• The Complete Guide to APA Format in 2020
  • Headings and Subheadings
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APA Format is the official writing style of the American Psychological Association, and is primarily used in subjects such as psychology, education, and the social sciences.

It specifies how to format academic papers and citations for publication in journals, periodicals, and bulletins.

This guide will show you how to prepare and format a document to be fully compliant with APA Format in 2020.

Before You Start Writing...

There are several steps you must take to prepare a new document for APA style before you start writing your paper:

  • Make sure the paper size is 8.5" x 11" (known as 'Letter' in most word processors).
  • Set the margin size to 1" on all sides (2.54cm).
  • Change the line spacing to double-spaced .
  • Add page numbers to the top-right corner of every page.
  • Add a running head to the top-left corner of every page.

We have a pre-made APA style template document you can download to be sure you are ready to start writing. You can download it below:

When your document is ready, proceed to writing the title page .

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APA 7th edition manual

Apa 7 citation examples, missing elements - apa 7, apa 7 paper formatting basics, apa 7 document templates, more apa 7th ed. resources.

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This guide will introduce you to APA 7 citations, both for the References page of your paper and in-text citations. It is offered in multiple file formats below. 

  • Citation Examples - APA 7 - Word Document
  • Citation Examples - APA 7 - PDF

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This guide will tell you exactly what to do if your resource is missing a citation element. Can't find the author, publication date, page numbers, or something else? Use this guide to find out what to do! This guide is offered in multiple formats below. ​​​​​​​

  • Missing Elements - APA 7 - Word Document
  • Missing Elements - APA 7 - PDF
  • Typed, double-spaced paragraphs.
  • 1" margins on all sides.
  • Align text to the left.
  • Choose one of these fonts: 11-point Calibri, 11-points Arial, 10-point Lucida Sans Unicode, 12-point Times New Roman, 11-point Georgia, 10-point Computer Modern.
  • Include a page header (also known as the "running head") at the top of every page with the page number.
  • APA papers are broken up into sections. Check with your instructor for their expectations.
  • In general, headings and title are centered.

APA 7th edition recognizes two kinds of paper formats - student papers (undergraduate students) and professional research papers (graduate students and professionals). At Clackamas CC, you will use the student paper formatting conventions.

You don't have to format a paper from scratch! Download this APA-formatted document template as a Word document or Google document. Save it, erase the existing text, and type your text right into the template. Learn how to format a paper in APA format by reading the contents of the template. The References page has been formatted with hanging indents.

  • Download & edit: APA Word document template Microsoft Word document template to save a copy of and type into. To edit it, save a copy to your desktop or Clackamas Office 365 account. Includes tips on how to format a paper in APA. Last updated Feb. 2020.
  • Download & edit: Pages document template If you need this template in Pages, email [email protected]
  • View Only: Sample APA student paper (7th ed.) This sample student paper includes descriptions of indentations, margins, headers, and other formatting conventions (APA, 2020).
  • APA Style (APA.org) APA's site answers all the basic questions about APA 7th edition and gives sample "student" and "professional" papers. This will help you with document format, in-text citations, the References list, and various stylistics.
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Writing Research Papers

  • Formatting Research Papers

Research papers written in APA style should follow the formatting rules specified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association .  Most research papers that are written for psychology courses at UCSD, including the B.S. Degree Research Paper and the Honors Thesis, have to follow APA format.  Here we discuss the formatting of research papers according to APA style.

How to Format a Research Paper in APA Style

For the most accurate and comprehensive information on formatting papers in APA style, we recommend referring directly to the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Reputable online sources (e.g., the official APA Style website and the Purdue University Online Writing Lab’s guide to APA style) are also recommended. 

According to the Publication Manual, the major sections and components of APA style research papers should adhere to the following guidelines.  Note that how closely these guidelines are followed may vary depending on the course and instructor.  

