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APA format is an official academic writing style by American Psychological Association. The use of APA style originates in a 1929 article published in Psychological Bulleting to present the basic guidelines. APA referencing style is usually for citing sources in psychology and social sciences.

History of APA Style

Writers use the codified style guide when writing academic documents such as books and journal articles for citing various sources. The purpose of establishing APA style is to codify many components of scientific writing and facilitate a clear communication. It has helped scholars and psychologists to improve the way they disseminate knowledge in their fields.

APA responded to growing complexities for scientific reporting by releasing subsequent editions in 1974, 1983, 1994 and also 2001. In July 2009, it released APA 6th edition publication manual after developing it for four years. American Psychological Association came up with version 6 after considering user comments, published criticism, and commissioned reviews. They also got input from psychologists, publishing professionals, APA governance teams, nurses and librarians.

Purpose of APA Referencing

The purpose of APA editorial style is to lay in place guidelines that a publisher should observe to present written material in a clear and consistent way. It guides writers to follow a uniform use of manuscript elements including:

  • Selecting headings, length, punctuation, tone and abbreviations
  • Presentation of statistics, numbers, figures, and construction of tables
  • Citation of references
  • General Guidelines

Type your academic work on a standard-sized paper 8.5 by 11 inches. Use 1-inch margins on all the sides. The font you use should be clear and highly readable. APA recommends 12-point Times New Roman font although you may still use other similar fonts.

Include a page header also called running head on top of each page. Insert you page number on the right-hand side of a page. Type the TITLE OF YOUR PAPER on the top left side of a page. The running head is a shorter version of the paper’s title. They should not exceed 50 characters including the punctuation and spacing.

Sections of a Paper in APA format

The exact structure of academic paper somehow varies depending on the type of paper you are supposed to write. For instance, a lab report requires a different structure from a case study as it includes extra sections to detail the research method, results, and discussion. However, each paper must contain these four key sections.

Title page

A title page briefly explains what you are discussing in your paper. It is made up of the following:

  • Title- A sentence of no more than 12 words that elaborates the main topic and your variables of interest. Center the title between margins at the top half of your page. Write using upper and lower case letters. Make it a concise statement that identifies the major variables in your paper and their relationship. For example, "The Effect of Fatigue on Exam Performance."
  • Author’s name: List the first name, initial(s) of middle name, and the last name without title or degree abbreviations such as Dr. or Ph.D.
  • Author’s school: Write the location where you conducted the research. Include only two institutions if you got support for your research from several of them. List your state or city if you were not affiliated with any academic institution when you did the research.
  • Running head: Short version of the papers title in not more than 50 characters in capital letters. It helps to identify pages for readers in case they are separated. Precede the title of your running head with the words “Running head” and a colon for first page only.
  • Page number


An abstract is a very brief and objective summary of your paper in 150 to 250 words. Include at least a research topic, research questions, methods, participants, results, analysis of data and results. For accuracy purpose, write the abstract after completing your paper in the following format:

  • Write the word “Abstract” should be on the top of a new page. Write the running head and type 2 to denote page number.
  • The format in a similar structure to your academic paper. Start with a short summarized introduction, followed by a summary of your method, results and the discussion sections.
  • Start by writing a rough draft to achieve brevity by summarizing each of your paper’s section before writing the final draft.
  • List the keywords helps researchers to find your work from databases.



Your heart might become bigger and reduce the heart rate slightly as you age. (Write 150-250 words).

Your heart might become bigger and reduce the heart rate slightly as you age. (Write 150-250 words).

The main body of your APA paper includes these sections.


This section justifies the reasons for writing about the topic. You can simplify your work by starting with research on your topic from journal databases to locate other studies and note the down. Use the notes to create an outline on how to present the research and ideas the writer your introduction in this format:

  • Introduce your topic with a brief description of your research question, what you intend to demonstrate, what you are studying and its importance. Summarize both sides of a controversial subject in an impartial way.
  • Summarize the previous research by providing them most relevant details to your topic from appropriate sources found in journal articles. If you have detailed notes from your research, you can refer to them rather than research again. Give your readers an overview of historical context about the topic by describing findings of your previous research and how current study expands or differs with it.
  • Provide your hypothesis: Explain areas of your research that are potentially flawed or lacking. Point out the research questions it did not answer. Lay out your hypothesis describing what you were expecting to find in your study or experiment.

The reference Section

This is the section where you will include all your references when writing the paper. You must include everything cited in the main body in this section. Begin by typing the word "References" at the top center of a new page. Write a reference page according to these rules:

  • Alphabetize your references by the last names of each source’s first author
  • Double-space all references
  • Use a hanging indentation for each reference. Flush first line of your reference to the left. Indent each additional line of the reference.
  • Capitalize the first letter only for article titles. If there is a colon in the title, capitalize the first letter immediately after the colon. Avoid underlining, italics or quotations in the title.
  • Capitalize all the major words in journal’s title; e.g., The Journal of Personality and Community Psychology.
  • Place longer works like journals and books in italics
  • List references in chronological order when you cite one other various time for different works. Write the oldest reference first and write chronologically to the most recent.

Citing various sources

Book in print: Author (Year of publication). The title of work. Publisher City, State: Publisher

An e-book from e-reader: Author, (Year of Publication). The title of the work (The e-reader version). Retrieved from http://www.academicwritersbureau.com

A Magazine article in print: Author (Year, Month of Publication), Article title, Magazine Title, Volume (Issue) page-page

Magazine article retrieved online: Author (Year, Month of Publication) Article title. Title of the Magazine (Issue), Retrieved from http://www.aaa

Newspaper article in print: Author (Year, Month of Publication). Article Title. Newspaper Title, Volume (Issue), p. (for single page) or pp.(when citing multiple pages)

Newspaper article online: Author,(Year, Month of publication)Article Title. Newspaper Title, Volume (Issue), Retrieved from http://www.newspaper.com

Journal article in print: Author (Publication year).Article Title. Periodical Title, Volume (Issue),pp.-pp.

Journal article retrieved online: Author (Publication Year).The article's Title. The Periodical's Title, Volume (Issue), pp.-pp retrieved from the journal URL or DOI.

Use URL of the journal’s homepage if you cannot find a DOI, yet you retrieved the reference online.

General website with a given author: Author. (Year, Month Date of Publication). Article title. Retrieved from URL

General Website Without a given author: Article Title, Year. (Month Date of Publication). Retrieved from URL

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