Academic Essays: Writing An APA Style Paper

Writing an academic essay is not the same as writing a creative essay and it requires proper formatting. Different colleges and departments expect different formats and styles of referencing, without which your paper holds no value. One of the most common styles is the APA style. The APA style derives its name from the American Psychological Association. If you are studying Social Sciences, it is most likely that you will be asked to use this style of referencing. 

General Format For An APA Paper


Your essay should:

  • be typed
  • be double-spaced
  • standard sized, 8.5″ x 11″
  • use 1″ margins on all sides
  • use 10-12 pt. Times New Roman font or a similar font.
  • include a page header at the top of every page.

Major Sections Of Your APA Paper

Your essay should include four major sections:

  • The Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Main Body
  • References.

Title Page

The title page should contain the title of the paper, the author’s name, and the institutional affiliation. Include the page header (described above) flush left with the page number flush right at the top of the page.

Type your title in upper and lowercase letters centered in the upper half of the page. APA recommends that your title be no more than 12 words in length and that it should not contain abbreviations or words that serve no purpose. Your title may take up one or two lines. All text on the title page, and throughout your paper, should be double-spaced.

Beneath the title, type the author’s name: first name, middle initial(s), and last name. Do not use titles (Dr.) or degrees (Ph.D.).

Beneath the author’s name, type the institutional affiliation, which should indicate the location where the author(s) conducted the research.


Begin a new page. Your abstract page should already include the page header. On the first line of the abstract page, center the word “Abstract” (no bold, formatting, italics, underlining, or quotation marks).

Beginning with the next line, write a concise summary of the key points of your research. (Do not indent.) Your abstract should contain at least your research topic, research questions, participants, methods, results, data analysis, and conclusions. You may also include possible implications of your research and future work you see connected with your findings. Your abstract should be a single paragraph double-spaced. Your abstract should be between 150 and 250 words.

You may also want to list keywords from your paper in your abstract. To do this, center the text and type Keywords: (italicized) and then list your keywords. Listing your keywords will help researchers find your work in databases.

The Body – Citation

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author’s last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, E.g., (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference.


Your reference list should appear at the end of your paper. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text.

Your references should begin on a new page separate from the text of the essay; label this page “References” centered at the top of the page (do NOT bold, underline, or use quotation marks for the title). All text should be double-spaced just like the rest of your essay.

One Response to “Academic Essays: Writing An APA Style Paper”

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