If your instructor has asked you to write an APA format essay, it might at first seem like a rather daunting task, especially if you are accustomed to using another style such as MLA or Chicago. Before you begin your essay, familiarize yourself with some of the basics.
The following tips offer some useful guidelines that will help you prepare your paper and ensure that it is formatted properly.
What Is APA Format?
Whether you’re taking an introductory or a graduate-level psychology class, chances are strong that you will have to write at least one paper during the course of the semester.
In almost every case, you will need to write your paper in APA format, the official publication style of the American Psychological Association.
APA format is used in a range of disciplines including psychology, education, and other social sciences. The format dictates presentation elements of your paper including spacing, margins, and how the content is structured.
While it might seem like something you can just gloss over, most instructors, as well as publication editors, have strict guidelines when it comes to how your format your writing. Not only does adhering to APA format allow readers to know what to expect from your paper, it also means that your work will not lose critical points over minor formatting errors.
While this guide offers some basic tips on how to present your APA format essay, you should always check with your teacher for more specific instructions.
Basics of an APA Format Essay
- There should be uniform margins of at least one-inch at the top, bottom, left, and right sides of your essay.
- Your paper should be double-spaced.
- Every page of your essay should include a running head at the top left. The running head is a shortened form of your title, often the first few words, and should be no more than 50 characters (including spaces).
- Every page should also include a page number in the top right corner.
- Your essay should also have a title page in APA format. This title page should include the title of your paper, your name and school affiliation. In some instances, your teacher might require additional information such as the course title, instructor name and the date.
- The title of your paper should be concise and clearly describe what your paper is about.
- Your title can extend to two lines but it should be no longer than 12 words.
- Your essay should also include a reference list. Located at the end of your paper, the reference section is a list of all the sources that were cited in your essay. References should be listed alphabetically by the last name of the author, and they should also be double-spaced.
- The first word of each paragraph in your paper should be indented one-half inch.
- The American Psychological Association recommends using Times New Roman size 12 font.
- While the formatting requirements for your paper might vary depending upon your instructor's directions, your essay will most likely need to include a title page, abstract, introduction, body, conclusion, and reference sections.
Tips for Writing an Essay in APA Format
In addition to ensuring that you cite your sources properly and present information according to the rules of APA style, there are a number of things you can do to make the writing process a little bit easier.
Start by choosing a good topic to write about. Ideally, you want to select a subject that is specific enough to let you fully research and explore the topic, but not so specific that you have a hard time finding sources of information. If you choose something too specific, you may find yourself with not enough to write about; if you choose something too general, you might find yourself overwhelmed with information.
Second, start doing research as early as possible. Begin by looking at some basic books and articles on your topic. Once you are more familiar with the subject, create a preliminary source list of potential books, articles, essays, and studies that you may end up using in your essay.
As you write your essay, be sure to keep careful track of the sources that you cite. Remember, any source used in your essay must be included in your reference section. Conversely, any source listed in your references must be cited somewhere in the body of your paper.
After you have prepared a rough draft of your essay, it is time to revise, review, and prepare your final draft. In addition to making sure that your writing is cohesive and supported by your sources, you should also watch carefully for typos, grammar errors and possible problems with APA format.
Writing your first APA format essay can be a little intimidating at first, but learning some of the basic rules of APA style can help. Always remember, however, to consult the directions provided by your instructor for each assignment.
American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington DC: The American Psychological Association; 2010.
Lee, C. Running head format for APA style papers. APA Style Blog. 2010.
APA Essay Checklist for StudentsThe American Psychological Association (APA) is one of the largest scientific and professional associations in the United States, and it has created a set of citation rules and formatting guidelines for scholarly writing to ensure a professional standard of academic integrity.
To create an essay that follows APA style, you need to focus on two things:
- In-text citations, which show where you found your sources that you are quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing.
- Formatting visual elements, (such as titles, headings, page numbers, graphs, and charts, etc.), which organizes the essay for readability.
For more help with APA style and formatting, here are some additional resources:
- APA Template
This is a template that you can edit to help you format your paper properly according to Ashford's APA standards.
- In-Text Citation Guide
This webpage goes over how to do citations within the body of your paper or assignment.
- An Overview of APA Key Elements
This webpage is a checklist of all of the key elements of APA 6th ed. style that are required for student papers at Ashford University.
- Reference List Entry Models
This guide contains examples of references in APA style by type.
- APA Style Aid
The APA Style Aid offers examples of in-text citations, reference page entries, and block quoting.
- Purdue OWL
A great resource for general help about APA formatting