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So your professor assigned a project that requires APA format and you don’t know what to do…


APA formatting is usually used in the disciplines of science, psychology, and education, along with more research-based fields—unlike the humanities that commonly utilize the MLA format style.

An APA research paper has a specific cover page, abstract, in-text citation style, and Reference page.

While this may sound intimidating, there are many resources to help you familiarize yourself with the citation style.  Let’s break it down for you.


Page numbers should be entered in the top right corner of each page of your paper.


The page header (also known as “running head”) should include a short form of your title, written in all capital letters on the top left corner of each page.


The title page should include:

The title of the paper

The author’s name

The institutional affiliation

Page header and number

Please note: The title page has a unique header.  It should begin with the words “Running head”   followed by a colon and the title. Here’s what it should look like:

  Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER


The second page of the paper should include an abstract: a 150-250 word paragraph providing a quick overview of your essay. The word “Abstract” should be centered in the first line of the page.


In-text citations should be written in author-date format. Whenever you are referring to an idea from a source, you must cite the author and year of publication within the text.  When you are using a direct quote from a source, you must also include the page number in parentheses.

The source should be introduced by a signal phrase, which should include the last name of the author followed by the date of publication in parentheses.  Here’s an example from the Purdue Owl:

According to Jones (1998), “Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time” (p. 199).


Located at the end of your essay, the reference list should include each of the sources cited throughout the paper. 


**Remember to consult your assignment description and/or your professor so that you can be sure about what is expected for your APA style paper.  In some cases, there may be aspects of APA format that your professor does not require.

Reference List

Hacker, D. & Sommers, N. (2011). A writer’s reference   

        (7th ed.). New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s.


Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., &  

       Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from


Take a look at the official Purdue OWL resource page for more detailed answers to any other APA questions you may have!


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