John K.
John K.

APA Made Easy: A Beginner’s Guide to APA Format

15 min read

Published on: Aug 16, 2023

Last updated on: Sep 8, 2023

APA Format

When it comes to academic writing, following a standardized format is essential to ensure credibility and consistency in scholarly work.

There are several popular formats used in different universities and disciplines. However, the APA format, regulated by the American Psychological Association, is the most common across the social sciences and beyond.

In this blog, we’ll introduce you to the 7th edition of the APA format and discuss how to use it in your papers. This blog will serve as your comprehensive guide to understanding and implementing APA guidelines in your academic work. Let's dive in!

The Key Elements of APA Format

To get started, you should know the main elements that are included in APA formatting. These include

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • In-text Citations
  • Page Layout
  • Reference List

Let's understand them one by one.

Title Page

The title page is the first and crucial component of any APA-formatted document. It provides essential information about the paper and the author. Here's what should be included: 

  • Title of the Paper: The title should be concise yet informative, reflecting the main focus of the paper.
  • Page Number: Add a page number in the top right corner of the title page.
  • Author's Name: The name of the author (or authors) comes after the title. It is essential information as it appears on your academic records.
  • Institutional Affiliation: An APA title page also includes the name of the writer's institution or university where the research was conducted.
  • Course & Instructor Name: In a student paper, it is necessary to mention your course name and number and the instructor's name. 
  • Due Date or Date of Submission: In a student paper, you also have to mention the due date of the assignment at the end.
  • Author Note: It is an optional category that includes further information about the author. It is usually included in professional papers. Most student papers do not include the author note.
  • Running Head: The Running Head provides a shortened version of the title for the page header. However, a running head is not included in student papers. Running head in the title page is only required for professional papers.

Check out these two APA format title page examples.

Here is an APA paper template you can use:

Page Layout & Formatting

Another important element of an APA format paper is its paper format and layout. Here is how a page is formatted according to the APA style guidelines:


1-inch on all sides


12-pt, Times New Roman

Line Spacing



First line indent




Running head at the top left (in capital letters). Page Number at top right.

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The abstract is a concise summary of your research paper. It provides readers with a quick overview of the study's purpose, methods, results, and conclusions. Keep the abstract between 150 to 250 words.

Here is what an abstract includes: 

  • Study objectives: The primary objective or research question of your study.
  • Methods used: Briefly describe the research design, participants, data collection, and analysis methods.
  • Results & Conclusions: Summarize the key findings of your study and state the main conclusions or implications of the research.

Read this research abstract to get a better idea:

Research Paper Title: 

"I Am a Change Agent": A Mixed Methods Analysis of Students' Social Justice Value Orientation in an Undergraduate Community Psychology Course


Learning experiences that connect students to communities and provide them with opportunities to reflect and apply theories to real-world challenges can promote a value orientation toward social justice. This study uses a mixed methods design to investigate students' value orientation toward social justice in an undergraduate community psychology course and the extent to which community engagement contributes to this orientation among a cross-sectional undergraduate sample of racially diverse students at a minority-serving institution. The analysis of outcomes collected across three different course offerings revealed that students enrolled in the course possessed a more favorable orientation toward social justice (Mdn = 150.00) and that the course had subtle effects in improving this orientation (Mdn = 152.32, Z = ?1.73, p = .08, r = ?.22). An analysis of students' value orientation across each course offering revealed a significant between-course effect, H(2) = 5.86, p = .05. Students enrolled in courses with an emphasis on completing the community engagement assignment in a group demonstrated a more positive value orientation. Qualitative findings further explicate how the course increased students' awareness of social inequalities and, for some, their social justice behaviors.

(You can read the full research paper here)


The APA format recognizes five levels of headings. The level of heading is marked by the specific formatting guidelines.

Here are the basic heading guidelines:

Level 1

Centered, Bold, Title Case Heading

Level 2

Flush Left, Bold, Title Case Heading

Level 3

Flush Left, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading

Level 4

        Indented, Bold, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. The paragraph continues from the same line.

Level 5

       Indented, Bold Italic, Title Case Heading, Ending With a Period. The paragraph continues from the same line.

In-text Citations

APA format uses parenthetical in-text citations to give credit to the sources you have used within your paper. An APA format citation includes the author's last name and the publication year of the source.

In-text citations are used when you are either paraphrasing from another source or directly quoting from it. In any case, in-text citations are essential to avoid plagiarism in your writing.

