Setting Up the APA Paper Format

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Regardless of the type of paper you are writing under the APA paper format, it must follow certain guidelines. From margins and fonts to specific sections and a Reference List, these format guidelines dictate how your paper looks.

Paper size and type for the APA paper format

Use standard-size computer paper measuring 8.5” x 11”. Avoid using thicker stock-style paper.

Margins and spacing for the APA paper format

Margins and spacing both play important roles in the APA paper format. They present your information in a clear format that aids readers in reviewing your content. Use the following guidelines for margins and spacing.

  • Use 1” margins on the top, bottom and both sides.
  • Use double line spacing between all lines in the body of your paper.
  • Use double spaces between sentences.
  • Use a ½ inch indentation for each new paragraph. APA recommends using the “Tab” key instead of manually hitting the space bar five times.

Font size and type for the APA paper format

Both the type and size of the font you use in the APA paper format matter. Use the following guidelines:

  • Use 12-pt font unless you are instructed to use 10-pt or 11-pt font.
  • Choose an easy-to-read font. APA paper format recommends using Times Roman Numeral.

The four main sections of the APA paper format

All research papers written in the APA paper format have four main sections: title page, abstract, main body and reference section. Depending on the type of research paper you are writing, there may be additional sections.

  1. Title page
  2. The title page of an APA paper consists of a running head (also known as a header), your paper title, your byline as the author, the institutional affiliation and an author’s note (if required).

    Running head—This consists of a shortened version of your paper title and a page number. Your running head can be a maximum of 50 characters according the APA paper format. Spaces and punctuation are included in the 50-character limit. The page number is placed flush with the right margin, and the rest of the running head is placed flush left. Put the shortened version of your title in all capital letters.


    Running head: TITLE OF YOUR PAPER


    The running head continues on every page of your APA format paper. On every page after the title page, the running head looks like the below example:



    Remember that only the page number is used; the word “page” is not used.

    Paper title—The full title is centered across the page and centered on the upper half of the page. Do not use abbreviations in paper titles. The APA paper format also suggests keeping your title to 12 words maximum while using one or two lines. Use normal title case. Double space after the title.


    Your Paper Title:
    Using Two Lines

    Author byline—Below the title is your name or the your name along with other authors of the paper if it is a group paper. Use your first name, middle initial and last name. The APA paper format requires the omission of any titles, such as Dr. or Ph.D. Double space after the author byline.


    Your Name

    Institutional affiliation—This is the location where you conducted research. If you are writing an APA format paper for a class in high school or college, use the name of your school.


    Writing University

    Some instructors may request that you include their name, the date or the class name. For each of these requirements that are not included in the APA format paper guidelines, double space after the institutional affiliation. Place each piece of information that is required on a separate line, and double space between each line.

    Author’s note—The author’s note is generally only required if the paper is meant for publication. If you are unsure whether this is a requirement for a school assignment, consult your instructor, and follow the APA format paper guidelines for the author’s note.


    An abstract is essentially a summary of your paper. The abstract is placed on the next page after your title page. APA paper format dictates than an abstract stay between 150-200 words in length. In some cases, your instructor may set different requirements for the abstract with respect to length and/or content. Therefore, make sure you understand the assignment before writing your abstract. Otherwise, follow the rules and guidelines for creating an abstract in APA paper format.

    Main Body

    The main body of an APA format paper consists of an introduction and body paragraphs and some type of conclusion. The main body of your paper typically starts on the third page of your paper. In addition, other sections may be required for certain paper types. In a lab report or experimental report for example, you would include a methods section, a results section and a discussion section after your introduction. With these additional sections, the discussion section takes the place of a conclusion. Other constructions and sections may also be required. Always refer to paper guidelines and instructions to determine which sections to include in the main body of your APA format paper.

    Reference Section

    The reference section or list for an APA format paper lists all the resources you consulted in the course of writing your paper. It does not only include the sources you cited in your paper, but the sources you do cite must be listed in this section. The reference list is set up on its own page with the word “References” centered at the top. It also follows guidelines and rules for listing your sources.

    While this is the basic format for the APA paper format, other guidelines and rules apply depending on the type of information you provide and the type of paper you are required to write. There are special instructions for using headings, avoiding bias and incorporating charts, graphs, appendices and more—to name a few examples, so make sure you follow the basic formatting, any specialized formatting and the instructions given to you with an assignment that requests the APA paper format.