How to Write an Essay to APA Guidelines

APA is a formation style applied to writings that fall under the scope of business, education, psychology and social science. The American Psychological Association constituted the method and guidelines in which all APA papers must adhere to, including the layout, spacing, in-text citations and reference list.

Document Layout

Open a new document and set the font to Times New Roman, 12-point.

Go to the tool bar and click on "Page Layout." Select the "Margin" prompt and set it to 1 inch for all sides (bottom, top, left, right).

Right-click the mouse to expose a menu on the screen. Open the "Paragraph" prompt and set the essay to be double spaced. Depending on the program you are using, this also can be done by accessing the "Format" section, clicking on "Line Spacing" and choosing the double option. Every paragraph should have an indentation of five spaces. After you've finished a paragraph, hit the "Enter" key once, follwed by the "Tab" button (do not skip lines).

Apply a page number and page header to each page of your essay. If using Microsoft Works, select "Page Header" under the "Insert" tab and type in the title of your essay, flush left. Click on the "Page Number" prompt and select top of page, flush right. If using Microsoft Office (1997-2003), click on the "View" menu and select "Page Header & Footer". Enter the title of your essay and click justify left then select the icon for "Auto Page Number" and set it to top of page, flush right. As noted by Vanguard University, the page header and number must appear one inch from the right edge of the paper on the first line of every page.

Use a single space after commas, colons and semicolons within sentences and insert two spaces after punctuation marks that end sentences.

Paper Sections

Type in the name of your essay for the title page and center it to appear on the upper half of the page (the page header and page number will be on the top). Hit "Enter" and type in your name on the next line and center it. Hit "Enter" again and type in the school, class and name of the professor. All of this information must be centered and double spaced.

Begin typing your essay on Page 2 one line below where the page and title appear. Note that some essays are required to have an abstract page, which is a brief synopsis of the essay's main research points. Abstracts appear on Page 2 of the essay and the paper begins on Page 3. If you don't have an abstract, begin the main body of your essay on Page 2.

Type the body of your paper and include footnotes if required. Footnotes are a separate page that follows your references page. To format this page, type in the word "Footnotes" at the beginning of the page and center it. Like the body of the essay, footnotes are double spaced and the first line of every footnote is indented five spaces (Tab key).

Go to a new page (directly following your essay's conclusion) and start formatting your list of References. Type the word "References" on the first line and center it on the page. The reference page also will be double spaced.

List each reference entry in alphabetical order, according to the last name of the author(s) whose work you cite. Format the entries using hanging indentation. This means that all lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list must be indented at a half inch from the left margin.

  • Make sure to ask your instructor if he is looking for the essay to include specific sections, headings and subheadings such as method, results, participants, procedure and discussion. This is often seen with essays involving experimental research.
Items you will need
Word-processing program
About the Author

Serena Spinello holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her Ph.D. in medical science. She has been a professional writer and researcher for over 10 years and is an active member of the American Medical Writers Association, Academy of Medical Educators, and the National Association of Social Workers.

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