What Does a Paper in APA Format Look Like?

A paper in APA format will have the following:

  • 1 inch (2.54 centimeter margins)
  • font of your choice
  • header which has the page number. A running head is required for professional papers but not student papers unless requested by the instructor.
  • title page
  • abstract page
  • main body of work (headings, paragraphs, figures, tables, quotations)
  • reference list

Your instructor may modify the above (e.g., not have an abstract page) or add other things like a Table of Content, List of Figures, and a List of Tables.

Margins in APA Format

Top, bottom, left and right margins should be 1 inch or 2.54 centimeters which is the default setting in Microsoft Word. Often you will not have to change the margin size.

However, margin sizes may be different if the paper you are writing is to be printed and bound.

See margins in APA format if you want to check the margin size, or change the margin size.


Font Type and Size in APA Format

The current APA guidelines (seventh edition) allows for a range of font types and sizes.

Note: This is different to the previous sixth edition which recommended Times New Roman size 12 as the font.

Often your instructor will specify a font to use because there is a standard for your school or faculty, or that they prefer a particular font.

So, first check the assignment guidelines.

Also, the APA seventh edition suggests various font types and sizes (opens in new window).


Header in APA Format

There are two possible types of headers for a paper in APA format. They are:

Your instructor may vary these guidelines. Ask if in doubt.

Page Number Only in the Header Beginning on the Title Page

For a student paper in APA format, align the page number against the right margin beginning with 1 on the title page (see Figure 1).

Example of the header for a student paper in APA formatFigure 1: Header for a student paper in APA format

If required, see page number on every page for instructions on how to insert a page number on every page.

Page Number Only in the Header But Not Displayed on the Title Page

Vary the APA format for page numbers by not displaying the page number on the title page (see Figure 2).

Page number not displayed on the title pageFigure 2: Page number displayed after the title page (variation to APA format)

See page number not displayed on title page for instructions on how to display a page number on every page after the title page.

Page Number in the Header Beginning at 1 After the Title Page

Vary the APA format for page numbers by starting page number at 1 on the page following the title page (se Figure 3).

Page number beginning at 1 on the page following the title pageFigure 3: Page number 1 after the title page (variation to APA format)

See title page without a page number for instructions on how to begin page numbering after the title page.

Page Numbers in Both Roman and Arabic Numeral Form

A common variation to the APA style for page numbers is to have Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv ...) for the preliminaries such as the Table of Contents, and Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4) for the main text (see Figure 4).

Title page with no page number, Table of Contents with Roman numerals (i, ii ...) for page numbers, and main text with Arabic numerals (1, 2 ...) for page numbersFigure 4: Roman and Arabic numerals for page numbers (variation to APA format)

See table of contents in APA format for instructions on how to use both Arabic numerals and Roman numerals for page numbers.

Running Head and Page Number in the Header (Professional Paper)

The header for a professional paper in APA format contains the:

  • Running Head which is an abbreviation of the paper's title
  • Page number

See Figure 5 for an example of a header in APA format for a professional paper.

Running head in APA format exampleFigure 5: Header in APA format for a professional paper

See how to create a Running Head in APA format using Microsoft Word.


Title Page in APA Format

There are two different formats for a paper in APA format. They are:

  • student title page: This is usually for student papers (those not to be published, normally undergraduate papers).
  • professional title page: This is usually for professional papers (those to be published).

Your instructor may vary these guidelines. Ask if in doubt.


Abstract Page in APA Format

An abstract page is not normally required for a student paper (not to be published, normally undergraduate papers) but is for a professional paper (for example a thesis).

However, your instructor may vary this requirement, for example, for a longer student paper.

Ask if you are not sure if an abstract is required.

See how to make an abstract page in APA format using Microsoft Word.


Headings in APA Format

Your paper in APA format will possibly contain several headings, and hierarchies of headings, that is, subheadings of headings.

APA style identifies five possible levels of headings:

  • Level 1
  • Level 2 (subheading of Level 1)
  • Level 3 (subheading of Level2)
  • Level 4 (subheading of Level 3)
  • Level 5 (subheading of Level 4)

Figure 6 gives an example of three levels of headings.

Example of Level 1, 2 and 3 headings in a paper in APA formatFigure 6: Level 1, 2 and 3 headings

See headings in APA format on how to create your headings in APA format using Microsoft Word.


Paragraphs in APA Format

To format a paragraph in APA format, you should:

  • use a font type and size of your choice within APA guidelines (see recommended font types).
    (see font types for recommended fonts).
  • align the paragraph against the left margin.
  • indent the first line of the paragraph (0.5 in or 1.27 cm).
  • double space lines within a paragraph.
  • not hyphenate a word over two lines.

See paragraphs in APA format on how to create your paragraphs in APA format using Microsoft Word.

Quotations in APA Format

Quotations shorter than 40 words are written in the sentence in the text. There is no special formatting apart from enclosing the quotation in double quotation marks.

Quotations 40 or more words written as a separate block of text with the following format:

  • indented 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters) from the left margin
  • double line spaced
  • the first line of any subsequent paragraphs are indented another 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters)

See quotations in APA format on how to format your quotation using Microsoft Word.

Footnotes in APA Format.

Footnotes are not used for citations but can be used to provide extra information or copyright attribution.

See how to organize footnotes in APA format.

Summary - Paper in APA Format

The minimum requirements for a paper in APA format are:

  • acceptable font type and size
  • page number right aligned in the header
  • title page
  • headings and paragraphs double line spaced
  • first line of a paragraph indented