Here are some APA format in-text citations examples:


Style guidelines developed by the American Psychological Association are widely accepted in academia (Smith, 2019).

According to Smith (2019), "APA style is a widely accepted writing format in academia" (p. 15).

There are various rules for in-text citations. The citations change depending on the number of authors and type of source. The examples below show these differences.

  • One Author:

When citing a source with one author, include the author's last name and the publication year in parentheses.

Example: (Smith, 2022)

  • Two Authors: 

If a source has two authors, include both authors' last names and the publication year, separated by an ampersand (&).

Example: (Johnson & Doe, 2021)

  • Three or More Authors:

For sources with three or more authors, use the first author's last name followed by "et al." (meaning "and others") and the publication year.

Example: (Brown et al., 2020)

  • Group or Organization as the Author: 

When the author of a source is a group or organization, use the full name of the group or organization in the first citation. In subsequent citations, you can use an abbreviation or acronym.

Example: (World Health Organization [WHO], 2019) or (WHO, 2019)

  • Multiple Works by the Same Author: 

If you are citing multiple works by the same author, arrange them in chronological order, and use lowercase letters (a, b, c) to distinguish between them.

Example: (Johnson, 2018a) or (Johnson, 2018b)

  • No Author: 

If a source does not have a specific author, use the first few words of the title in quotation marks ("Title," year) or the full title if it is short.

Example: ("Understanding APA Format," 2023)

  • Page Numbers for Direct Quotations: 

When directly quoting a source, include the page number after the publication year, preceded by "p." for a single page or "pp." for multiple pages.

Example: (Smith, 2021, p. 45) or (Johnson & Doe, 2020, pp. 25-30)

Expert Tip

In-text citations in APA are essential, but they can be confusing. Read this guide about APA in-text citations to get a better understanding.

Reference List

An APA format research paper requires a list of citations or references at the end of the paper. You need to mention the sources you have cited in the paper in a specific format. 

Here are some common rules for the reference list.

  • The list of references appears at the end of the paper.
  • It is arranged alphabetically by the author's last name.
  • Each entry is formatted according to the type of source. That is, books, journal articles, websites, and other kinds of sources all have a specific format.

Here is an example of a reference list formatted in APA.

This is how you format your entries in a reference list.

  • Book

Format: Author's Last Name, Initials. (Publication Year). Title of the Book. Publisher.

Example: Johnson, M. L., & Smith, A. B. (2021). The Art of Writing: A Comprehensive Guide to Academic Excellence. Academic Publishing.

  • Journal Article

Format: Author's Last Name, Initials. (Publication Year). Title of the Article. Title of the Journal, Volume(Issue), Page Range. DOI (if available).

Example: Johnson, A. B., Smith, C. D., & Williams, E. F. (2022). The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Environmental Studies, 15(3), 45-62.

  • Website

Format: Author's Last Name, Initials or Organization Name. (Publication Date or Last Update). Title of the Webpage. Website Name. URL.

Example: How to write an essay: A step-by-step guide. (2023, June 21). Essay Writing Service: Writing Help from Expert Writers.

  • Online Document or Report

Format: Author's Last Name, Initials or Organization Name. (Publication Year). Title of the Document or Report. Publisher or Organization. URL (if applicable).

Example: The White House. (2023, July 25). Remarks by President Biden on expanding access to mental health care. 

Expert Tip

However, you don't have to remember these rules all the time. You can use citation tools to help you out.

Citations and Reference Examples

Every in-text citation within your paper has a corresponding entry in the reference list. Here are a few examples that show how in-text citations and their references look like.

  • Book

In-text Citation: (Smith, 2022)

Reference: Smith, J. (2022). The APA Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide. Academic Publishing. 

  • Journal Article

In-text Citation: (Johnson & Doe, 2021)

Reference: Johnson, A., & Doe, B. (2021). The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health. Journal of Psychology, 25(3), 123-135. doi:10.xxxx/xxxxx

  • Online Report

In-text Citation: (World Health Organization [WHO], 2019)

Reference: World Health Organization. (2019). Global Report on Mental Health. WHO.

  • Website

In-text Citation: ("Understanding APA Format," 2023)

Reference: Understanding APA Format: A Complete Guide. (2023). OpenAI. 

You can also watch this comprehensive video about APA formatting:

APA Paper Examples

Check out these academic papers that are written in the APA format. From the page layout to citations and referencing, they follow the guidelines laid out by the APA 7th edition.

