APA Style is a writing style and format for academic documents such as scholarly journal articles and books. It is commonly used for citing sources within the field of behavioral and social sciences. It is described in the style guide of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is titled the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. The guidelines were developed to aid reading comprehension in the social and behavioral sciences, for clarity of communication, and for “word choice that best reduces bias in language”.
APA Style is widely used, either entirely or with modifications, by hundreds of other scientific journals (including medical and other public health journals), in many textbooks, and in academia (for papers written in classes). Along with AMA style and CSE style, it is one of the major styles for such work.
Check out this gallery of examples, tips, and guidelines for writing papers in APA format.
APA Format Examples, Tips and Guidelines
Title Page Example
- Your 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 title should be at the top half of the page and should be centered between margins.
- Use both upper-case and lower-case letters.
- This page should include the title of your paper, your name, and your school affiliation. The APA suggests that your title is no more than 12 words in length. Avoid using titles or degree info (such as Dr. or Ph.D.) before and after your name.
- Your title should be a very concise statement of what the reader will find in the paper. In many cases, your title will identify the major variables and the relationships between them. For example, “Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Math Performance” is an example of a succinct title that clearly describes what the paper is about.
- The APA style guide also advises writers to avoid phrases such as “An Experimental Investigation on…” or “A Study of…”. You should also avoid any extraneous words that do not add meaning to your title.
Reference Pages in APA Format
Some More Basic Reference Page Rules
- Your references should be alphabetized by the last names of the first author of each source.
- All references should be double-spaced.
- Each reference should use a hanging indentation: the first line of the reference should be flush left, but each additional line of the reference needs to be indented.
- In article titles, only the first letter should be capitalized. If a colon appears in the title, the first letter after the colon should also be capitalized. The title should not be placed in quotations, underlined or italicized.
- All major words in the title of a journal should be capitalized; i.e. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
- Longer works such as books and journals should appear in italics.
- In the case where the same author is cited multiple times for different works, start by listing these references in chronological order with the oldest reference appearing first and working your way up to the most recent one.
Tables in APA Format
Basic Rules for Tables in APA Format
- All tables should be numbered (e.g. Table 1, Table 2, Table 3).
- Each table should have an individual title, italicized and presented with each word capitalized (except and, in, of, with, etc.). For example, Correlations Between Age and Test Scores. Try to ensure that your title is neither too general nor too specific.
- Each table should begin on a separate page.
- Horizontal lines can be used to separate information and make it clearer. Do not use vertical lines in an APA format table.
- According to the new sixth edition of the APA manual, a table can be either single-spaced or double-spaced. The key is to keep the table readable and the spacing consistent.
- All tables should be referenced in the text of the paper.
- Tables should be last, after your reference list and appendixes.
- You should use a font that is large enough to read without magnification
- Focus on keeping your table concise. Too much extraneous information can overwhelm and confuse the reader. Stick to reporting the most important data.
- Remember that your table is there to supplement rather than replicate the text of your paper. Do not feel the need to discuss every element of your table in your text. Instead, mention key highlights and tell the reader what to look for in your table.
- Table headings should be located flush right.
- Each column should be identified using a descriptive heading.
- The first letter of each heading should be capitalized.
- Abbreviations for standard terms (e.g. M, SD, etc.) can be used without explanation. Uncommon definitions should be explained in a note below the table.
Additional Notes to an APA Format Table
If additional explanation is needed, a note can be added below the table. There are three kinds of notes: General notes, specific notes, and probability notes. General notes refer to some aspect of the entire table; specific notes refer to a particular column or row; probability notes specify the probability level.
A Quick Checklist
- Is the table needed to present data or could the data simply be presented in the text?
- Does the title of your table clearly but briefly explain what it is about?
- Is the spacing consistent throughout the table?
- Does the body of the paper refer to the table?
- Is each column of the table clearly labeled?
- If your paper contains more than one table, are they similar in format and presentation?
- Are any special or uncommon abbreviations explained in notes?
Journal and Periodicals in APA Format
More APA Format Tips
Capitalize the first word in the title, subtitle, and proper nouns.
Italicize the name of the publication and the volume number.
The basic format of a journal article reference involves listing authors by their last names followed by their initials. Next, the publication year is enclosed in parentheses and followed by a period. The title of the article should then follow, with only the first word and any proper nouns capitalized. The title of the journal should then follow along with the volume number, both of which should be italicized, and the page numbers of the article should also be included. Finally, a DOI number should be included if one is available.
Electronic Sources in APA Format
Referencing electronic sources in APA format requires special style concerns.
Electronic References Are Similar to Other References
The basic format of an electronic reference is very similar to that of any other reference. However, you do need to include the date the reference was retrieved from the Internet as well as the online location of the document. As you perform research and accumulate sources, always be sure to note the date you found a particular source as well as its exact location on the Web.
Use a Digital Object Identifier When Possible
Because online URLs can change, the APA recommends utilizing a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) in your references whenever possible. A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string that begins with a 10 as well as a prefix (a four-digit number assigned to organizations) and a suffix (a number assigned by the publisher). Many publishers will include the DOI on the first page of an electronic document. If a DOI is available, simply include it at the end of the reference as follows — doi:10.0000/00000000000
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