APA Style

The American Psychological Association (APA) manual is a system of documentation and formatting used primarily in the social and behavioral sciences. The format includes specific guidelines for the paper’s title page, abstract, headings, in-text citations, and references.

Title Page/ Format

Type the paper’s title in the center of the page, a third of the way down. Beneath the title, type your first name, middle initial (if desired), and last name. Add a new line for every additional author. Beneath your name, type the institutional affiliation (for most of us: Wheaton College).

For the title page and every page following, including the references page, include a page header that contains the page number—flush right—and the title of the paper in all caps—flush left. The entire paper should be double-spaced with one inch margins and no paragraph indentations.


Include an abstract if you are a writing a primary research paper or a lengthy secondary research paper. After the title page, include an abstract. An abstract is a comprehensive summary of your research paper. In addition to being readable, well organized, brief, and self-contained, the abstract must also be dense with information. For example, do not write: “This paper will look at the increase in gangs in Chicago and will present methods for effectively dealing with this increase.” Instead, describe the results you found, and the methods used to obtain those results.

Here are some guidelines for writing effective APA abstracts:

  • Write your abstract last, after you have written the paper.
  • The abstract is 150-250 words and double-spaced, with no indentations
  • Use only your own words and do not cite any outside sources.

(Definition and Guidelines for writing abstracts are taken from the University of Houston web page.)

In-Text Citations

For a work by one author, type both the author’s last name and year of publication between parentheses.

  • When writing first drafts, writers should not worry about style or form (LaMott, 1994).

If the author’s name is mentioned in the narrative, include the year of publication in parentheses immediately after the name. Also, when using a direct quote, cite the page number at the end of the sentence (preceded by “p.”).

  • LaMott (1994) states, “Good writing is about telling the truth” (p. 3).

For direct quotations that exceed forty words, indent five spaces from the left margin for the entire block quote, leaving out quotation marks. The parenthetical citation should follow immediately after final punctuation mark.


The Reference page, located at the end of the paper, provides an alphabetical list of sources used to write the paper. One double-spaced line below the running head, center the word References. Every source cited in the paper—and no other sources—must be included in the references page. As the kinds of sources vary, each variant requires a different reference format. For each source, indent the second and any subsequent lines. The References page, like the rest of the essay, should be double spaced. Here are some guidelines for the most commonly used forms:

The general guidelines for books are as follows

Author's Last Name, First Initial. Second Initial. (Publication date). Title. Publication information.

For books by one author

LaMott, A. (1994). Bird by bird. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

For books by two or more authors

Lane, J. & Lange, E. (1999). Writing clearly: An editing guide. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

For articles in a journal paginated by volume

Smith, Rusty. (2009). Multiplying marsupials: A study of the Australian outback. Journal of Animal Behavior, 29, 45-78.

For Web sites

Put the address in parentheses in the sentence in which it is used in the text. Do not include it in the References list.

Through the blog on his web site, the survivor Bear Grylls gives inside information about his adventures (www.beargrylls.com).

Notice that when a book has multiple authors, the reference includes the names (the last name first, followed by the initials) in the order they appear on the title page. Use an ampersand (&) to connect the final two names. For any work that is not a journal, only capitalize the first letter of the title or subtitle, except in special circumstances. Lastly, don’t forget the digital object identifier (doi) for articles retrieved online.


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