Expert Tip

Check out more APA paper examples to see how the rules of APA formatting are applied in different situations.

Tips for Writing a Perfect APA Paper

Writing an APA paper can be a meticulous task. But with the right approach and tools, you can streamline the process and create a polished and professional academic document easily. 

Here are some helpful tips to ensure your APA paper adheres to the guidelines.

  • Use an APA Format Checklist:

Get an APA checklist that outlines all the essential elements required in an APA paper. 

Checklists can serve as a handy reference that will guide you through the various formatting components one by one. Going through the checklist before submitting your paper will help you catch any missed details.

Here is the official APA checklist you can use:

APA Format Checklist

  • Use APA Format Templates or Title Page Generators:

When creating a title page, you should not start from scratch. To ensure you get it right, you can:

  1. Use sample title pages in APA style, where you can fill in the information in the required fields. 
  2. Or you can use title page generators available online.

Title pages in APA format require specific elements and formatting. These resources will ensure your title page includes all the necessary information while adhering to the correct formatting.

  • Familiarize Yourself with APA Headings:

APA format uses five levels of headings to organize your paper's content effectively. Familiarize yourself with the rules of formatting the headings in APA to ensure a clear structure. 

Clear and logical headings enhance the readability of your paper and help readers navigate through your work effortlessly.

  • Use APA Citation Generator Tools:

APA format requires accurate and consistent in-text citations and a properly formatted reference list. A writer can't remember all the nitty-gritty details of formatting these sources, Yet, formatting them correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism.

The solution is to utilize citation tools and referencing software to generate correct citations for your sources. You can also use simple online tools like's citation generator. These tools can save you time and help avoid citation errors, ensuring your paper meets the highest academic standards.

  • Proofread and Edit:

After completing your paper, proofread it thoroughly for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and formatting inconsistencies. Even minor errors can detract from the credibility of your work. Take the time to edit and revise your paper to ensure it meets the highest standard of academic writing.

In Conclusion

Mastering the APA format is a valuable skill for academic writers who need to establish the credibility of their research and ideas. Understanding the key elements of APA format ensures that your academic papers are organized and formatted in a standardized way. 

But it's not as hard as it sounds. By using citation tools, APA format checklists, and title page generators, you can streamline the writing process and minimize errors. With the examples, templates, and tips provided above, you can write an impeccable APA paper easily. 

Need expert help with your APA paper? Our professional APA paper writing service is here for you.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is the APA format important?

APA format serves several essential purposes in academic writing. 

  • It ensures consistency and uniformity across the paper, making it easier for readers to comprehend the content and locate cited sources. 
  • Properly formatted APA papers also demonstrate the writer's commitment to academic integrity and adherence to standardized guidelines.
  • It makes it easier for editors and researchers to judge the authenticity of the research.


Can I use APA format for different types of academic papers?

Yes. The APA format is commonly used for research papers, essays, literature reviews, and other academic assignments in many disciplines. However, always as your instructor’s requirements when choosing a format for your paper.

What is the difference between APA student paper and APA Professional paper?

The difference lies in the elements of the title page. Student papers include course name, instructor name, and due date, whereas professional papers omit these details. Instead, professional papers require a Running Head and Author Note, which are not present in student papers. 

What is the difference between APA in-text citations and references?

In-text citations are brief references within the main body of the paper that acknowledge the source of information or ideas used in the text. On the other hand, the reference list is a separate section at the end of the paper that provides complete details of all the sources cited in the paper. The reference list allows readers to locate the original sources for further reading.

Can I use footnotes in APA format?

APA format discourages the use of footnotes for citation purposes. However, you can use footnotes for additional content, such as explanations or copyright permissions, if required.

Is an abstract required for all APA papers?

No, an abstract is not necessary for all APA papers. It is typically used for more extended research papers, literature reviews, and academic articles. Always check your assignment guidelines or consult with your instructor to make sure an abstract is required.

John K.


John K. (Research)

John K. holds a doctorate in management sciences, making him an expert on the subject matter. John is known for his opinions and knowledge, and he gives keynote speeches and runs workshops on a variety of writing and publishing-related subjects. He has also published articles in several online publications.

John K. holds a doctorate in management sciences, making him an expert on the subject matter. John is known for his opinions and knowledge, and he gives keynote speeches and runs workshops on a variety of writing and publishing-related subjects. He has also published articles in several online publications.

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