APA Format Complete Guidelines

If you have been wondering how to do APA format, you are in the right place. Here is what you need to know about APA formatting.

The APA (American Psychological Association) format is one of the most popular referencing formats. The rules and regulations guiding the use of the APA format in publications and academic writing are in the APA publication. This publication is constantly revised, with the current edition being the 7th.

The APA style format can be used for manuscripts, academic journals, research papers, reports, and related material. The APA format is not limited to psychologists; it is also used in education, economics, social sciences, and the natural sciences.

APA Formatting is used by university students and even postgraduate students when writing their theses; it is also used by reputable journals, businesses, writers, and so on. 

Citations are a crucial part of writing a research paper in APA format. A citation is a reference to a particular piece of information used when writing a paper. 

Citations are important because they help the reader understand and verify information used in your paper. Citations are important because they help the reader understand and verify information used in your paper.

Citation when using APA format usually occurs in two ways. The first type, the in-text citation, is brief and only contains the author’s last name and the year of publication (enclosed in brackets) and is found within the body of the work. 

The paper's end has a complete list of authors, publication date, the title of work, and source.

The APA Style Citation Guide provides detailed information about citing sources when writing a paper in APA format. A standard research paper has sections different from those in an APA paper. 

There are three main sections in the APA format;

  • The title page
  • The body
  • The reference page

APA Format in Google Docs

Google Docs is a versatile writing tool that helps simplify your writing process. You can use various formats when using Google Docs, and the APA format style is included in it.

If you are wondering how to do APA format on Google Docs, follow the following steps.

  • Step 1: Open Google Docs on your phone or laptop and open a new document. Click on the ‘file’ option and select ‘new’ followed by ‘from a template.’

  • Step 2: Following Step 1 will lead to a new page (the template gallery); scroll down to the ‘education’ section and click on ‘Report APA.’

  • Step 3: Step 2 will open up a pre-set template that contains some text that already conforms to APA guidelines. You only need to edit or replace the pre-set text with your own words. You can also delete or remove sections that are irrelevant to your work.

Alternatively, you can set up the APA format manually. To do so, follow these steps.

  1. Set the font to Times New Roman and select font size 12.

  1. Click on "Insert," "Headers & Footers," and select "Header."

  1. Type the title of your work in uppercase while maintaining the set font (Times New Roman).

  1. Click on ‘insert’ and select ‘page number’ then ‘page count.’

  1. Place the page number's cursor on the left-hand side and align it with the top-right margin using the tab key or spacebar. After this, tick the box under ‘different first page.’

  1. All text you have previously entered will be removed from the first page and moved to the next page. After this, type ‘running head:,’ then leave a space and type your paper’s title in uppercase.

  1. Type in the number ‘1’, then place the cursor on the left-hand side of the number and align it with the top-right margin using the tab key or spacebar.

  1. Tap below the header, click on ‘format,’ and set the line spacing to ‘double.’

  1. Tap the ‘enter’ key repeatedly till the cursor is in the middle of the page. Then press the ‘center align’ feature.

  1. Type in your name, school name, course code, date, or vital information from here.

  1. Click on ‘insert’ and ‘page break’ to start a new page.

  1. Select ‘center aligns’ on the new page and type ‘abstract.’

  1. When you are done, press ‘enter’ and then ‘left align.’

  1. Press ‘enter,’ then press ‘tab’ to indent and start typing your abstract.

  1. Select ‘insert’ then ‘break’ and click on ‘page break’ to begin a new page. Click on the tab key again before typing your work. To create a new paragraph, click on the ‘enter’ key, then click on the tab key to start an indent.

  1. When you are done writing the body of your paper, start a new page by repeating step 11 above. 

  1. Add the list of your references to this page following the format (list of all the authors’ last and first names; year, month, and day of publication; the title of the paper; year of publication; paper’s URL).

APA Header and Title

The title and header are essential parts when using the APA writing format. The header is usually in the top margin on every page. The page number is the only thing that should be in the header for undergraduate or student research papers. 

The running head and page number are usually found in the header for professional papers.

The running head is the shortened version of your paper’s title. It can also be the full title of your paper (if the title is short). The running head is usually unnecessary or required for students unless otherwise stated by the instructor or teacher. 

However, according to the APA formatting rules, the running head is necessary for professional papers or journals.

There are several rules guiding how to write an APA paper running head. Some of them are;

  • The running head should be written entirely in uppercase.
  • Using abbreviations is not allowed. You can, however, use the ‘&’ symbol to replace the word ‘and.’
  • The running head should be aligned to the top left corner of the header, opposite the page number found in the top-right corner.
  • It should be at most 50 characters, including punctuation and space.
  • The same running head should be used in the same format on each page.

