APA: Perfect Guide to 20/20 Formatting - Custom Scholars

APA: Perfect Guide to 20/20 Formatting

APA styles

What is APA?

The American Psychological Association (APA) came together in 1929 and developed a format for writing academic papers. They published the first of rules as a standard procedure that they admitted would require revisions and updates but which would be a guiding light for academic writing. APA is perhaps the most widely used style of all with application in multiple disciplines from the sciences to humanities and business among others.

  • Using APA or any other writing style makes all writing uniform and consistent in the way it is presented. This enables readers to focus on the material and subject matter rather than inconsistencies in formatting.
  • Style guidelines encourage authors to fully disclose essential information and allow readers to dispense with minor distractions, such as inconsistencies or omissions in punctuation, capitalization, in-text citations, references, and presentation of statistics.
  • When style works best, ideas flow logically, sources are credited appropriately, and papers are organized predictably and consistently. People are described using language that affirms their worth and dignity. Authors plan for ethical compliance and report critical details of their research protocol to allow readers to evaluate findings and other researchers to potentially replicate the studies. Tables and figures present data in an engaging, consistent manner.
  • Whether you use APA Style for a single class or throughout your career, we encourage you to recognize the benefits of a conscientious approach to writing. Although the guidelines span many areas and take time and practice to learn, we hope that they provide a balance of directness and flexibility and will eventually become second nature.

Features of APA

Title Page

APA style requires a title page although some instructors like for students to leave it out. If the paper specifies APA then it is advisable to add a title page rather than leave it out. Note that the title does not count as part of the paper just like the reference page. Therefore, when looking at your word count requirement, remember to exclude these two pages.

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The title page should occupy the entire first page. Note that on the title page, the phrase ‘Running head’ precedes the title of your essay. Also, note that the title of the essay, your name, and your university’s name are stated on the upper part of the page. Finally, bear in mind that the writer’s notes, such as the supervisor’s name, the course title, and the department are stated at the bottom of the page.



A running head is a header that appears on each page of the document. You do not have to enter the running head on each page manually. You can set your word processor to add the running head.

The header usually includes the title of the paper and the page number. In some cases where the title of the paper is too long, then you may shorten it. The page number should be justified to the right while the header should be justified to the left. To make things easier, simply type the header in front of the page number then press the tap key until it is aligned with the left margin.


In APA style, text should be indented by a half inch. Usually word processors will indent numbered and bulleted lists automatically. If not, make sure to adjust the settings to a half inch. Indentation is crucial as it differentiates between paragraphs especially in cases of single spacing and hefty text.


Academic papers can be quite lengthy. It helps to have a summary that tells the reader what they should expect. They are especially helpful when you are writing your own paper and need to decide if you should reference that paper. Under APA style, it is usually between 150 to 250 words. Note that the length of an outline varies depending on the requirement of a journal or the university.



The pagination in APA remains uniform throughout the paper. The introduction presents the problem and premise upon which the research was based. It goes into more detail about this problem than the abstract.

Section of the Body Details
Section 1: Method Bold and center this subtitle. The Method section shows how the study was run and conducted. Be sure to describe the methods through which data was collected.
Section 2: Results Bold and center this subtitle. The Results section summarizes your data. Use charts and graphs to display this data.
Section 3: Discussion Bold and center this subtitle. This Discussion section is a chance to analyze and interpret your results.
Section 4: Conclusions Draw conclusions and support how your data led to these conclusions.
Section 5: Recommendations Discuss whether or not your hypothesis was confirmed or not supported by your results.
Section 6: Limitations Determine the limitations of the study and next steps to improve research for future studies.

Font, Margins and Spacing

Academic writing in general favors Times New Roman and Arial size 12. APA goes a step further and add Georgia size 11 to the list. The exception to this rule are footnotes and titles for illustration tools like tables. Footnotes use a font size of 10 while the titles use a font size of between 8 and 14. It is crucial to stick to one font size throughout your manuscript. Margins should be 1-inch all around with a paper size of 8.5 by 11 inch. Unless otherwise instructed, you should always ensure to double space the text. In some cases, you may be asked to present in single space in which case that instruction takes precedence over the APA guideline.


It is tempting to use abbreviations in writing as it helps you jot down your thoughts quickly before they disappear. You are able to keep up the momentum of writing your paper. However, there are APA guidelines for the use of abbreviations.

