APA Paper: A Complete Guide

Understanding APA Format

The American Psychological Association (APA) format is widely used in academic writing, especially in the social sciences. It provides guidelines for formatting papers, citing sources, and creating a reference list. Understanding how to format an APA paper, including the title page, abstract, body, and references, is essential for students and professionals alike.

Title Page

The title page of an APA paper includes the title of the paper, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. It may also include the author’s note, course name, instructor’s name, and due date, depending on the specific requirements.


The abstract is a summary of the paper, typically around 150-250 words. It should include the purpose of the study, the research questions, the methods, the results, and the conclusions. The abstract is placed on a separate page after the title page.


The body of the paper contains the main content, including the introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. It should be organized using clear headings and subheadings to help the reader navigate the paper.


The references section lists all the sources cited in the paper. It should be organized alphabetically by the last name of the first author of each work. Each source cited in the paper must have a corresponding entry in the references list, and vice versa.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations are used to give credit to the source of information in your paper. They are used throughout the paper whenever you paraphrase, summarize, or quote directly from a source. In APA style, in-text citations typically include the author’s last name and the year of publication. For direct quotations, the page number should also be included.

For example, a paraphrased in-text citation would look like this: (Smith, 2019).

A direct quotation in-text citation would look like this: (Smith, 2019, p. 25).

APA Sample Paper

To better understand the intricacies of formatting an APA paper, it can be helpful to refer to a sample paper. The Purdue OWL provides a comprehensive APA sample paper that demonstrates the proper formatting and style according to the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual. The sample paper includes both student and professional styles, offering insights into the specific formatting conventions for each.

Citing Sources in APA Format

Citing sources in APA format is a fundamental aspect of academic writing. Whether you are quoting directly, paraphrasing, or summarizing, it is essential to provide proper credit to the source. In APA style, in-text citations are used to acknowledge the work of others within the body of the paper. Each in-text citation must correspond to an entry in the references list at the end of the paper.

The basic format for an APA in-text citation includes the author’s last name and the year of publication. For direct quotations, the page number is also included. If a source has no page numbers, use a paragraph number or other locator information.

For example, an in-text citation for a paraphrased statement would look like this: (Johnson, 2018).

A direct quotation in-text citation would look like this: (Johnson, 2018, p. 42).


Mastering the art of formatting an APA paper and citing sources in APA format is a valuable skill for students and professionals. By following the guidelines provided by the American Psychological Association, writers can ensure that their work is clear, concise, and properly attributed to the sources. Whether you are writing a research paper, an essay, or a scholarly article, understanding and implementing the APA format will enhance the credibility and professionalism of your work.