APA Format Writing Tutorial

Using APA format for your research paper not only helps with citing sources, but it also guides your writing. An APA format writing tutorial directs your layout, style, voice and word choice. APA format is most often used for papers in the social sciences, including linguistics, sociology, psychology, economics, criminology, business and nursing.


In APA format, structure your paper so it has a page header and four major sections: title page, abstract, main body, and references. Format your paper with 12-point Times New Roman font. Structure it so it has a 1-inch margin on all sides. A page header, or running head, features a shortened version of your title and the page number at the top of every page. The header cannot exceed 50 characters. Lay out your title page so it has the title of your paper, your name and your school’s name. Write your abstract so it is a concise summary of your paper, including research topics, questions, methods and results. Make it single-spaced and 150 to 250 words in length. Double-space the main body. Your references list should appear at the end of your paper and include each source you cite. Title this page “References,” centered in the middle of the page. References should be listed alphabetically, and all text should be double-spaced. Any reference that goes beyond the first line should be indented one-half inch from the left margin with a hanging indentation.


With an APA formatted paper, write in first-person point of view. Use active voice and aim for definite, specific, concrete language. As you describe your research, avoid vague descriptions. The more accurately and more detailed you present your research, the better your readers can follow your work. Eliminate any unnecessary words.

Word Choice

APA format outlines how to select certain words and terms. Because this style is used for social sciences, you run the risk of words taking on a variety of meanings, which can skew your findings. Use terms like participants, children or community members to provide more detail about those involved in your research. Use words such as "suggests" or "indicates" instead of "proves" to present your theories.

Avoiding Bias

In social science papers, you run the risk of using labels, stereotypes or other biases when referring to your research population. APA format offers recommendations for eliminating bias regarding race, sexuality and disability. Call your research subjects by what they prefer to be called. While you want to be clear about the sexual identity of your subjects, do not use gender terms if they are not necessary. Use plural pronouns, use articles instead of singular pronouns or replace a pronoun with a noun such as "person" or "individual."