The first thing you will always be advised on this topic is to use abbreviations as little as possible. Otherwise, your paper simply looks like a list of capital letters strung together. This means that readers will often have to stop to remember or refer the meaning of the abbreviations. Therefore, if an abbreviation is applicable less than 3 times then you can afford the time to write it out each time. You could always write out the abbreviation then stretch it out during editing.

There is always a debate on whether there should be periods between the letters of abbreviations as well as if the abbreviations should be capitalized or not.

  • It is not necessary to have periods between the letters of abbreviations.
  • When using it the first time, write out the whole thing then have the abbreviation in brackets so that the reader will know that if they see those letters from that point forward, it will be in reference to that.
  • If an abbreviation is featured in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as is, then it is not necessary to spell it out like AIDS, for example.
  • For units of measurement, include the abbreviation if it sits with a number. If the unit of measurement stands alone, type it out. Like 2 Oz, for example.

Referencing in APA Style

What is the Point of Referencing?

  1. References should always be accurate, allowing your readers to trace the sources of information you have used. The best way to make sure you reference accurately is to keep a record of all the sources you used when reading and researching for an assignment.
  2. Referencing allows you to acknowledge the contribution of other writers and researchers in your work. Any university assignments that draw on the ideas, words or research of other writers must contain citations.
  3. Referencing is also a way to give credit to the writers from whom you have borrowed words and ideas. By citing the work of a particular scholar, you acknowledge and respect the intellectual property rights of that researcher. As a student or academic, you can draw on any of the millions of ideas, insights and arguments published by other writers, many of whom have spent years researching and writing. All you need to do is acknowledge their contribution to your assignment.
  4. Referencing is a way to provide evidence to support the assertions and claims in your own assignments. By citing experts in your field, you are showing your marker that you are aware of the field in which you are operating. Your citations map the space of your discipline and allow you to navigate your way through your chosen field of study, in the same way that sailors steer by the stars.
  5. Citations also make your writing more persuasive.


How to Reference in APA

In-Text Citation

In-text citation is a critical part of academic writing. It allows the reader to know that first, the idea is borrowed and second, to note that the contributor has been credited.

The first design by which sources can be cited is by parenthesis. APA notes the last name of the author and the year of publication of the source in various ways.

First is the (last name, year)

The second is a case where text appears within the bracket along with the citation. (E.g. example; Last Name, Year)

Then there are narrative citations which may also be called citation in prose. The author’s surname appears in running text, and the date appears in parentheses immediately after the author’s name for a narrative citation. The author’s name can be included in the sentence in any place it makes sense.

Last Name (Year) ….

In the year, Last Name wrote that…

Reference List

The point of the reference list is to let everyone know who contributed to your work, when they published the source used, the tile of borrowed/referenced ideas and where to find it. Therefore, when you find yourself struggling to remember the format of APA style just attempt to answer those four questions.

Answering these four questions will help you create a reference entry for any type of work, even if you do not see a specific example in the Publication Manual that matches it. Consistency in reference formatting allows readers to understand the types of works you consulted and the important reference elements with ease.

It is important for the citations to match the reference list. For example, you cannot have (Author, 2016) then have the same author with a different year in the reference list. The specific work cited should be referenced with the same details. Basically, be accurate. At the same time, there are other critical elements of referencing like punctuation that need to be just right and which differ under other styles.

Referencing in APA

Punctuation in the reference list can be quite confusing especially when deciding when to use periods and when to use commas as well as when to use neither. The up side is that once you have done it enough times you will be able to do it without referring too many times. It is also good news that word processors often have a referencing function.

  1. Ensure that a period appears after each reference element—that is, after the author, date, title, and source.
  2. Do not put a period after a DOI or URL because it may interfere with link functionality. If a title ends with a question mark, the question mark replaces the period.
  3. Use punctuation marks (usually commas or parentheses) between parts of the same reference element. For example, in a reference for a journal article, use a comma between each author’s last name and initials and between different authors’ names, between the journal name and the volume number, and between the journal issue number and the page numbers.
  4. Do not use a comma between the journal volume and issue numbers. Place the issue number in parentheses directly after the volume number instead.
  5. Italicize punctuation marks that appear within an italic reference element (e.g., a comma or colon within a book title).
  6. Do not italicize punctuation between reference elements (e.g., the period after an italic book title or the comma after an italic journal title).


In Summation…

Once you have grasped the nitty gritties of APA style and referencing, you will be able to reference different types of sources without struggling too much. However, since in the course of academic life one may be asked to use different styles, you will be required to know how to differentiate these styles and use each appropriately. Therefore, when in doubt contact Custom Essays for help.

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