How Does APA Format Look?

Academic papers that include information from outside sources must follow particular formats to indicate to readers what information the author borrowed. Social sciences such as psychology, history and economics often use American Psychological Association (APA) format. Following proper format eliminates concerns of plagiarism and creates standardization in research projects such as term papers, literature reviews and case studies.


APA research papers contain sections including a title page, abstract, body and references page. The title page functions as the document's cover and includes the title of the paper, the writer's name and the name of the institution. The next page presents an abstract, a brief summary of the material in the paper. The abstract should run no more than 250 words. The paper begins on the next page, and the references list appears at the very end of the paper.


APA format uses a running head, a header that appears on every page, including the title page, and contains the paper's title and a page number following the words "Running head" and a colon. The title sits flush-left and the page number flush right in the header. Sections within the body of the paper typically use headings to separate them such as "Introduction," "Literature Review," "Methodology" and "Conclusions." The entire paper is double-spaced, left-justified, with paragraphs indented one-half inch and no extra spaces between paragraphs.


Citations use the author's last name and the year of publication in parentheses, placing the information in a signal phrase when possible, such as "according to Smith (2010)." Alternatively, both pieces of information may appear in parentheses at the end of the sentence: "(Smith, 2010)." Exact quotes also need the page number preceded by "p." Quotations longer than 40 words should appear in block format. Block quotes are indented one-half inch from the left margin and do not use quotation marks, since the indent indicates the information is taken word-for-word.


The remainder of the bibliographical information for the sources appears on a page at the end of the paper titled "References." Entries follow alphabetical order according to the author's last name and use a hanging indent, meaning the first line sits flush-left and the second and subsequent lines indent one-half inch. Information includes author, publication date, title and publisher information, such as the name of a journal and the digital object identifier or URL.