The American Psychological Association explains how to format papers, specifically those within the social sciences. According to the sixth edition of the APA handbook, this format provides guidelines for your reports regarding font, layout, citations and structure. APA format outlines that your report should have four major sections: title page, abstract, main body and bibliography.
Basic APA Guidelines
When typing your report, use a 12-point font. The APA recommends that you use Times New Roman, but you can use any legible font. Throughout the main body of your report, double-space your text and insert a 1-inch margin on all sides. At the top of each page throughout your report, you need a running head or page header. This features the title of your paper in all capital letters and your page number. In your running head, your title needs to be limited to 50 characters, including spaces and punctuation. While you need to stay within these constraints, it may not be wise to simply copy the first 50 characters of your title. Your running head needs to give someone information about your report, but it also needs to make sense. Try to condense it into a version that still includes key terms of your paper. Align your title so it is flush left in your header and your page numbers are flush right.
In APA format, your title page features your title, your name and your school or business’s name. Center all of this information on individual lines in the middle of this page. Your title should be written in title case. APA format advises that the title of your report is no longer than 12 words in length. Your name should be written as your first name, middle initial and last name. Do not include degrees or titles. On the top of your title page, you need to feature your running head, but the structure is slightly different from all other pages. On this page, write “Running head:” before your condensed title.
Your abstract page is a unique page that is a concise summary of your report. Title this page “Abstract” centered on the first line. Do not use any italics, underlining, quotation marks or bolding for this word. On the next line, write a summary of your report that discusses your research topic and question, methods, participants, results and conclusion. This should be a single paragraph that is 150 to 250 words long. Do not indent this paragraph. Following your summary, APA format recommends that you list keywords to help researchers find your report later. To do this, use the Tab key and indent the word “Keywords.” Write this in italics, followed by a colon. Then list keywords related to your report in regular font. Start the main body of your report on the following page.
Any time you use someone else’s ideas, writings or data, you must give them credit. Within your report, use in-text citations. Format each reference by writing the author’s last name, the year of publication, and if necessary, a page number within parenthesis. Place this at the end of the sentence before the punctuation. The final section of your report should be your references, which lists all these citations. Title this page “Bibliography,” using the same format as titling your abstract page. Each reference should be listed on its own line and include the author’s name, year, month and date. If a reference is more than a line long, use a hanging indent of five spaces on all subsequent lines.
- Purdue University: Purdue Online Writing Lab: APA Formatting and Style Guide
- American Psychological Association: Quick Answers-Formatting
- American Psychological Association: Quick Answers-References
- University of Pennsylvania: In-Text Citations: APA Style
- Science Buddies: Writing a Bibliography: APA Format
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition; American Psychological Association; 2010
- American Psychological Association Style Blog: Mysteries of the Running Head Explained
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