According to the sixth edition, second printing of the "Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association," the specifics of APA format create consistency among papers and publications in the social sciences and nursing fields. Aspects of formatting, such as the alignment of the text, also clarifies your meaning and keeps reader distraction to a minimum.
Title and Headers
APA formatted papers have one inch margins on every side of each page. They also include a title page with the paper's title, your name and the associated school or institution, each on a separate line. These portions should be centered horizontally, and the three lines ideally end just above the middle of the page. Every page includes a running head. Within the header, left-justify the title of the paper for that running head and right-justify a page number. Note that the title page includes the phrase "Running head:" (without the quotation marks) before the title.
Headings and Long Quotes
The alignment of the headings within the paper differs depending on the level of the heading. Titles of various pages, such as the essay title on the first page, "Abstract" and "References" all appear centered on the page, as do primary headings, such as "Methods" for a methods section. Left-justify the next level down, such as "Assessments" in the methods section. Subsequent level headings appear indented one-half inch from the left margin. Quoted material running 40 words or more needs to be placed in a block, with the entire quote indented one-half inch from the left margin.
References and Overall
References page entries follow a hanging indent structure, meaning the first line for each entry hugs the left margin but subsequent lines are indented one-half inch. Select the left-justification option for the general portions of the text instead of the full-justification option some word processors have. This means the right margin will vary slightly, but the APA considers this structure most appropriate to account for variations that may occur when different publishers upload or translate electronic versions of your document.
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- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition, 2nd printing); American Psychological Association
- Saginaw Valley State University: APA Format: Title Page
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: General Format
- APA Style: How Do I Format My Paper so that the Phrase Running Head Appears on Only the First Page?
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Reference List: Basic Rules
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