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APA Style Guide: Formatting Your Paper in APA

How do I format my Paper?

     Perhaps at this point, you've had some experience using MLA format. But now you have a professor asking you to use APA. format and you have no idea how to do it. Where do you start? And why do you need to use a format anyway?

     There are a few reasons why professors ask you to use a specific format. One reason is to provide consistency between papers while grading. Can you imagine what it would be like to grade 150 papers, and every single one is formatted differently? It would take them quite a bit of time to grade your paper! On top of that, they may be looking for specific things like citations, page numbers, certain paragraphs or names, etc. and using a consistent format helps them find what they are looking for quickly and easily, resulting in a faster grade for you!

     Another reason to learn a format is to prepare you for upper division classes in your major. It's worth noting that every discipline has its own formatting style preference. That's why learning a basic style like APA, MLA, or Chicago will give you a basic understanding of how style rules can work; and in turn, it will be much easier to learn a new style.

Here are the basic rules:

  • Your paper should be written using a standard (8.5x11 inch) sheet of paper with a common font such as Times New Roman. Some professors may ask for a different font, but Times New Roman is the most commonly accepted. 

  • Margins on the sides, top, and bottom of the page are 1 inch. The only exception is with the running head and page number, which is 1/2 inch from the top of the page.

  • Indentations should be 1/2 inch from the 1 inch font.

  • Pages should be numbered with the running head in the top right header of the paper.

  • The Running Head is a shortened version of your papers' title and should be 50 characters long. (see the APA style blog for a great explanation on how to create and use Running Head)

  • Depending on your professor's requirements, you may need:

    • A title page. This includes the running head, title, author, and the name of the school you are attending. It is numbered page 1. Instructors who require other information on the title page should supply students with examples of their preferred format.

    • An abstract. This is a  brief summary that encapsulates the highlights of your paper. It should be 1 double-spaced paragraph of 150 - 250 words.

Check with your professor about their specific requirements. For general examples and more information, see:


Now  that you've read this far and have an idea of what you need to do, there is a big shortcut you can use. Word has a few templates for a variety of paper formats, including APA, MLA, and others. To locate these templates, under file select 'new' and type APA in the search box. Then select the template you wish to use. Download the word document to your computer, open the template, and begin typing. 

APA Style Resources

APA Style Resources

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