The APA citation guidelines aren’t the only thing you have to deal with when working on your dissertation. The APA publication manual also provides formatting guidelines for academic documents. Let’s take a look at what this entails.  

What is APA formatting

The American Psychological Association (APA) provides an official style called the APA format which is commonly used to cite sources in psychology, education, and the social sciences. A 1929 article published in Psychological Bulletin laid out the basic guidelines for the APA style. 

So why is the APA format so important to apply in psychology and other sciences? By using the APA style, students and researcher writing about psychology are able to communicate their findings and ideas in a consistent format. Adherence to a consistent style makes it easy for the readers to know exactly what to look for as they refer to journal articles and other forms of psychological writing. 

If you’re new to the field of psychology or social science, then you are probably used to different style guides such as MLA or Chicago style. The transition to the APA style can be difficult after having another formatting style drilled into your head for years. Worry not, we’ll help you get a solid grasp of the basic structure and style of the APA format. Let’s begin! 


The four main sections of your paper

Your paper should include four main sections: the title page, abstract, main section, and references list.


#1. The title page:

Your title page should contain a running head, title, author name, and school name. The title page quickly introduces the reader to the paper’s topic and its writer. 

The sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual contained a few changes to the format. 

– The title goes at the top half of the page and should be centered between the margins. 

– Use both upper-cae and lower-case letters. 

– The title page should contain a running head that is flush left at the top of the page and a page number that is flush right at the top of the page. 

– The APA suggests that the title should be no more than 12 words in length. 

– Avoid using titles or degree info (such as Dr. or M.Phil.) before and after your name. 

– The title must be a concise statement of what the reader will find in the paper. 

– The APA style guide also advises writers to avoid phrases such as “An investigation on…” or “A Study of…”. Also, avoid adding any extraneous words that do not add meaning to your title.


#2. Abstract

An APA abstract is a one-paragraph summary of your paper. It contains the objective or problem statement of the paper and includes information on the research methods, results, and conclusions of your research. 

The APA abstract page must adhere to specific formatting requirements for indentation, spacing, heading, page margins, font type, and running head. The APA abstract must be formatted as follows:  

– Add the running head aligned* to the left at the top of the page. 

– On the first line, write the heading “Abstract” in the center 

– Double-space the text. 

– The recommended font is Times New Roman in 12 pt. 

– Set one-inch margins 


#3. The main body 

For an essay, the main body of your paper will be the essay itself. If it’s a lab report, then your main body will be broken down into various sections. Not many rules for the main body, just write your essays like you usually do with these two things in mind: 

– The header should include a page number at the far right and a shortened version of the paper’s title, in all caps at the far left. 

– The shortened title should not exceed a total of 50 characters.


#4. Reference page

Also called the reference list, is where all the cited sources in the text are listed. The citations differ for each source type. The reference page as a whole also has specific APA formatting guidelines.

Your references should begin on a new page with the title References centered at the top of the page. 

– All references should be double-spaced. 

– Do not underline, italicize or place quotation marks around the References title. 

– Each reference should have a hanging indentation: the first references should be flush left, but each additional line of the references need to be intended. 

– All references should be alphabetized by the last names of the author of each source. 

– Major works such as books and journals should appear in italics.


General APA formatting guidelines: 

Your essay must be typed on a standard-sized paper (8.5″ x 11″), double spaced with 1″ margins on all sides. Use a font easy to read. APA recommends using 12 pt. Times New Roman font. 

Add a page header (“running head”) at the top of every page. The running head is a short version of your paper’s title and cannot exceed 50 characters including spacing and punctuation.