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How to Write a Paper Using APA Format for Dummies

by Barbie Carpenter , Demand Media

    APA (American Psychological Association) Style provides writers with a set of guidelines to create a consistently formatted document. These guidelines tell writers how to format their title page, cite references, display statistics in figures and tables and create heading levels. Following even the basics of APA Style helps writers develop a consistent document, which aids in reader understanding. The social sciences use APA Style, so students studying in these disciplines should familiarize themselves with basic APA standards.

    Step 1

    Create your title page. Center your title in uppercase and lowercase letters on the page. Add your name on the next line, followed by your university on the next line.

    Step 2

    Add a running header to your document. Left justify the words "Running Head" followed by a colon and your paper's title in capital letters. Then, right-justify the page number. Apply this running header on all pages of your document.

    Step 3

    Include an abstract. The abstract provides an overview of your paper. Summarize your research in about 150 to 200 words, according to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab.

    Step 4

    Develop heading levels. APA Style allows for five levels of headings. Centered, bold, title-case headings represent first-level headings. Second-level headings are also title case, but you left-justify them. Indent and lowercase third-level headings, ending them in a period. Fourth-level headings follow the same format as third-level headings, but you should italicize them. Fifth-level headings retain the italicization, but do not include bold text.

    Step 5

    Include parenthetical citations. Include the author and year of publication in parenthesis after paraphrased text---for example (Coleman, 1997). If you include the author's name in the sentence, add the year of publication in parenthesis after the name---for example, "As Coleman (1997) argued... ." Follow the parenthetical citation with end punctuation for a sentence, usually a period.

    Step 6

    Create a list of references. The last pages of your document should include a detailed list of the references you used to write your paper. Indent the second and subsequent lines of each entry 1/2 inch, but left-justify the first line of each entry. Alphabetize your list of references, listing the authors' last names followed by their first names.

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    Tip

    • If you include a direct quote in your paper, add the page number of that quote in your parenthetical citation---for example, (Johnson, 2001, p. 53).

    Warning

    • Avoid using first-person point of view in APA-formatted papers, such as "I argue that... ."

    About the Author

    Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.

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