APA Style Research Paper Writing

APA (American Psychological Association) is the style used most commonly when citing sources for social science papers. You can use it for your research paper if you wish, though your professor will often tell you which referencing style to use. The best guide to use is the “Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (6th ed., 2nd printing).”

General APA guide

Your essay should be double-spaced, and if you print it, you should use a standard paper size, which is 8.5 inches x 11 inches. Your essay should be typed, and you should use Time New Roman as the font. It should also be font size 12pt.

You should have a running head at the top of every page. This is a page header that sits on the top of every page of your research paper. You should also have your page numbers flush right on the page. Your margins should be one inch on all sides of the page.

The title of your work should appear in the running head of your work, it should be flush to the left and it should be written in all capital letters. Try not to exceed 50 characters with your title, and that includes all spaces and all punctuation. You may have to create a shortened version of your title if you cannot fit it within 50 characters. You can check how many characters it is with an active word-counting tool.

Four major sections of your essay

There should be four major sections in your essay. They are the abstract, the title page, the main body and the references. Your title page should have your title, your name (and any other authors), and maybe the name of your college or University. On the title page, you should actually write what your running head is by labeling it a running head. Your running head will look something like this on your title page:


This is the only time your running head will look like this. The rest of your essay should just feature your research paper title in the top left corner and the page number on the right.

Your title should appear in the middle of your title page, and unlike the running header, it should have a capital case and not be all in capitals. Here is an example find of a capital case title:

The Running of The Bulls in China

Try to make your title no more that twelve words, and it is okay if you use two lines. This should be double-spaced like the rest of your research paper. Underneath your title, you should have the name of the author using the first name, initials of the middle name, and last name. Do not include things like Dr. or PhD.

You are most likely writing your essay for your college or University, so it may be a good idea to write their name under you name, along with either yours or your Universities/colleges location.

Setting out your abstract

Your abstract should be on a new page. You should already have your running head and page number suitably placed. The first line should feature the word “Abstract” and it should be centered horizontally i.e. in the middle of the line and not the middle of the page. The line underneath is where you start your abstract. Do not indent the paragraph.

Citing and referencing

When you cite in your text, you need to use the name of the author(s) and the associated date. You only use the author’s last name. This is only done if you are referencing the source only. If you have cited in your work (put in a direct quote), you will need to enter the page number too. You do not have to enter the name of the book or source, just the page number. If it is a website and your source is only on one page, then you may leave out the page number.

If you are citing or referencing from a source with no date, then use the words “n.d.” in parenthesis along with the name of the author and page numbers if needed. If you do not know the author, then consider adding in the name of the source, such as the website or news report on TV.

If your electronic source is big and lacks page numbers, you can try to explain what paragraph the quote is on that you took. You would write something such as “para.” and then the paragraph number in the parenthesis along with the name of the author and the date. Count the paragraph numbers going down, so the first paragraph would be 1, the second would be 2, and so on.

If you took your citation from something such as an Infographic, try to point out where you took it from. Sometimes they have sections in them such as “conclusion” or “did you know” or “results.” You should point out the section if possible to make it easier for the reader to find.