General Formatting Rules

  • Papers should have at least 1-in. margins on all sides. 1
  • All text should be double spaced . 1
  • Times New Roman, 12 point font is preferred. 1
  • All lines of text should be flush-left and should not be justified, except where noted in the Manual. 1
  • The first line of every paragraph should be indented. Exceptions to the indenting rule are the Abstract, quotations, titles and headings, as well as Tables and Figures. 1
  • Pages should be numbered at the top right, with the title page numbered page 1, the Abstract numbered page 2, and the text starting on page 3. 1
  • An abbreviated title called the Running Head should be placed at the top of each page, flush-left in uppercase letters. 1
  • Two spaces should be used after punctuation marks at the end of each sentence (in other words, there should be two spaces after the period that ends each sentence). 2

Formatting the Title Page

  • The title should be typed in the upper half of the title page, centered, and with the first letters of all but minor words capitalized. 3
  • The name(s) of the author(s) should be typed below the title and followed with the institutional affiliation(s) of the author(s). 3
  • An Author Note should appear below the aforementioned items. The Author Note can have up to four paragraphs.  These respectively describe the author(s)’ departmental and institutional affiliation, any changes in affiliation, acknowledgments, and contact information. 3

Formatting the Abstract

  • The Abstract typically should not exceed 250 words. 4
  • The Abstract should be placed on a separate page, with the label Abstract appearing at the top center of that page and followed by the text of the Abstract. 4
  • The Abstract should not be indented. 4

Formatting the Main Body of Text

  • The main body of text should begin on a separate page after the Abstract. 5
  • It should begin with the Introduction section. 5
  • The Introduction section should be titled with the title of the research paper and not the word “Introduction.” The title should appear at the top of the page, centered, and should not be bolded. 5
  • The remainder of the text should be flush-left, with each new paragraph indented except where noted above (see General Formatting Rules ). 5
  • Each of the subsequent sections of the paper should be prefaced with a heading. APA guidelines specify different heading formats (for more information on Levels of Headings , see below). 5

Formatting References

  • The references section should begin on a separate page after the main body of text. 6
  • It should begin with the word “References” placed at the top of the page and centered. 6
  • All references should be listed in alphabetical order by the last name of the first author of each reference. 6
  • All references should be double-spaced and should use a hanging indent format wherein the first line of each reference is flush-left and all subsequent lines of that reference are indented (with that pattern repeating for each reference). 6
  • All references should use the appropriate APA reference format (for more information, please see the Citing References section of this website). 6

Levels of Headings in APA Style

As of the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (released in 2010), the five possible levels of heading in APA-formatted manuscripts are: 7

  • Level 1: centered, bold, on a separate line, and the first letters of all but minor words capitalized.
  • Level 2: flush-left, bold, on a separate line, and the first letters of all but minor words capitalized.
  • Level 3: indented, bold, as a paragraph heading (the first part of a paragraph; regular text follows on the same line), and in lowercase letters ending with a period.
  • Level 4: indented, bold, italicized, as a paragraph heading (the first part of a paragraph; regular text follows on the same line), and in lowercase letters ending with a period.
  • Level 5: indented, not bold, italicized, as a paragraph heading (the first part of a paragraph; regular text follows on the same line), and in lowercase letters ending with a period.

Depending on the structure of your research paper, some or all of the five levels of headings may be used.  The headings have a “hierarchical nested structure” where Level 1 is the highest and Level 5 is the lowest.  For example, you may have a research paper which uses all five levels of heading as follows:

Downloadable Resources

  • How to Write APA Style Research Papers (a comprehensive guide) [ PDF ]
  • Tips for Writing APA Style Research Papers (a brief summary) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – empirical research) [ PDF ]
  • Example APA Style Research Paper (for B.S. Degree – literature review) [ PDF ]

Further Resources

How-To Videos     

  • Writing Research Paper Videos

External Resources

  • APA Style Guide from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
  • APA Tutorial on the Basics of APA Style
  • EasyBib Guide to Writing and Citing in APA Format
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper
  • Sample APA Formatted Paper with Comments
  • Tips for Writing a Paper in APA Style

1 VandenBos, G. R. (Ed). (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) (pp. 228-229).  Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

2 vandenbos, g. r. (ed). (2010). (pp. 87-88). , 3 vandenbos, g. r. (ed). (2010). (pp. 23-25). , 4 vandenbos, g. r. (ed). (2010). (pp. 25-27)., 5 vandenbos, g. r. (ed). (2010). (pp. 41-49). , 6 vandenbos, g. r. (ed). (2010). (pp. 37-38, 49-51). , 7 vandenbos, g. r. (ed). (2010). (p. 62). .

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How to Write an Introduction for a Psychology Paper

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

psychology essay apa format

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity, Study.com, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

psychology essay apa format

  • Writing Tips

If you are writing a psychology paper, it is essential to kick things off with a strong introduction. The introduction to a psychology research paper helps your readers understand why the topic is important and what they need to know before they delve deeper.

