written.  The author's name should include the first name, a middle initial, and a last name.  Do not abbreviate the institutional affiliation.

Page Numbers and Running Head

Pages should be numbered consecutively, beginning with the title page.  In addition to page numbers, every page should include a running head.  The running head is the title of the paper or a shortened version of the title.  On the title page the words "Running Head:" should appear in the left hand corner, followed by the title or shortened title in all capital letters.  The page number should appear in the right hand corner.  Subsequent pages should repeat this format minus the "Running Head:" portion.


An abstract is a summary of the paper.  It is appropriate to include the results and your conclusions in the abstract.  Succinctly explain the type of research done and the conclusions reached.  Be sure to use key words and important information in the abstract, remembering to be accurate and coherent without giving an evaluation.  The abstract should be objective, telling readers what was done, but without opinion.  Meaning, do not imply that the research is groundbreaking, or the conclusions unexpected or surprising.  Most abstracts have word limits, usually between 150 and 250 words.  A good abstract takes practice and revision, much like a good title. 

Writing and Grammar Tips

Good writing should be clear, concise, and free of biased language. Read your writing with this in mind.  Do not use vague words or phrases, avoid euphemisms and irrelevant evaluation, and keep your audience in mind.  For guidelines on reducing bias and writing clearly, refer to chapter three in the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual.

APA style allows for the use of personal pronouns, such as I, or we if there are coauthors, when discussing actions and research that you have conducted.  There is no need to speak in the third person ("the researchers") when you are conducting the research.

Use the active voice, avoiding the passive voice unless specifically directed to do so by your instructor.  When referring to actions that occurred as a specific time in the past, use the past tense.  If referring to an action that is still occurring into the present, or that did not occur at a specific time, use the present perfect (i.e. "have conducted").  

When writing numbers, use numerals for numbers 10 and above, and write numbers out below 10.

Parallel construction is a way to structure your sentences, and it can enhance your writing as well as your readers' understanding of the ideas in your paper. To create parallelism use a pair of coordinating conjunctions (between....and, both....and, neither....nor, either.....or, not only.....but also), placing the first conjunction immediately before the first clause or phrase making up the parallel structure.

The forward moved downfield while dribbling the ball and looking for defenders

The phrases in italics create the parallelism because they are both constructed using the participle of a verb.  While...and is the pair of coordinating conjunctions.

Neither the cat in the tree nor the fireman in the street knew what to do.  

Part of the key to creating parallelism is to use the same words or to structure the parallel elements in the same way.  The same information is in the sentence below, but it is not written in parallel.

Neither the cat out on a branch in the tree nor the fireman standing below knew what to do.

Creating parallelism takes practice and thought.  For more ideas or information on how to create parallel sentences see section 3.23 in the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual or stop by the CSU Writing Center.


Insert two spaces after punctuation when ending a sentence.  Use one space after commas, colons, and semicolons, after periods that separate parts of a reference citation, and after periods of initials in personal names (e.g. J. Power).  Do not insert any spaces after internal periods in abbreviations (10 a.m., the U.S.) or with colons in ratios.


Research papers frequently employ specific sections, such as the Methods, Results, and Discussion.  Other common sections are a Literature Review or Appendices.  Brief explanations for each section are listed below.  For more in-depth explanations see sections 2.05-2.13 in the sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual.


The introduction should begin with a presentation of the specific problem that the author is studying as well as the research strategy. The introduction does not require a heading.  A good introduction should explore the importance of the problem, review relevant scholarship, and lay out the hypotheses and how the hypotheses relates to the research design.


This section describes how the research was conducted, including sampling procedures, participant characteristics, research design, sample sizes, and experimental manipulations and interventions.


The results section reviews the data and analyses that were conducted.  This section usually explains the data that is presented in accompanying figures or tables.


The discussion evaluates and interprets the results that were laid out in the previous section.  This is where your interpretation of the results is explored, as well as the implications of the results and any suggestions for future research.

Literature review

A literature review does more than review previous research and studies.  It explains how the previous research leads or points to the research done in this paper.  This is where you build an argument for the relevance and need for your research.


This is where material (extra data, tables, figures) that doesn't fit smoothly into the body of the paper can be included.  Appendices are labeled A, B, C, etc.  If there is only one Appendix, then it is Appendix A.

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