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A Guide to Academic Writing in APA Format

Friday, December 21, 2018


Need to write an academic paper using APA format? APA stand for the American Psychological Association and it is a standard writing style in most scientific papers. Here are some guidelines to keep your writing within standards.

General Information

  • Only use 8 ½” x 11” paper.
  • Margins should be 1” around on all sides.
  • Indent the first word of every paragraph.
  • Standard font is Times New Roman, size 12.
  • The entire paper should be double spaced.
  • Add a header at the top of every page with the title of the paper.

APA Paper Components

All research papers should include:

  • Title Page
  • Abstract
  • Main Body
  • References

Title Page

Your title page should contain the following:

  • Research paper title
  • Author’s name
  • School or institution where research was conducted
  • Running Head should be included at the top in a header with the title (do not include the words “running head” on other page headers)

*Ensure the title is in Times New Roman font at 12 points. Center the text but do not underline, italicize, or bold the letters. Titles should be double spaced and only 2 lines or less and no more than 12 words. Author’s name should not include a title: Mrs., Mr., Dr., etc.


The next page should begin with the title of the paper in the header.

  • Add the word “Abstract” on the first line of the page, ensure this word is centered. Do not add quotes to this word.
  • Next the abstract should contain a summary of your research. It allows the reader to decide if the paper is worth reviewing.
  • The abstract should be double spaced. Do not indent this paragraph and ensure it is no more than 250 words.

The Body

Start a new page after the abstract to create the main body of the paper:

  • Add the title of the paper in the header.
  • Indent your introduction.
  • Add more information about the problem that your research tried to address in the introduction.
  • Create a new paragraph about the research method you used. The words “The Method” should be bold and centered. Explain how the study was conducted.
  • Create another section called “The Results.” Ensure this part is bold and centered as well. Summarize your data using graphs to display your data.
  • Create a section called “The Discussion.” This should be bold and centered similar to the other sections. Use this area to explain how you analyzed and interpreted your results.
  • Add a conclusion and explain why your data led you to your conclusion.
  • Explain how your hypothesis was confirmed or not supported by your research.
  • Share the limitations of your study, otherwise reviewers will scrutinize how you should have done things differently. Add suggestions to improve future studies.
  • If you quote a source outside your own study, you need to add in-text citations.

In-text citations include:

  • Author’s name
  • Year of publication

Example of an in-text citation: (Anderson, 2018).


Begin with a new page after the end of the research paper body:

  • Add a title in the header.
  • Add the word “References.” This word should be bold and centered. Do not underline, italicize or use quotes for this word.
  • Add all sources and arrange them in alphabetical order. Ensure entries are double spaced.
  1. If you are unsure how to properly cite sources, the website www.citethisforme.com/apa/source-type can be helpful. Simply enter your sources in the website and it will format it in APA style.

If you use these tips, you will be well on your way to drafting a professional APA style research paper. If you need additional help, tutors are available in Northwestern’s Alpha Center to help you review and edit your paper.