Your goal in this section is to introduce the topic to the reader, provide an overview of previous research on the topic, and identify your own hypothesis .

At a Glance

Writing a great introduction can be a great foundation for the rest of your psychology paper. To create a strong intro:

  • Research your topic
  • Outline your paper
  • Introduce your topic
  • Summarize the previous research
  • Present your hypothesis or main argument

Before You Write an Introduction

There are some important steps you need to take before you even begin writing your introduction. To know what to write, you need to collect important background information and create a detailed plan.

Research Your Topic

Search a journal database, PsychInfo or ERIC, to find articles on your subject. Once you have located an article, look at the reference section to locate other studies cited in the article. As you take notes from these articles, be sure to write down where you found the information.

A simple note detailing the author's name, journal, and date of publication can help you keep track of sources and avoid plagiarism.

Create a Detailed Outline

This is often one of the most boring and onerous steps, so students tend to skip outlining and go straight to writing. Creating an outline might seem tedious, but it can be an enormous time-saver down the road and will make the writing process much easier.

Start by looking over the notes you made during the research process and consider how you want to present all of your ideas and research.

Introduce the Topic

Once you are ready to write your introduction, your first task is to provide a brief description of the research question. What is the experiment or study attempting to demonstrate? What phenomena are you studying? Provide a brief history of your topic and explain how it relates to your current research.

As you are introducing your topic, consider what makes it important. Why should it matter to your reader? The goal of your introduction is not only to let your reader know what your paper is about, but also to justify why it is important for them to learn more.

If your paper tackles a controversial subject and is focused on resolving the issue, it is important to summarize both sides of the controversy in a fair and impartial way. Consider how your paper fits in with the relevant research on the topic.

The introduction of a research paper is designed to grab interest. It should present a compelling look at the research that already exists and explain to readers what questions your own paper will address.

Summarize Previous Research

The second task of your introduction is to provide a well-rounded summary of previous research that is relevant to your topic. So, before you begin to write this summary, it is important to research your topic thoroughly.

Finding appropriate sources amid thousands of journal articles can be a daunting task, but there are several steps you can take to simplify your research. If you have completed the initial steps of researching and keeping detailed notes, writing your introduction will be much easier.

It is essential to give the reader a good overview of the historical context of the issue you are writing about, but do not feel like you must provide an exhaustive review of the subject. Focus on hitting the main points, and try to include the most relevant studies.

You might describe previous research findings and then explain how the current study differs or expands upon earlier research.

Provide Your Hypothesis

Once you have summarized the previous research, explain areas where the research is lacking or potentially flawed. What is missing from previous studies on your topic? What research questions have yet to be answered? Your hypothesis should lead to these questions.

At the end of your introduction, offer your hypothesis and describe what you expected to find in your experiment or study.

The introduction should be relatively brief. You want to give your readers an overview of a topic, explain why you are addressing it, and provide your arguments.

Tips for Writing Your Psychology Paper Intro

  • Use 3x5 inch note cards to write down notes and sources.
  • Look in professional psychology journals for examples of introductions.
  • Remember to cite your sources.
  • Maintain a working bibliography with all of the sources you might use in your final paper. This will make it much easier to prepare your reference section later on.
  • Use a copy of the APA style manual to ensure that your introduction and references are in proper APA format .

What This Means For You

Before you delve into the main body of your paper, you need to give your readers some background and present your main argument in the introduction of you paper. You can do this by first explaining what your topic is about, summarizing past research, and then providing your thesis.

Armağan A. How to write an introduction section of a scientific article ?  Turk J Urol . 2013;39(Suppl 1):8-9. doi:10.5152/tud.2013.046

Fried T, Foltz C, Lendner M, Vaccaro AR. How to write an effective introduction .  Clin Spine Surg . 2019;32(3):111-112. doi:10.1097/BSD.0000000000000714

Jawaid SA, Jawaid M. How to write introduction and discussion .  Saudi J Anaesth . 2019;13(Suppl 1):S18-S19. doi:10.4103/sja.SJA_584_18

American Psychological Association. Information Recommended for Inclusion in Manuscripts That Report New Data Collections Regardless of Research Design . Published 2020.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

APA Title Page (Cover Page) Format, Example, & Templates

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

In APA Style (7th edition), the cover page, or title page, should include:
  • A running head (professional papers only) and page number
  • The title of the paper
  • The name of the author(s)
  • The institutional affiliation
  • An author note; optional (professional papers only)
  • A student paper should also include course information
Note : APA 7 provides slightly different directions for formatting the title pages of professional papers (e.g., those intended for scholarly publication) and student papers (e.g., those turned in for credit in a high school or college course).

