How to Write Papers with the New APA Format (Sixth Edition)

The American Psychological Association format is a set of style guidelines that students and publishers use to ensure a uniform style throughout a research paper or publication, and it covers not only the organization of the paper but how sources are cited as well. Educational and scientific journals commonly use these guidelines. The sixth edition of the APA style guidelines, which came out in 2009, differs a bit from its predecessor.

Format and Major Sections

Type your paper in 12 point Times New Roman font and double-space it. Make a 1-inch margin on all four sides.

Insert a page header on every page of your paper. Type the title on each page, with the header flush left.

Type your title page. This is a separate page at the beginning of the paper. Center the title and type it in 12 point font. Underneath the title, double-space and center your full name. Underneath your name, double-space and center your school’s name.

Add a running head and a page number to the top of the title page. A running head is a shortened version of your title. Position the running head flush left. Position the number “1” flush right. Configure your word processing software to automatically paginate your paper, so that the page numbers will appear on subsequent pages. Type the running head in all capital letters. Do not exceed 50 characters, including spaces. Write the words “Running head:” before the shortened title. If you use Microsoft Word, select the “Header and Footer” option and fill in the running head in the box. This option automatically inserts the running head on each subsequent page. The Microsoft Word “Header and Footer” box also offers an option for automatic pagination.

Type your author note below your school affiliation. Center the words “Author Note” above the actual note. Write the following information in your author note, in order: the full title of your department and institution, changes in your institution affiliation, if applicable, funding sources that facilitated the research and acknowledgements. End the note with your contact information.

Create an abstract on the second page of your paper. Write the word “Abstract” in the top center of the page, underneath the page header. Write a brief summary of your paper that is no longer than 250 words. Include your topic, research methods and conclusions. At the bottom, indent a separate line and write “Keywords:” in italics. List a few keywords applicable to your paper.


Write a reference list at the end of your paper. Double-space it on a separate page. Do not indent the first line of each reference; instead, indent all subsequent lines for that same reference.

List the author’s name, publication date, title and other publication information (such as the journal’s issue number) in order. For example, write, with the book title set in italics: West, James, & Tutoro, J.E. (2011). Finding Peace in a Chaotic World. New York, NY: Macmillan.

Include a digital object identifier when listing an electronic journal in your reference list. This is a string of numbers and letters. Locate the DOI near the copyright notice on the electronic journal. Write the journal citation in this general format: Author. (Year). Title of article. Title of journal (set in italics). Journal volume number, pages cited. doi: number string.

Provide citations within the text of your paper. Place each citation in parentheses. Write the last name of the author, followed by a comma and then the date of publication, unless you've cited the author's name in the sentence. Then only the year is needed in parentheses. If you quote any text, include the page number of the quote.

  • Write the running head on each page of your paper. After the title page, omit the words “Running head:” from the top.
  • The sixth edition has changed the rules regarding the number of spaces to use between sentences. Use two, instead of one.
  • The sixth edition features new sections that discuss self-plagiarism, data sharing and using statistics in text. Updated sections include revised guidelines for avoiding bias in language as well as avoiding conflicts of interest.
  • The section on numerals has also been updated in the sixth edition. You no longer need to use numerals for a value less than 10 when they are paired with numerals that have a value of 10 or above. Another change in the sixth edition regards writing numerals that represent approximate values. Write these as words, even if the number is less than 10. For example, write “about two years ago.”
  • Do not underline, bold or italicize your title.
  • Avoid indenting your abstract, with the exception of the keywords.
  • The sixth edition discourages the use of phrases such as “opposite sex” and “minority.”
Photo Credits
  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images