Scientists developed American Psychological Association (APA) style to standardize the appearance and organization of scientific journal articles. Over time, organizations adopted APA style for their own publications. Consequently, academic term papers, case studies and literature reviews often follow APA format. Using APA formatting for academic papers means you follow standards for details like font, page margins, paragraph indentations and references.
For page formatting, set one-inch margins at the top, bottom, left and right edges of each page. Use Times New Roman font for body text and a sanserif font, like Arial, for captions. Double space throughout your academic paper. Use a flush-left margin so that every line begins aligned at the left margin, with a jagged right edge. Indent the first line of a paragraph 1/2 inch. Do not indent the abstract, block quotations, headings, items in a list of references, table titles, notes and figure captions.
Number all the pages of your paper, including the title page and reference pages. Position page numbers in the upper right-hand corner of the page. Include the short title of your paper, a two- to three-word title, in upper and lowercase letters immediately to the left of the page number, on every page.
On the title page, type the short title and page number "1" in the upper right-hand corner of the first page, one inch below the edge of the page. Type the title in upper and lowercase letters, centered on the page. If the title is more than one line long, double space between the lines. Double space after the last line of the title and type your name centered below the title. Double space and type the name of your school or college centered below your name.
On the abstract page, type the short title and "2" for the page number flush with the right margin. Double space and center the word Abstract on the line. Double space and type a concise summary of your paper, 100 to 150 words long. Do not indent the first line of the abstract.
In the body, type the short title and "3" for the page number flush with the right margin. Double space and center the full title on the line. Double space and start the first line of the body of the paper, indented under the title.
Use headings throughout your paper to help readers recognize key information. Center first level headings in boldface type, using upper and lowercase letters. Type second-level headings flush-left in boldface type, using upper and lowercase letters. Type third-level headings indented in boldface type, using lowercase letters ending with a period.
On in-text references, take notes during your research to keep track of resources that directly influenced your work, even if you paraphrased those sources in your paper. Follow the author-date format: "In 2003, Chatham wrote of unexpected results" or "Chatham's 2003 study found unexpected results."
Start a new page after the conclusion of the body of the paper. Type the short title and page number flush-right on the first line. Double space and center the word "References" on the line. Double space and type the first reference, organized in alphabetical order by the authors' last names. Use hanging indentation so that the first line of each reference is flush left and subsequent lines are indented by 1/2 inch. Type each reference in this order: author name or names, publication date, title of the work cited and publisher.
Start a new page after the reference list if you used tables in your paper. Type the short table and page number flush right on the first line. Double space and center the word "Table 1" on the line. Double space and type the first table. Start a new page for every table.
Start a new page after the last table if you used figures in your paper. If you did not use tables, start a new page for Figures immediately after the last reference page. Type the short table and page number flush right on the first line. Double space and center the phrase "Figure 1" on the line. Double space and insert the first figure. Start a new page for every figure.
Items you will need
- Computer with word processing software
- Do not use hyphens to break words on to the next line. End the line early or type a few characters over the right margin to avoid hyphenation.
- Resist the temptation to set off your headings with large fonts or special colors, as these attributes do not comply with APA format.
- student with wireless internet image by Paul Hill from Fotolia.com