Professional paper APA title page

An example of an APA format reference page

Student paper APA title page

An example of an APA format reference page

Formatting an APA title page

Note : All text on the title page should be double-spaced and typed in either 12-point, Times New Roman font. In the 7th edition, APA increaded the flexibility regarding font options: which now include Calibri 11, Arial 11, Lucida Sans Unicode 10, Times New Roman 12, or Georgia 11. All words should be centered, and capitalize the first letter of important words.

Running Head

In the 7th edition of the APA style manual, running heads are only required for professional papers that are being submitted for publication (student papers do not require a running head, but still need a page number).

Your title page should contain a running head that is flush left at the top of the page and a page number that is flush right at the top of the page.

Place the running head in the page’s header:

  • The running head is the abbreviated title of the paper (IN UPPERCASE LETTERS) aligned left on the page header of all pages, including the title page. APA (7th edition) guidelines require that running heads be a maximum of 50 characters (spaces count as characters).
  • The “Running head:” label used in the APA sixth edition is no longer used.
  • Place the page number in this same header, but align right, beginning with page number 1 on the title page.
  • This header should be 1 inch from the top. Some instructors allow for 1/2 inch, too, but the default is 1 inch.

Paper Title

Position the title of the paper in the upper half of the page. The title should be centered and written in boldface, and important words should be capitalized.

The APA recommends that your title should be a maximum of 12 words and should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose.

Author Name(s)

Institutional affiliation.

Position the school or university’s name below the author(s) name, centered.

A student paper should also include the course number and name, instructor name, and assignment due date.

Further Information

  • APA Student Title Page Guide
  • APA Referencing
  • How to Write a Lab Report
  • Essay Writing Guide for Psychology Students
  • APA Style Citations & References
  • Example of an APA Formatted Paper

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  1. APA Sample Paper: Experimental Psychology

    Writing the Experimental Report: Methods, Results, and Discussion. Tables, Appendices, Footnotes and Endnotes. References and Sources for More Information. APA Sample Paper: Experimental Psychology. Style Guide Overview MLA Guide APA Guide Chicago Guide OWL Exercises. Purdue OWL. Subject-Specific Writing.

  2. APA format for academic papers and essays

    Throughout your paper, you need to apply the following APA format guidelines: Set page margins to 1 inch on all sides. Double-space all text, including headings. Indent the first line of every paragraph 0.5 inches. Use an accessible font (e.g., Times New Roman 12pt., Arial 11pt., or Georgia 11pt.).

  3. A step-by-step guide for creating and formatting APA Style student papers

    This article walks through the formatting steps needed to create an APA Style student paper, starting with a basic setup that applies to the entire paper (margins, font, line spacing, paragraph alignment and indentation, and page headers). It then covers formatting for the major sections of a student paper: the title page, the text, tables and ...

  4. APA Style

    APA Style is described in the seventh edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which is a reference book that contains comprehensive guidelines on how to set up a scholarly paper; format a title page, tables, figures, and other paper elements; create references and in-text citations; and write without bias ...

  5. Sample papers

    These sample papers demonstrate APA Style formatting standards for different student paper types. Students may write the same types of papers as professional authors (e.g., quantitative studies, literature reviews) or other types of papers for course assignments (e.g., reaction or response papers, discussion posts), dissertations, and theses ...

  6. Paper format

    To format a paper in APA Style, writers can typically use the default settings and automatic formatting tools of their word-processing program or make only minor adjustments. The guidelines for paper format apply to both student assignments and manuscripts being submitted for publication to a journal. If you are using APA Style to create ...

  7. PDF Writing for Psychology

    by APA style will help you to write clear, informative, interesting papers. Creativity in psychology tends to come from the ideas behind the writing, not the writing itself. This booklet is designed to acquaint you with the basic principles of psychological writing and to help you avoid pitfalls that beginning writers in the field often encounter.

  8. The Complete Guide to APA Format in 2020

    There are several steps you must take to prepare a new document for APA style before you start writing your paper: Make sure the paper size is 8.5" x 11" (known as 'Letter' in most word processors). Set the margin size to 1" on all sides (2.54cm). Change the line spacing to double-spaced. Add page numbers to the top-right corner of every page.

