What Is an APA Format Example?

Updated November 21, 2016

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is the style guide of choice for many writers preparing papers for submission to scholarly journals. The APA guide deals with content and stylistic issues, including reference citations and reference lists, in some detail.


The American Psychological Association (APA) is an organization of some 150,000 members that represents psychologists in the United States. It is based in Washington, D.C., but has members worldwide.


The origins of APA style emerged in the late 1920s, when the editors of several scholarly journals assembled a report that laid out format and documentation guidelines for writers to follow when they submitted papers for publication. Since that time, the accumulated style recommendations have grown into the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. APA published the first substantial version of the manual in 1952. The current edition, published in 2001, is the fifth.

APA Style Guidelines

The APA manual does discuss the content and organization of a journal submission, but primarily the manual deals with editorial style. Issues considered at length include spelling, punctuation, capitalization, italics, abbreviations, quotations, mathematical copy, headings, tables, illustrations, footnotes and citations in the text. The APA manual also examines the mechanical aspects of preparing a manuscript, such as the type of paper that should be used, the order of pages in the manuscript, margin settings, typeface, line spacing, page numbers, headers and footers, indentions and use of upper- and lowercase letters.

References and Reference Lists

Frequently, the hallmark of any particular style manual lies in its distinctive recommendations for dealing with references and reference lists (also called bibliographies). The APA Publication Manual spells out in considerable detail how references for different types of publications, including oral, online and archival works, are addressed. Briefly, and very generally, the information in an APA reference for an essay in a journal or magazine that would go into a reference list follows this order: Last name of author followed by a comma, first name of author followed by a comma, last name and first names of any additional authors separated by commas, date of cited work in parentheses, followed by a period; title of cited work in roman, not italic, type, followed by a period; title of the journal or magazine followed by a comma, then the volume number and the issue number (the latter appears in parentheses), followed by a comma, and then page numbers, followed by a period. Specific formats for different types of publications and situations vary somewhat, so the best course for a writer is to consult the manual carefully.


An example of an APA reference for an essay in a journal: Henry, John, Howard, Ross, & McCoy, Albert. (1997). The Social Aspect of Churches. Church History 20, 345-351. An example of a reference from an online source: Henry, John, Howard, Ross, & McCoy, Albert. (1997).The Social Aspect of Churches. Church History 20, 345-351. Retrieved from www.churchhistory.org, March 15, 2000. An example of a reference for a book: Henry, John. (2007). All About Fly Fishing. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Other Types of Manuscripts

Besides papers prepared for submission to scholarly journals, the manual also lays out guidelines for preparing dissertations, theses, school papers and oral presentations. Methods of converting dissertations and theses to journal submissions also are discussed.

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