How to Format a Summary Using APA Style

Any style manual, including the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," the most reliable source of APA guidelines, aims to achieve uniformity across a discipline. All writers in a given discipline follow the same guidelines to make their writing more accessible to their peers. Writers in the social sciences, for example, typically use APA style to accomplish this goal.

Set the margins for your document at 1 inch on all sides for a standard 8.5 by 11 inch document.

Select an appropriate font and font size. APA recommends Times New Roman 10 to 12 point font, but you can use any comparable font.

Insert a header across the top margin of your first page, which will serve as a title page. In the header of the this page, type the words "Running Head" in upper and lowercase letters followed by a colon and by the title of your summary in all capital letters. These words should be justified left inside the header. You can use a shortened version of your title if the official title is longer than 50 characters. Also, include the page number justified right inside the header, so the number one will appear in the right corner of the header.

Format the line-spacing for your document to ensure that it is double-spaced. The text for the entire document, including the title page, should be double-spaced. Also, make sure that the document is not set up to add extra spaces before and/or after paragraphs.

Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. Do not exceed 12 words in your title and do not use abbreviations or unnecessary words. Your title may use one or two lines.

Type your first name, middle initial and last name on the line below your document title. Do not include any personal titles (Mrs.) or credentials (M.A.).

Type your institutional affiliation on the line below your name. Your affiliation will be the school you attend or the location where you conducted your research.

Make sure that the header on your second page contains the same title you included in the header on the first page. Again, use all capital letters. The title should be justified left and the page number should be justified right. The words "Running Head" should be omitted from all pages except the title page.

Center the title of the summary on the first line. Use lower and uppercase letters.

Indent the first line of your summary and complete a draft. An effective summary highlights all the major points of the original source. Use your own words and keep your writing style clear and concise.

Review your summary for basic clarity, as well as spelling and grammatical mistakes.

Complete a "References" page. As in the body of your paper, the header on this page will contain the page number justified right and the title of your paper in all capital letters justified left. Center the word "References" with the first letter capitalized on the first line of this page and include an appropriate citation for your source beginning on the next line. Justify the first line of the citation left and indent other lines in the citation five spaces. This is called a hanging indent. To format your citation, use a current hard copy of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association" to look up how to cite your particular source, or refer to a reliable online version of the guidelines. Purdue's Online Writing Lab is a reliable, up-to-date source of APA style guidelines (see "Resources" below).


Microsoft Word has a formatting option that allows you to make the header on the first page of a document different from the header on subsequent pages. Be sure to select this option when formatting your header. You will make this selection differently using different versions of Word. Other word-processing software may not offer this option. If necessary, create the title page and the body of your paper in separate documents. Then recombine them after printing.


On the References page, you should only need a citation for the source you summarized, but if you have additional sources, you will need to alphabetize them and include proper in-text citations for them.

A summary is not a typical type of APA paper. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab, typical APA papers include literature reviews and experimental reports. Most papers also include four main sections: the title page, abstract, main body, and references. Purdue recommends using APA's general formatting instructions for papers not fitting either of the two main types of papers and/or consulting with your professor. You may want to verify that the word "summary" is not being used to refer to an abstract or literature review. Steps 1-8 would still apply, but you would need additional instructions for these assignments.

Things You'll Need

  • Internet access
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