Works Cited Page

In an APA format paper, the "works cited" page is also referred to as the reference page. It is essential to list all the sources you have used or cited in your work. It is usually started on a new page immediately after the body of your work. 

You must follow some rules to write your reference page according to APA format requirements correctly. Some of them are;

  • The section header ‘references’ should be boldly written at the top of the page and aligned to the center.

  • The references should be well arranged in alphabetical order.

  • Double spacing should be used between text.

  • A hanging indent (of 0.5 inches) should be used (the first line of each reference is written on a full line, the subsequent lines of the same reference are indented, and this is repeated till the end).

APA Style Citations

Citation is essential when writing a college APA format paper. Proper citation is done to avoid plagiarism, which is using someone's words, ideas, or thoughts without giving credit to them. In APA, for every in-text citation, there must be a corresponding citation on the reference page.

When citing a reference, you write the authors' names, followed by their initials in capital letters. In a bracket, the year of publication is followed by the full title, the journal that published it (in italics), the volume, and the page number.

An APA format example is given below.

  • For a journal

David, P. V., Rawling, S. O., and Maya, T. N. (2023). Teaching children the area of public speaking. Journal of Child Social Development, 20 (6), 122-130.

  • For a webpage

Akeelah, E. (2018, July 10). Social media consumption may increase depression by decreasing positive emotions, a study says. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/10/health/social-media-increase-depression-trnd/index.html.

APA Headings and Subheadings

Headings and subheadings are crucial in the APA format style. They provide structure and keep your work organized. Headings indicate the information in that section. According to APA guidelines, there are five levels of headings.

  • Level 1 is used for the main sections, usually the beginning of a chapter, e.g., the Methods, Results, and Discussion chapters.
  • Level 2 is used for the subsections under level 1.
  • Level 3 is used for the subsections under level 2.
  • Level 4 is used for subsections under level 3.
  • Level 5 is used for subsections under level 4.

The writing format for;

  • Level 1: Title case heading, bold and centralized.
  • Level 2: Title case heading, bold and left aligned.
  • Level 3: Title case heading, bold italics, left aligned.
  • Level 4: Title case heading, bold, indented, ends with a full stop (.).
  • Level 5: Title case heading, bold italics, indented, ends with a full stop (.).

There are rules guiding how to do APA format headings; some of them are;

  • Maintain the same font and font size as the main work (Times New Roman, 12)
  • As with the main text, the heading should have double spacing.
  • Do not use only one subsection within a section; use at least two.
  • Headings should not be labeled with numbers or letters.
  • Above and beneath the heading, there should be no extra space (even if it begins or ends a page).

Tables and Figures

A table is another way of displaying information, usually in rows and columns. A figure is a pictorial or graphical representation that you include in your work. Both explain data differently, but their APA formatting is similar.

There are rules guiding the use of tables and figures in a college APA format paper; some of them are;

APA Format for Tables

  1. The table number is written boldly above the table.
  2. The headings for rows and columns should be clear.
  3. Vertical lines are not allowed; use horizontal lines where necessary.
  4. A short italicized title should be below the table number.
  5. The decimal places should be uniform (if the data is numerical).
  6. Any additional notes should be written below the table.

APA Format for Figures

  1. The figure number should be boldly written above the figure.
  2. A short italicized title should be below the figure number.
  3. Any additional notes should be written below the figure.
  4. Keep the figure designs and colors simple and clear.
  5. To label text within the figure, Arial font with font size 8-14 is recommended by APA.

How To Number Figures and Tables

A title or number usually comes before a table or figure. It should be noted, however, that tables and figures are numbered separately in order of their appearance in your work.

For example, the first figure you see is numbered "Figure 1," and the next is "Figure 2." If a table comes after, it is labeled as "Table 1," not "Table 3."

The title of the figure or table should be short, concise, and straightforward. It should accurately capture the contents of the table or figure.

The table or figure number is written in bold on a single line. It is followed closely on the next line by the title (which is usually written in title case and italicized).

Where To Place Your Figures and Tables

According to APA formatting styles, you can place your tables and figures in two ways.

  1. You can place them within the text shortly after referring to them in the preceding text.
  2. You can place them all together at the end of your work (usually after the Reference page). When doing this, each figure and table should be on a separate page; tables first, then figures after.

You should note that each table and figure should appear only once throughout your work (even if you refer to them more than once).

Tables and figures should be aligned to the left and separated from the main text by a space. Place the table on a new page if it splits within the current page.

Finally, when referring to your table or figure, avoid using a preceding article, e.g., "The table 2 shows," it should instead be "Table 2 shows."

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