How to Write an Essay in APA Format for College


The American Psychological Association (APA) provides APA format as a way to organize research papers. Required in many academic departments, particularly in the social and behavioral sciences, APA style is best known as a way to document and organize sources used in research papers. The APA approach covers all aspects of writing, though. It guides the structural and stylistic components of all papers, including the types of essays required throughout your college career.

  • Type your essay on 8.5" X 11", standard-size paper. Use 1" margins on all sides. APA style recommends using 10-to-12-point font, particularly Times New Roman or something similar. Double-space all content in your paper.

  • Use a header at the top of every page of your paper. Insert the page numbers on the far right side of your header. Include the title of your paper, enclosed in quotation marks in all capital letters, on the far left side of your header.

  • Construct a title page for your paper. Include the paper's title, your name and the name of your school, as illustrated below. Be sure to center the words on your title page beginning in the upper half of the page. APA recommends a title of no more than 12 words that does not contain unnecessary words or abbreviations. Double space all text on the title page.

    Learning How to Fly in Hollywood

    Tom Petty

    University of Southern California

  • Include an abstract of your paper on a new page. Center the word "Abstract" without the use of any special formatting, such as bold type, italics or quotation marks. Double space the text of your 150-to-250-word, one-paragraph abstract.

  • Insert in-text citations, where appropriate, throughout your paper as close as possible to information you are borrowing from one of your sources. APA requires use of the author-date format for citing sources, as exampled below.

    Jones (1999) researched over 3,000 species of bugs over the course of five

    years. He discovered that more than half were clinically depressed (Jones,

    1999). Apparently, "access to streams for nourishment" impacted their mood

    (Jones, 1999, p. 42).

  • Include reference list (bibliography) citations that correspond to your in-text citations. Start your reference list at the end of your paper on a separate page. Label the page "References" without the use of special formatting, including quotation marks. Indent the second and subsequent lines of each reference list entry five spaces to create a hanging indent. Double space the reference list, just as you do the rest of your paper. Follow the example below to cite a book in APA style. Be sure to italicize the title of the book.

    Rodgers, M. (2001). Walking in Los Angeles. New York: Random House

Tips & Warnings

  • For guidance on scenarios specific to your paper, including complete details on how to cite sources, consult the latest edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.


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