APA Format Guidelines

APA is the acronym for American Psychological Association, which developed one of the primary writing style guides used to write social science research papers, manuscripts, term papers and empirical studies. The standard format guidelines cover rules about citing sources, reference guides, bibliographies, headers, title pages, results of research and the discussion section of a manuscript.


The APA format guidelines for structure are generally the same for manuscripts, reports, term papers and research papers. Your paper will have a title page, abstract, introduction, method, results, discussion, references and appendices.

There are a few exceptions to the structure; for instance, you would not include method and results if your paper is not research oriented. If you are writing a literature review style paper, the method and results sections would be replaced by the information regarding your literature, explaining the different reports you are reviewing.


APA format guidelines for citations use the last names of the authors with the date of the publication in parentheses at the end of the sentence in which you reference the material. For instance, a discussion of another author's findings the end of the sentence will include the author's name: (King, 1959). This ensures that you are giving credit where credit is due and not laying claim to someone else's hard work.

Using citations in your writing helps to lend credence to your work. You can cite the work at the beginning of the sentence, for example: Smith and Time (1236) state such and such.

When citing a secondary source, you could write the person's name followed with "(as quoted by author, year)" and then finish the sentence.

Video and films are slightly different in citations, where in some cases the producer of the film could be the source or the person speaking in the film if it is documentary style (see Resources for specific examples).


The references is a section at the end of the paper to list the works used in research. Even a one-page paper will usually need a reference page that reflects the sources you have taken information from.

APA format guidelines for references include the author's last name, first and maybe middle initial, and the use of an ampersand in place of the word "and" are used when there is more than one author. After the author, the date of publication is in parentheses, followed by the title of the literature, then the journal or publisher; when using literature from journals, the volume and issue numbers then page numbers.

Your references will look something like this:

(1) Author(s). (2) Year. (3) Title of article. (4) Title of periodical, (5) volume number and issue, (6) page numbers.

The first line will be indented by five spaces while the next line or lines will sit at the margin. The title of the article and the periodical will only have the first word capitalized except after a colon (see Resources).