  9. Research Guides: Psychology: APA (7th ed.) resources

    Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.) by APA. Call Number: BF76.7 .P83 2020. Publication Date: 2020. Parts of the APA Manual are reproduced for free on APA's Style Blog. Scroll down to the "Popular Style Guidelines" section for basic APA 7th edition guidance and sample "student" and "professional" papers.

  10. American Psychological Association Style and Writing

    How to Write a Bibliography in APA Format. Topics for Psychology Case Studies. APA Format Guidelines, Tips, and Examples. History and Biographies Study Guides and Tips Careers. APA format is the social science and psychology writing style. Learn the basics of writing in APA style, how to write an abstract, cite sources, and more.

  11. PDF Writing an Empirical Paper in APA Style

    Margins. APA specifies 1-inch margins all around (top, bottom, left, right). Pagination. Use your word processor's header function to put page numbers in the upper-right-hand corner one inch from the right-hand edge of the page. Start with the title page and go all the way through.

  12. PDF APA 7th ed. (Student version) Sample Paper (Final)

    APA Citation Style: A Sample . m. Student's Name . Department's name, University of Hawai'i - West O'ahu . PSY 250: Social Psychology . Instructor's name . October 23, 2020 . This paper follows the Student version . of the 7th edition of the APA manual. Note that there is no Running head in the Student version of the 7th edition of the ...

  13. PDF Sample Paper: One-Experiment Paper

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  14. APA Essay Format: How to Write a Successful APA Essay

    If the essay is in a chapter of a book, edited collection, or anthology, APA format states that you should cite the last name, first name, title of essay, title of collection, publisher, year, and page range. For example: Smith, John, "The Light House," A Book of Poems, editing by Peter Roberts, Allworth Press, 2005, pp. 20-25.

  15. Formatting Research Papers

    Formatting Research Papers. Research papers written in APA style should follow the formatting rules specified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.. Most research papers that are written for psychology courses at UCSD, including the B.S. Degree Research Paper and the Honors Thesis, have to follow APA format.

  16. How to Write an Introduction for a Psychology Paper

    At a Glance. Writing a great introduction can be a great foundation for the rest of your psychology paper. To create a strong intro: Research your topic. Outline your paper. Introduce your topic. Summarize the previous research. Present your hypothesis or main argument.

  17. Reporting Research Results in APA Style

    The APA manual provides rigorous guidelines for what to report in quantitative research papers in the fields of psychology, education, and other social sciences. ... How to format tables and figures in APA Style APA tables and figures are preceded by a number and title, and followed by explanatory notes (if necessary). 484.

  18. PDF Student Paper Setup Guide, APA Style 7th Edition

    7th Edition. Student Paper Setup Guide. This guide will help you set up an APA Style student paper. The basic setup directions apply to the entire paper. Annotated diagrams illustrate how to set up the major sections of a student paper: the title page or cover page, the text, tables and figures, and the reference list. Basic Setup.

  19. APA Formatting and Style Guide (7th Edition)

    Basic guidelines for formatting the reference list at the end of a standard APA research paper Author/Authors Rules for handling works by a single author or multiple authors that apply to all APA-style references in your reference list, regardless of the type of work (book, article, electronic resource, etc.)

  20. How to Write an Abstract in APA Format with Examples

    An APA abstract is a brief, comprehensive summary of the contents of an article, research paper, dissertation, or report. It is written in accordance with the guidelines of the American Psychological Association (APA), which is a widely used format in social and behavioral sciences.

  21. APA Title Page (Cover Page) Format, Example, & Templates

    Formatting Rules. In APA Style (7th edition), the cover page, or title page, should include: A running head (professional papers only) and page number. The title of the paper. The name of the author (s) The institutional affiliation. An author note; optional (professional papers only) A student paper should also include course information.

  22. PDF Sample Annotated Student Paper in APA Style

    lettered list, 6.50. Sample Student Paper (continued) repeated narrative citation with year omitted, 8.16. secondary source citation, 8.6. narrative citation with the year in the narrative, 8.11. short quotation, 8.25, 8.26. al." citations for works with three or more authors, 8.17. "for more" citation, 8.11. Level 1 heading, 2.27,

  23. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

    Mission. The Purdue On-Campus Writing Lab and Purdue Online Writing Lab assist clients in their development as writers—no matter what their skill level—with on-campus consultations, online participation, and community engagement. The Purdue Writing Lab serves the Purdue, West Lafayette, campus and coordinates with local literacy initiatives.