Peabody Library Research Channel

Questions on the Format of an APA Paper

In the entries below, the relevant section of the APA publication manual is given in parentheses after each answer.

What are the main parts of an APA paper?
There are four main parts of a standard APA paper: the title page, the abstract, the text of the paper, and the references. The title page is page 1, the abstract is page 2, and the text of the paper begins on page 3. The references begin on the first new page after the end of the body of the paper. Papers can also include tables and figures, which may be placed after the references or embedded in the text; and appendices, which are placed after the reference list.
(Sections 2.1 and 2.2)

What goes on the title page?
APA 7 gives examples of a title page for a professional paper (Figure 2.1) and a student paper (Figure 2.2). See examples here. A title page for a student paper will typically have, in this order, the title of your paper, your departmental affiliation (if any), your name, the course name, the instructor’s name, and the date—all on separate lines and centered on the page.
(Section 2.3)

Does my paper really need an abstract? And what’s an abstract?
An abstract is a brief (usually no more than 250-word) one-paragraph summary of your paper. A student paper does not always require an abstract (consult your instructor); a professional paper typically does. In APA style, the abstract is sole tenant of the second page of the paper. If you write an abstract, remember that it is not simply the introductory paragraph of your paper, but neither should it include information not to be found elsewhere in the paper. It is a summary of your paper’s content—its main purpose, methods, and conclusions. (See section 3.3 of the APA guide for detailed abstract-writing instructions for different types of papers). Many will write the abstract last, after the body of the paper is complete.
(Sections 2.9 and 3.3)

Can I use headings to mark off sections of the body of my paper?
Yes. APA style allows for many levels of headings. See a very helpful example paper.
(Section 2.27)

Can I use footnotes in APA style?
You can, if your instructor or the journal you are submitting to permits, but references and citations do not go in footnotes in an APA paper. APA is in this way distinct from MLA, Chicago, and many other styles. Citations go directly in the text. Footnotes are used only for supplementary information or asides. Most APA papers have no footnotes.
(Section 2.13)

What font should I use?
APA does not prescribe a font style or size, but recommends a font that is “accessible to all users.” Calibri 11-point or Times New Roman 12-point are examples of acceptable fonts. Zapf Dingbats is discouraged. A consistent font should be used throughout a paper. Your instructor may have more restrictive requirements.
(Section 2.19)

What sized margins should I use?
One-inch margins at top, bottom, left, and right.
(Section 2.22)

Should my paper be double-spaced?
Yes. Everything in an APA paper should be double-spaced, including block quotes, the abstract, and the reference list. Rare exceptions include text to accompany a figure (which may be single-spaced) and footnotes (also single-spaced).
(Section 2.21)

When should I use block quotes?
Block quotes, which are set off from the main text and indented half an inch, should be used for quotations longer than 40 words. Like all quotes, they should either be followed by a parenthetical citation (with a page number) or be introduced with a narrative citation and followed by a page number in parentheses. Do not put quotation marks around a block quote. Block quotes are double-spaced. See examples here.
(Section 8.27)

Do I need to put a page number on every page of my paper?
Yes. The page number, beginning with the title page as “1,” goes at the top right of each page. Use just the number; do not write the word “page.” Use your word processor to create a header that reproduces automatically on every page—don’t try to type in the page number on each page.
(Section 2.18)

What’s a “running head”? Do I need one at the top of my paper?
A running head is your paper title, or a shortened version of it, that traditionally goes at the top left of every page of your paper. APA no longer requires student papers (as opposed to professional papers) to have a running head, but its use is so longstanding that it may remain a de facto standard for some time. Consult your instructor.

If you use a running head, put it in ALL CAPS and ensure it is no longer than 50 characters long. It should be on the same line as your page number. You should create the running using the “header” function of your word processor so that it reproduces automatically on every page.
(Section 2.8)

When do I need to put the words “Running head” at the top of my paper?
Never—even if you are using a running head in your paper. This maddening rule, which bedeviled generations of students, has been done away with in APA 7.