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APA Format: A Comprehensive Guide For Students

May 3, 2023

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May 3, 2023 | Blog

Academic papers are presented in several formats, including the APA format.

The format has guidelines on how to present the title page, citations, and even the references section.

The following is a comprehensive guide on the APA research paper outline.

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Formatting guidelines for APA Format

Strictly follow the following rules when formatting an APA paper.

Paragraph and font guidelines

  • Times New Roman font
  • Font size: 12pt
  • 1-inch margins on all sides (left, right, bottom, and top)
  • Paragraph spacing: 2.0 (double-spaced paragraphs make your work look organized and neat)

Page header

The APA format requires a page header or running head.

The header includes:

  • The page number, which is aligned right
  • The title of your paper, which should be in upper case and aligned left

In the running head the title of the paper should be shortened; it should not have more than 50 characters (punctuations and spaces included).

Note that, the header of the first page (title page) differs from the headers of the rest of the pages because it begins with the words “running head”.

Let’s say your title is ‘The effects of Drugs on the Youth’, your title page will be:


The other pages’ header will be:


Content of the title page

In the title page, write:

  • The paper’s title
  • Student name (your name)
  • Institutional affiliation

This content should be center aligned and appear in the middle of the page.

Abstract formatting Guide on APA format

If your paper includes an abstract, there are some rules to follow.

The name Abstract should be centered and not bolded or underlined.

The abstract paragraph should start at the margin – do not indent.

The abstract ought to be one paragraph, with a length between 100 and 150 words.

Remember, the keywords of your paper appear in the abstract section.

To include them, type ‘Keywords’ in italics, put a colon, and then write your keywords.

Headings and subheadings

  • Use roman numbers (I, II, III) for main headings
  • Use upper case alphabets (A, B, C) for subheadings
  • Use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3) in subheadings within a subheading
  • For the next level of subheadings, use lower case alphabets (a, b, c)
  • If there are subheadings under the level mentioned above, use Arabic numbers in parenthesis, i.e., (1), (2), (3)

Grammatical guidelines

Aside from formatting, there are grammatical rules to observe when writing an APA research paper.


APA format requires a student to use grammatical parallelism.

Parallelism, also known as parallel construction or parallel structure, is the use of the same sentence structure in similar clauses.

In APA, parallelism is used in headings and subheadings.

Therefore, the sentence structure you use in the first heading will be used in all other headings and subheadings.

So, if you start your first heading using a verb, the subheadings that follow should also begin with a verb.

Similarly, if you use a noun clause in the heading, the subsequent subheadings should also use noun clauses.

If you opt to start a subheading with a verb, say “Choose a format”, your next subheading should also start with a verb, say “Follow the guidelines of your preferred format”.


In writing, coordination means making sure same-level headings and subheadings have equal importance.

The following example illustrates coordination:

  1. Choose a format
  2. APA Format
  3. MLA Format

The subheading ‘APA Format’ and ‘MLA format’ are of equal importance.


There should be a subordinate relationship between the heading and subheadings.

A heading, typically, has general information, while a subheading ought to have more specific information.

Of course, subordination will only be used if you have divided your work into headings and subheadings.

Use the subheadings and headings rules listed above to show subordination.

In the example above, for instance, we used Roman number, I., for the heading “Choose a format” and used uppercase letters, A and B, for the specific formats.

If subheadings were needed under subheading A, for instance, we would use Arabic numbers, 1, 2, and so on.


Observing the rules of APA format is not hard.

However, it does require practice, and you will have to revise your work to ensure there is no rule you failed to observe.

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  • Isabella Robertson

    I am dedicated to creating engaging blog posts that provide valuable insights and advice to help students excel in their studies. From study tips to time management strategies, my goal is to empower students to reach their full potential.

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