How to Write an APA Format Essay

An APA format essay follows the American Psychological Association’s style guidelines for citing and documenting sources. According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, APA format is most commonly used to document sources in papers on topics in the field of social sciences such as psychology, sociology, and anthropology. Major papers are usually composed of four sections: Title Page, Abstract, Main Body, and References.

APA format is applied to all textual citations, which are references to work or ideas that don’t originate with the essayist, as well as to the “References” page located at the end of the essay.


Step 1

Set the style. In your Word processing software, set your document preferences to 10- to 12-point type and a standard letter-sized page, which is 8.5 inches by 11 inches, with one-inch margins on all sides. Select Times New Roman or a similar font and double-space your text.

Step 2

Create a page header. Each page of your document should include a header with the title of your paper and the page number. The title appears on the left, while the pages numbers appear on the right.

Step 3

Use citations. Include in-text citations for any summary, idea, or direct quotation that is the work of another author. APA format citations must include the author’s last name, the year of publication for the specific source of the material, and the page number where the cited information appears.

State the name and date as part of the sentence and include the page number parenthetically at the end. For example: In 2003, Smith found that ... (p. 206).

Conversely, you may include all or part of the citation parenthetically at the end of the sentence. This would appear as (Smith, 2003, p. 206) within your text.

Step 4

Use correct placement. If you have included a direct quote, place parenthetical citations after quotation marks and before the ending punctuation. For example:

“This is an example of a direct quotation” (Smith, 2003, p. 206).

Step 5

List references. Create a reference list at the end of your paper that includes complete bibliographic information for each source that is referenced in your document. List in order the first and last name of each author, the complete name of the publication, the article title if it is part of a larger work, the volume and issue numbers, the name of the publisher, and city and date of publication.

Step 6

Title your reference list. Type “References” at the top of the page and center the word.

Step 7

Format your reference list with hanging indentations. This means that the first line of each reference is flush left, but each subsequent line within the reference is indented by half an inch.

Step 8

Italicize certain titles. Italicize the titles of longer works, such as books, journals and newspapers. Article titles are not italicized.

Step 9

Use specific capitalization rules. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word in the title and subtitle of any work that does not appear in a journal. In the case of journals, capitalize the first letter of all major words.

Step 10

Create a bibliography. Write the bibliographic entry for a single author book as follows:

Author, A.B. (Year of publication). Title of book: Subtitle of book. Location: Publisher.

Step 11

Write the bibliographic entry for a single author periodical article as follows:

Author, A.B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of periodical volume number (issue number), pages.

Step 12

Write the bibliographic entry for a non-periodical web document, web page or report as follows:

Author, A.B. (Date of publication). Title of document. Retrieved from http://Web address